Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wildwood e-news May 2009
In the April edition of Wildwood's e-newsletter we have:
1.   LOVE IS IN THE AIR - Polecats at Wildwood
2.   MAY HOLIDAY FUN - Book up for May half term events - places going fast!
3.   FIRST RED SQUIRREL BABIES OF 2009 - Youngsters show themselves
4.   SAXON SETTLEMENT OPEN DAYS - See around the Saxon moated manor
5.   NESTING ADVENTURES - Wild herons lay an egg
6.   BY THE LIGHT OF A HARE'S MOON - Moonlight walk at Wildwood
7.   PLUGGING INTO POWER OF THE WIND - Wildwood helps tackle climate change
8.   WHAT PRICE A WATER VOLE? - Save a water vole
9.   SPRING/SUMMER EVENTS - New events leaflet available now
10. WILDFORT - Playground fort opens to the public
11. CAN YOU HELP? - Some things we need

1.  LOVE IS IN THE AIR - Polecats at Wildwood
Wildwood, has a polecoat on breeding loan, named Colwyn, he was introduced to Magic one of Wildwood's female polecats a few weeks ago.
The pair have been getting on like a "house on fire" ever since and keepers are keeping fingers crossed that Magic will produce a litter of young later in the year.
"Colwyn and Magic are getting along great" commented Karen Price - a Wildwood Keeper, "so hopefully Magic will have young that can be released in to the wild"
Polecats are the wild ancestors of the domesticated ferret. They have a distinctive "Robber" style mask face markings. These animals have largely disappeared from much of Britain thanks to the heavy persecution gamekeepers.
Polecat populations have seen some recovery in their stronghold in central Wales, and they are beginning to repopulate eastwards. Any offspring will be part of a release scheme in Scotland.
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive said:
"Polecats are slowly recovering from the persecution that almost wiped them out, and Wildwoods scheme to release captive bred animals back into the wild will ensure the continued spread of these once prolific animals.

Mustela putorius: Domestic ferrets are closely related to polecats and the two species sometimes interbreed.
Life span: Up to 5 years.
Statistics: Head and body length: male: 35-46cm, female: 30-40cm. Weight: 600-900g.
Physical description: Polecats have long cylindrical bodies, with short legs, short blunt faces and small, rounded ears. They have buff-coloured underfur, and dark brown guard hairs covering the body. Polecats have white markings on the muzzle and around the eyes and ears. Their tails are short and furry.
Distribution: They range across Europe. In Britain, polecats are restricted to Wales due to heavy persecution by humans in the past.
Habitat: Polecats prefer forest habitats.
Diet: They mainly hunt rabbits, small rodents and birds, but polecats also feed on amphibians, carrion and bird eggs. They stalk their prey, and after seizing it, they kill with a quick bite to the neck.
Behaviour: The size of polecat ranges vary according to habitat, season and food availability, but the mean area is 100 hectares. They build dens among rocks and tree roots, or sometimes in old rabbit burrows.
Polecats are solitary and are predominantly nocturnal. They produce a strong smell from their anal glands that is used to mark their territories.
Reproduction: They breed once a year, producing litters of 5-8 kits after a gestation period of 40-42 days. The kits are weaned after 4 weeks.
Conservation status: Polecats were once almost extinct in Britain. They are considered to be a pest of games and poultry, and have been persecuted for this. They were formerly killed for their fur. Despite diminishing populations, they are not considered to be endangered.
Carnivorous mammal of the Weasel family.
The name refers especially to the common Old World polecat, Mustela putorius, found in wooded areas of N Eurasia and N Africa.
Similar to weasels, but larger and with longer fur, polecats grow to nearly 2 ft (60 cm) long, including the 6-in. (15-cm) tail. The fur, sold under the name fitch and much used in the early 19th cent., is dark brown above, with yellow patches on the ears and face. The belly, feet, and tail are nearly black.
Like other members of its family, polecats have a scent gland under the tail which emits a fetid secretion used for territorial marking; the gland is most active when the animals are alarmed. In fact the North American Skunk is a member of the same family.
Polecats were nicknamed in French 'poule chat', meaning 'chicken cat', because of their well-earned reputation for killing chickens. Don't be fooled by the name, however, they bear no relation to cats.
Solitary, nocturnal animals, they spend the day in dens.
They feed on small animals and eggs and are quite destructive to poultry and small game.
A male polecat is called a Hob, and the female a Jill
(Photo credit Les Willis)

2.   MAY HOLIDAY FUN - Book up for May half term events - places going fast!
May half term, 2:30-3:30pm, only £2 per person (one adult per family free) must book
Tuesday May 26
Slimy Snails
Meet real snails & make lots of snazzy snails to take home, plus green slime.
Wednesday May 27
Fabulous Fish
Encounter real fish and make lots of fabulous fish crafts.
Thursday May 28
 Fantastic Frogs
Face to face with real frogs, froggy crafts to take home
Friday May 29
 SSSuper Snakes
Get acquainted with real snakes, lots of snake crafts to make and take home

Call 01227 712111 to book a place now.
Please note that entry to the event is only permitted if entry to or membership of the park has been paid.

3.  FIRST RED SQUIRREL BABIES OF 2009 - Youngsters show themselves
Visitors to Wildwood are in luck this week with the first sightings of our beautiful red squirrel youngsters.
These new babies, Wildwood's first brood this year, will become part of a ground breaking project to re-introduce red squirrels to the Island of Anglesey and help prevent the nationwide extinction of the red squirrel.
Visitors can see the young red squirrels over the next few weeks, but are advised to come promptly at 10.00am as squirrels like a long nap during lunchtime, especially during sunny weather.
The new squirrel babies, once grown up will be transported to the Welsh island of Anglesey to live wild and free, helping form a buffer population and safeguard the species against national extinction.
Red squirrels went extinct in Kent in the 1960's and many of us can remember them from our childhood and many areas like Kent once teemed with these beautiful acrobats of the trees.
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive said:
"Red squirrels are going to continue to decline towards extinction unless urgent action is taken. But it's not yet too late. If we can help restore areas of woodland to a native state and make a concerted effort, we might just be able to tip the balance back in the red squirrel's favour."

The Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris
Recognition: Fur colour variable from bright ginger through to red and dark brown or black tinged with grey in winter; larger ear tufts in mid-winter which disappear by the summer; bushy tail which bleaches white by late summer in some individuals.
Head/body length 180-240mm, tail about 175mm.
Weight: juveniles 100-150g; adults up to 350g.
General Ecology: This is the only squirrel which is native to Britain. It is active during the daytime, though in summer it may rest for an hour or two around mid-day. Squirrel nests, or dreys, are constructed of twigs in a tree fork, or hollow or above a whorl of branches close to the stem of a conifer. They are lined with soft hair, moss and dried grass. Several squirrels may share the same drey, or use the same drey on different days.
Red squirrels spend about three-quarters of their active time above ground in trees and shrubs. Their main foods are tree seeds, such as hazel nuts and seeds from conifer cones. They also eat tree flowers and shoots, mushrooms and fungi from under tree bark. Red squirrels often suffer periods of food shortage especially during July. Red squirrels are at home in conifer forests and broadleaved woodland. The distribution of red squirrels has declined drastically in the last 60 years and they are now extinct in southern England except for a few on the Isle of Wight and two small islands in Poole Harbour. Elsewhere they are confined to rather isolated populations in Wales and to only four places in central England: Thetford Chase (East Anglia), Cannock Chase (Staffordshire), Hope Forest (Derbyshire) and around Formby in Merseyside. Red squirrels are still widespread in the North of England and Scotland, but even here their range is contracting.
Breeding can begin in mid-winter and continue through the summer, depending on the weather and how much food is available. Mating chases occur where several males follow a female who is ready to mate. During chases squirrels make spectacular leaps through the tree canopy and spiral up and down tree trunks. Females have one or two litters a year, usually of about 2-3 young. Juveniles are weaned at around 10 weeks, but do not breed until they are one year old. Red squirrels in favourable habitat can live at a population density of one squirrel per hectare of woodland. Often densities are lower than this. They survive for up to six years in the wild.
Conservation: Red squirrels are protected by law, and may not be intentionally trapped, killed or kept, or have their dreys disturbed except under licence from English Nature (EN), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) or Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Red squirrels are considered vulnerable in Britain. However, very occasionally high densities in some Scottish forests can lead to economic damage to trees. In such cases, government agencies will assess whether to issue a licence to remove some of the red squirrels.
Historically, red squirrel populations in Britain have fluctuated widely, the species disappearing from many areas at times and recolonising at a later date. However, in the 1920s red squirrels began to be replaced by grey squirrels introduced to about 30 sites from eastern North America, between 1876 and 1929. Red squirrels seem unable to survive in the presence of greys, but the reasons for this are not fully understood. There is no evidence that grey squirrels aggressively chase out red squirrels, or that grey squirrels brought a disease with them from America which affects red squirrels. The key as to why grey have replaced red squirrels seems to be their ability to compete for food in different types of habitat. Red squirrels live in all types of woodland habitats from pure broadleaf, to mixed broadleaf and conifer, to pure conifer. However it is believed they prefer pure conifer forests because they can forage in them more efficiently and survive in them better than in broadleaf forest.
It is believed that the only real way to ensure the continued presence of red squirrels in an area is, if possible, to keep grey squirrels out, or, at least to keep their number low. This may be achieved by habitat management to alter the tree species composition and age structure of woodland to suit red but not grey squirrels. Special food hoppers which provide food for red squirrels but not the heavier grey squirrels, can help to tip the balance in favour of red squirrels. Re-introductions to large pine forests may be an important conservation tactic, although further research into the health and welfare of red squirrels during captivity and all phases of a reintroduction programme is needed.
In the past red squirrels were common. Over the last few decades we have seen a dramatic decline in numbers of red squirrels.
The red squirrel is our only native squirrel species. This century it has undergone a drastic decline and is now mainly confined to northern England, Scotland and parts of Wales.
The main cause of this decline is competition with the introduced American grey squirrel. The grey squirrel is larger than the red and better able to survive harsh weather and period of food shortage. It breeds more successfully and quickly out-competes the red squirrel for food.
Historically, red squirrels frequented the whole of the British Isles which they recolonised after the ice age. Numbers and range have always naturally fluctuated, rising and falling in relation to food availability and climate. The major decline occurred in England during the 1940s and 1050s while the grey squirrel expanded rapidly at the same time. reasons for the red squirrel decline are competition with grey squirrels, disease, habitat loss and fragmentation.
Numbers: It has been estimated that about 160,000 red squirrels remain in Great Britain. 120,000 of these in Scotland and 30,000 in England with 10,000 in Wales. There are an estimated 2.5 million grey squirrels in Britain. Populations of red and grey squirrels in Northern Ireland are currently changing. Distribution is known, however population estimates have not yet been considered.
Habitat: Without competition red squirrels can thrive in broadleaved and coniferous woodland. However, where the two squirrels exist, the red squirrel in general survives in conifer woods only as it is more specialised to feed off smaller seeds. There are a number of locations in Scotland where red and grey squirrels have been known to exist for many years, this is probably due to the habitat types. To aid the red squirrel in the long term it is important that appropriate habitat management is practiced to allow red squirrels to survive in areas that would otherwise be taken over by greys. This is easier said than done and much research is still needed before we can fully assist the red squirrel within our conifer woodlands.
· Red squirrels can also be black, brown, cream or have white tails
· They don't hibernate
· They can leap up to 6m from tree to tree
· Their ankles are double-jointed, which allows them to swivel their feet through 180 degrees, they have sticky pads on their feet and they wee on them to get a better grip - all to help them climb
· The wee also means they mark their territories with their scent wherever they go
· They also wipe their faces along branches to leave their scent
· Squirrels weigh nuts in their hands to see if they will make good eating - too light means the nut has shrivelled inside and is thrown away
· Whenever they bury a nut in the woodland floor after holding it in their mouths, they can find it again because it will be smeared with their own individual scent from a gland in their cheek
· They take fresh fungi into the treetops to hang up to dry and store for later
· Squirrels wrap themselves in their tails, both to keep warm in winter and to shade them from the summer sun
· Sometimes they can go bald in the spring because their winter coat moults before the new summer one has grown
· They store nuts in the ground in Autumn.
· Can swim.
· Eat seeds, buds, leaves, flowers, shoots and fruit of many trees and shrubs, fungi, insects and occasional birds eggs.
· Live in a drey made of twigs, leaves and moss built in a tree.
· Moult whole coat twice a year.
· Moult ear tufts and tail once in late summer.
· They can live to 6 years of age.
· Scientific name is Sciurus vulgaris.
· Have 4 fingers and 5 toes.
· They can hang upside down.
· Young are called kittens.
· Could have 2 litters each year with 3-4 kittens in each litter.
· Kittens are born blind, pink, hairless and toothless.
· Weigh 275 - 300 gms.
· Length - body 20 - 22cm, tail 17 - 18cm.

4.   SAXON SETTLEMENT OPEN DAYS - See around the Saxon moated manor
Friday & Saturday May 29-30 10:30am-3:30pm

Saxon Settlement Open Day

See around Wychurst, a Saxon moated fortified manor, re-enactments on the hour. £2 per person (£3 on day) - one adult free per family.

Call 01227 712111 to book a place now.
Please note that entry to the event is only permitted if entry to or membership of the park has been paid.
(Photo credit Regia Angolorum)

5.   NESTING ADVENTURES - Wild herons lay an egg
Wildwood's sea birds enclosure has had two non human visitors, two wild herons had chosen to nest on top of the enclosure.
The birds attracted by Wildwood's own hand reared herons thought they would try to create a heronry by building a nest on the netting that makes up the enclosure. Unfortunately the nest was very poorly built and the egg was left precariously perched through the netting.
The keepers realised that the egg would be smashed so created a new nest in a tree alongside the enclosure. After a few heart stopping moments when a keeper had to creep along the netting and rescue the egg, because the egg had been handled it would not be incubated by the wild heron so the egg has been placed in one of our incubators to see if we can hatch it.
The new nest has been visited by the herons and it is hoped that they will return full time and keepers have placed a fake egg in the nest to encourage them.
"Initially we thought that the collection of twigs had fallen from a tree but then an egg appeared" commented Alan Keeling a Wildwood Keeper " The egg looked like it was going to fall through the netting so we rescued it. We do hope that the herons will return so we are all keeping our fingers crossed"

Grey Heron: Ardea cinerea

Distribution: All over Great Britain from Ireland across to Europe, Asia, Japan & south to the Mediterranean. Also India and northern China, southern Africa, Indonesia. Birds in northern Europe migrate, wintering south of the Sahara.

Habitat: Slow-moving streams and rivers, shallow lakes and sheltered seashores, damp fields, marshes and canals.

Description: Tall with long neck, long brown legs and long, yellow dagger-like beak. Grey upper parts, white head and neck; broad black streak from above the eye through to a long crest.
Size: Length:- up to 98cm. Head and neck longer than the body.

Wingspan:  up to 195cm. Weight:- about 1500g.

Life-Span: Oldest ringed bird recorded, 25 years, 4 mths.

Food: Fish, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, small birds, crabs. The heron is Britain's tallest bird and one of the most easily recognised. Its outline is quite distinctive, whether it is standing motionless at the water's edge or flying, silhouetted against the sky.

Daily Life: Except when they are breeding, herons spend much of their time alone, feeding in damp places or wading in water. Sometimes large numbers of birds can be seen together at a particularly good feeding site. They are wary and suspicious birds, choosing quiet areas to feed.

A heron uses stealth and speed when hunting and will wait, poised and silent, at the water's edge, or stand up to its breast in water, hoping unwary prey will approach. When a victim comes within reach, the heron strikes quickly, stabbing down its long, sharp bill to grab the prey tightly. Fish are swallowed whole, head first so that the spines or fins do not get stuck in the bird's throat. Large fish may be brought to land and broken up into smaller pieces before being eaten. A heron is often difficult to spot when it is resting, head hunched between its shoulders, motionless and silent. If it is alarmed it will suddenly stretch its neck and take to the air, perhaps with a loud, harsh 'fraaank'.

The plumage of a heron may become dirty when it is catching wet and slippery prey. To help clean away the dirt and slime it has a patch of crumbly feathers called 'powder down' on its breast and rump; a specially shaped claw on the third toe is used to comb through the plumage.

Breeding: Herons nest in colonies, or heronries, usually in the tops of tall trees near water, but in the north of Britain they often choose cliffs, reed-beds or bushes. Nesting begins early in the year and the male defends his own tree-top territory during the breeding season. He threatens any approaching male by straightening his neck, fluffing out the plumes on his head, throat and back and snapping his beak. If the intruder doesn't retreat immediately, he may then lunge at him viciously.

The male calls frequently, day and night, trying to attract a mate. When a female appears, he displays by stretching his beak towards the sky and when she comes closer, he lowers his head over his back and claps his bill repeatedly.

The female usually builds the nest, using sticks and twigs; it is a large structure with a shallow, saucer-shaped hollow in the top. The same nest is used year after year and so it grows in size until it is several feet across. Fresh grass and bracken is added to serve as a lining for the 4 or 5 pale blue eggs. Most eggs are laid at the end of March. Both parents share incubation which starts as soon as the first egg is laid. The newly-hatched chicks are covered in long, blackish-brown down which is bristly on the top of the head and this gives them a comical crest! They are noisy youngsters, keeping up a constant 'agagagagag' call as they beg regurgitated food from both their parents. The eggs hatch at different times, so in years when there is a shortage of food, the biggest chicks survive and the smaller ones starve. In plentiful years the whole brood will be successfully reared.

The adult herons may fly up to 30km from their heronry to visit good hunting areas.

Herons and Man: In many countries herons have decreased because they are shot by fishermen and fish farmers. In Britain they are fully protected by law and they are increasing, helped by recent mild winters. The population fluctuates between 4,000 and 4,500 pairs, but it falls after severe winters; the birds may starve when rivers and lakes freeze over.

Herons sometimes visit garden ponds to steal goldfish. They may be deterred from doing this by putting a net over the pond or possibly by placing a model heron at the edge - this is supposed to fool a heron into thinking that the pond already has a resident fisherman!

(Photo credit Beth Flowers)

6.   BY THE LIGHT OF A HARE'S MOON - Moonlight walk at Wildwood
Full moons have traditionally been given names and May's full moon is known as the hare's moon by ancient peoples. May is the month that many cultures believe is the start of rebirth of life upon the Earth and the hare has a reputation for being prolific so the may full moon was named after this animal. Hares are also creatures sacred to many of the lunar deities and many cultures believe that the outline of the hare can be seen on the moons surface.
Wildwood, Kent's award winning woodland discovery park, offers an opportunity to tour Wildwood by the moonlight of a frog moon on Thursday May 7th, (clouds allowing) 7.30pm -10.00pm and experience the woodlands and the animals that live here at a time when the darkness belongs to them.
Night tours, led by Wildwood staff are an excellent way to see our nocturnal wildlife, so you will get the opportunity to see badgers snuffling, watch owls wide awake, experience the silent padding of the wolves (and if you are very lucky them howling).
Night tours are open to anyone over the age of 10 years (children must be accompanied by a responsible adult). They are scheduled to last approximately 2 hours and happen monthly from February to December. The tour includes a meal in our restaurant before venturing out into the park with a Wildwood staff member.
Places MUST be booked in advance by completing and returning a booking form, together with full payment of £20 per person - unfortunately, though you can reserve a place by telephone, a booking form is still required. Places will be allocated on receipt of a completed booking form and payment, strictly on a first come, first served basis.
You can download a Booking form from the following links to our website
(Photo credit Jan T)

7.    PLUGGING INTO POWER OF THE WIND - Wildwood helps tackle climate change
Wildwood has installed a wind turbine to become a low carbon zoo, helping protect threatened wildlife from climate change.
Towering 18 metres above the zoo’s car park, the new 20kW wind turbine is expected to generate 35,000 units of green electricity and offset 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

The £111,478 cost of the wind turbine was met by £28,765 from the Government’s Low Carbon Buildings Programme, £30,000 from EDF Energy’s Green Fund and £52,713 from Canterbury City Council, which came from the Kentish Flats windfarm. Together with the zoo’s existing solar panels, which make hot water from the power of the sun, and wood-burning stoves for heating, using coppiced wood from Blean Forest, the park generates all of its energy on site using renewable energy technology. These additional projects, for wood and pellet burners, solar water heating and an educational programme, were funded by a further £27,287 from Canterbury City Council and a further £8,544 from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

On April 30, funders and supporters will mark the launch of the wind turbine and Councillor Jenny Samper will unveil a plaque and low carbon information board.

Peter Smith, chief executive of the Wildwood Trust, said: “As a nature conservation charity, which champions many environmental issues, it makes little sense for us not to consider renewable alternatives to our energy needs. Many habitats and animal and plant species in the UK will be threatened if climate change proceeds unchecked. A policy of implementing and promoting renewable energy generation matches perfectly the goals of our organisation. We have tens of thousands of visitors every year and the potential to greatly influence the opinions of the public on renewable energy.

“EDF Energy’s funding was vital – without this funding the project could not have happened. EDF Energy’s help released the £150,000 that has allowed Wildwood to become the first low carbon zoo in the UK.”

Jo Steven, who leads EDF Energy’s Green Fund, said: “We are proud to support Wildwood’s renewable energy project. The wind turbine is a really exciting feature of the zoo. We hope this project will leave a lasting legacy on the environment by increasing awareness about renewable energy and inspiring visitors to consider how they can also take action to reduce their own impact on the environment. Not all of us can install wind turbines but there are steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Canterbury City Council's Environment Director, David Reed, said: "We are following up our environmental policy with real, practical progress in demonstrating how renewable energy can be delivered. The council is very pleased to give Wildwood the funds to construct the wind turbine in order to raise awareness of this important issue."

EDF Energy has awarded £3.7million to 221 renewable energy projects since the Green Fund was launched in 2001, including £1.3million to 89 projects in schools, nurseries and colleges. The fund supports renewable energy projects which produce power from the sun, wind, water and geothermal sources that reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Awards of up to £30,000 are available for projects in Great Britain and such funds have helped schools, charities, local authorities, churches, water mills and other non-profit organisations to generate clean, green energy in their own community.

In June 2007 EDF Energy launched the biggest package of environmental pledges to reduce carbon emissions and help tackle climate change made by any major UK energy company. Our Climate Commitments outline the business transformation underway to reduce the impact of the company’s energy generation, transport, waste and home energy use. Key pledges include cutting the intensity of CO2 emissions from electricity production by 60 per cent by 2020 and reducing CO2 emissions from customers’ energy use by 15 per cent by 2020. Everyone can take part at:


The combination of EDF Energy and British Energy forms one of the UK’s largest energy companies. The combined business is the UK’s largest producer of electricity. With a current installed capacity of around 16.5GW, we produce almost one-quarter of the nation's electricity from our nuclear, coal and gas power stations, as well as combined heat and power plants and wind farms. We provide power to a quarter of the UK’s population via our electricity distribution networks in London, the South East and the East of England and supply gas and electricity to over 5.5 million business and residential customers. Through Our Climate and Social Commitments we have launched the biggest environmental and social packages of any UK energy company. The company is also a key player in national infrastructure projects including management of private electricity networks serving four London airports and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the country’s first major new railway in 100 years. EDF Energy and British Energy together employ nearly 20,000 people at locations across the UK. The combined companies are part of EDF Group, one of Europe’s largest power companies. EDF is the official energy utilities partner and sustainability partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Green Fund awards are possible through EDF Energy’s Green Tariff for consumers who decide to choose renewable energy for their home. Customers on the tariff pay less than £15 a year extra towards the Green Fund, which EDF Energy matches pound for pound. Customers can choose renewable energy for their home by calling 0800 096 9696 and requesting information on EDF Energy’s Green Tariff. Each Green Tariff customer receives an energy efficiency pack including a free home energy survey, information on energy efficiency grants, energy efficiency advice and two low energy light bulbs which can save £18 per year on your electricity bill.

The Westwind 20kw wind turbine at Wildwood was installed by KN Renewable Energy.  For further information contact Kent Energy Centre (KEC) has provided information, advice and support for the installation.
(Photo credit Beth Flowers)

8.  WHAT PRICE A WATER VOLE? - Save a water vole
Water Voles, Britain’s most endangered mammal have received a drubbing in the press and media, calling into question whether it is worth the money to save this loveable rodent.

Made famous as ‘ratty’ in Kenneth Grahams’ Wind in the Willows, the water vole is a small mammal that lives, but unfortunately is more the case now, used to live on our  river banks.

There have been a number of articles in the press with an editorial position inferring that a project to protect water voles carried out by Thames Water and Wildwood Trust is not worth the cost.

Modern farming, land drainage and destruction of river banks have combined to drive the water vole to the very edge of extinction with a catastrophic 90% drop in numbers over the past 20 or so years.

Peter Smith Wildwood Trusts Chief Executive said: “What price should we put on a species that has lasted for millions of years, evolving into the British Water vole, are we to deny future generations a chance to glimpse this most wonderful of creatures. When I read of the adventures of Wind in the Willows to my grandchildren what am I to say when I am asked: “Granda can you show us where ratty lives down on the stream” All I could say is that that we where too mean to save them. That the British public would rather give fat bonuses to bankers, inflated expenses to MP’s or buy a bigger car than save the water vole”.

Peter went on to say: “I am incensed by the mean, reactionary and small minded attitudes of the press and their irresponsibility in reporting this story. The law was changed last year to stop the water vole going extinct. Thames Water has acted responsibly and within the law and are doing their best to protect the water vole.”

Once, Water Voles were a familiar sight in and around our River Banks, but now you would be lucky to see one.Twenty or thirty years ago, if you walked along any British river, you might easily see Water Voles shambling along the bank, or dropping into the river with a distinctive ‘plop’ and swimming across the water. But today, a Water Vole is a very rare sight.
Wildwood Trust has been leading the fight to save the water vole and have since developed a number of unique projects that have saved water voles.

Using their unrivalled expertise Wildwood Trust has helped rescue water voles from sites which where about to be destroyed by development. These water voles were brought back to Wildwood s specially constructed water vole rescue centre. From there the animals and their offspring are taken to newly created sites, where the habitat has been restored to a state suitable for water voles and released.
Scientific research so far shows that most of these rescued water voles have survived and created new colonies that could help prevent the water voles extinction in the UK.

Wildwood Trust’s conservation and keeper team along with countless volunteers have worked long hours with low pay to develop the specialist skills which have allowed us to successfully breed the thousands of water voles and put them back into the wild.
(Photo credit Aphid Twix)

9. SPRING/SUMMER EVENTS - New events leaflet available now
The latest events leaflet for Spring/Summer 2009 covering May to September is now available on line.
Use the links below to download your copy today.

10. WILDFORT - Playground fort opens to the public
This weekend after months of hard work by the ranger team and kind donations from local companies - Wildfort will be open to the public.
This great new addition to Wildwood's ever popular play area will be available to be played on by children of all ages.

(Photo credit Peter Smith)

11. CAN YOU HELP? - Some things we need
Don’t throw it away – give it to Wildwood Trust
Wildwood love to recycle and we equip all our volunteers and staff with recycled equipment.
We are after:
Mobile Phones, especially smart phones
Handheld computers
Large computer monitors
Computers (less than 5 years old)
If you enjoy the Wildwood newsletter and have a friend who would enjoy it too, then get them to subscribe by sending their e-mail adddress to

Martyn Nicholls
Press Officer
Wildwood Trust
Tel: 01227 712111
Wildwood Trust
Herne Common
Herne Bay
Registered Charity No 1093702
Wildwood Trust is Kent's unique 'Woodland Discovery Park', a visitor attraction with a difference.
Wildwood is not only the best place to bring the family for a day out, but it is also a bold and innovative new charity, backed by the UK's leading wildlife conservationists. As a new charity Wildwood needs everyone's support in its mission to save our native and once native wildlife from extinction.
Wildwood Trust's vision is to bring back our true 'wildwood', a unique new way of restoring Britain's land to its natural state. This involves releasing large wild herbivores and developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain team with wildlife again.
The Wildwood 'Woodland Discovery Park' is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here.
Set in a sublime 38 acres of Ancient Woodland, Wildwood offers visitors a truly unique experience. Come Nose to Nose with our secretive badgers, experience what it is like to be hunted by a real live pack of wolves, watch a charging wild boar or track down a beaver in his lodge.
Wildwood Trust runs a highly successful programme of Conservation Projects
- we are the UK's leading experts in rescuing and re-establishing colonies of Britain's most threatened mammal, the water vole. Wildwood Trust has pioneered the use of ancient wild horses to restore nature reserve. Wildwood Trust has been at the forefront of efforts to re-establish the European Beaver back in Britain where they belong. European Beaver have been proven to help manage water ways to bring back a huge range of plants, insects and animals.

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