Where to see Water Voles in Derbyshire

Water vole, Shirley FreemanWater vole, Shirley Freeman

There are just a few places left in Derbyshire where you can see water voles.

Water voles have now gone from great swathes of the county. None remain on the River Trent or the bottom half of the Derwent, and where a flourishing population once lived along the length of the Dove, now just one or two tiny populations survive. Yet all is not lost. Compared to many of our neighbouring counties, we are in the enviable position of still having some areas where healthy water vole populations have survived, particularly in the north and east of the county.

Listed below below are some of the more likely areas to try, or have a look around your local wetlands to discover populations of your own.

And if you do manage to spot Ratty, please remember to report your sighting to us!

Eastern Peak District Moors

The Eastern Peak District Moors form the eastern edge of the Peak District National Park and lie to the south of the Dark Peak Moors and to the east of the White Peak. The moors are an SSSI and support important populations of upland breeding birds as well as scarce insects.

Streams such as Bar Brook and the ditches that cross some of the moor and fen areas support significant populations of water voles. Though water voles are not always easy to see in these upland habitats, their signs can be abundant at some sites. Look out for water vole droppings and feeding signs along the edges of the rush-fringed streams and ditches.

River Wye

Some of the strongest populations of water voles in the county can be found along the River Wye and its tributaries.

Particular spots worth checking include Lathkill Dale NNR, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's reserve at Chee Dale and the River Wye as it runs through Bakewell town centre.

Chesterfield Canal

Chesterfield Canal is one of the most accessible places to see water voles in Derbyshire. The canal originally ran for 46 miles from Chesterfield to the River Trent. Restoration of formerly derelict sections is underway, with approximately six kilometres currently in water in Derbyshire.

Derbyshire County Council manages the Derbyshire section and operate a visitor centre at Tapton Lock. The centre, near to the start of the canal at Chesterfield, is a good place to begin a stroll along the towpath in search of the canal’s numerous water voles.

Cromford Canal

The rich diversity of plant life along the canal from Cromford Wharf to Ambergate includes several species that are rare in Derbyshire, making it a vitally important wetland area.

The entire canal is a stronghold for water voles, which can sometimes be very confiding as they go about their business oblivious to passers by. The stretch from High Peak Junction right down to Ambergate can also be a good place to look for grass snakes and water shrews.

Carsington Water

Opened to the public in 1992, Carsington Water is England's ninth largest reservoir, owned and managed by Severn Trent Water.

There are four bird hides around the reservoir, which is an important site for wintering wildfowl. Severn Trent Water has also created a variety of wetland habitats around the edges of the reservoir, which provide an excellent home for water voles. Try looking on the pond by the Wildlife Centre, the ditches from Sheepwash Hide or the reedbed at north end of the reservoir.

Erewash Meadows

Erewash MeadowsStraddling the boundary between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, this reserve is jointly owned by the two Wildlife Trusts and is a refuge for wetland wildlife.

In spring and summer the reserve's ponds and the wet sections of the canal are home to grass snakes, dragonflies and breeding wildfowl, as well as a population of water voles.

Photos: Cromford Canal, Kieron Huston, Erewash Meadows, Kate Lemon