Tuesday 26 April 2011

V is for a Vole – that is what V is for ...

The River Bourne at Winterbourne Gunner,
a typical chalk stream, ideal for Ratty the Vole

A close relative of the rat and mouse, the vole has a blunt snout, tiny ears and short tail.  Voles spread into England from the Continent after the end of the Ice Age, before the North Sea and English Channel were flooded by the rising waters.

There are different voles ... short-tailed voles live in the hedgerows, rough grassland, borders of woodland etc; the bank vole lives in banks along hedgerows, deciduous woods and scrubby areas – he has been seen in Ireland, somehow ‘emigrating’ there!

... while the water vole lives along the banks of canals, slow-moving rivers and lakes, and in marshes – this is the eight inch long water vole .. and this is the one I’m going to remind us about ...

Ah ‘Ratty’ from “Wind in the Willows” ... the water rat (Vole) dives into the river and stays submerged, whereas the true rat keeps to the surface.

A Vole (Water Rat)
Ratty .. will sit upright on the bank-side feeding on a water plant or washing its face ... its home territory is a burrow, the entrance to which is sometimes just below the surface of the water.  A nest of rushes or grass is made inside the burrow ... as Kenneth Grahame describes Ratty the Vole has many enemies .. including weasels, cats, foxes, pike, owls and other birds of prey.

I can’t go without leaving you with some of Grahame’s evocative words to match this wonderful summer weather we’re having so early in our year .. and ‘messing about in boats’ is something Ratty is prone to do, while I am sure many a Briton has been doing the same this Easter weekend ...

Mole stopping on the bank of this marvellous chattering river ... a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea. 

As mole sat on the grass and looked across the river, a dark hole in the bank opposite, just above the water’s edge caught his eye, and dreamily he fell to considering what a nice snug dwelling-place it would make for an animal with few wants and fond of a bijou riverside residence, above flood level and remote from noise and dust.

As he gazed .. an eye appeared ... then a small face began gradually to grow up round it, like a frame round a picture.

            A brown little face, with whiskers.
                        A grave round face, with the same twinkle in its eye that had
first attracted his notice.
                                    Small neat ears and thick silk hair.
                                                It was the Water Rat! .... our V for Vole ...

A bank vole
Grahame’s words from The Wind in the Willows reminding us of the infectious enthusiasm of our British vole .. our little water rat ... one of the many characters that make up our British countryside ...

This is Vole    that is what V is for ..

Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside

Some Words and Phrases taken from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Sue said...

We love Wind in The Willows, and it surprises me how often we refer to Ratty messing around in boats. He seems to be part of our lives. Sue@JumpingAground (Alliteration & drabbles)
Sue@traverselife(Workplace bullying)

MorningAJ said...

I love the Wind in the Willows. Ever since I first read it at junior school when I was about eight.

I love the picnic basket bit when Mole first meets Ratty.

'What's inside it?' asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.

'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssan dwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater----'

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'

'Do you really think so?' enquired the Rat seriously. 'It's only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I'm a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!'

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sue .. doesn't he keep coming up .. especially during summer days .. and Wind in the Willows is special .. Grahame did a fantastic job bringing them so realistically to life ...

@ Morning AJ .. thank you so much for putting more of the words up .. yes you're so right .. these sentences are extra special too ... that lovely picnic .. no wonder Mole cries .. 'O stop, stop .. this is too much!'

Great words aren't they .. other commenters will be so pleased you've typed them up for us.

And you've put them in italics .. I get befuddled with that side of commenting ..!?!?!

Great that V for Vole .. is bringing in some good memories ..

Have happy days today and the week ahead .. cheers to you both .. Hilary

Ellie Garratt said...

I've never read Wind in the Willows. I'm sure there's a law against that somewhere!

Loved this post.

Ellie Garratt

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I love voles! They're so cute.
Ellie, there is a law against that, I'm sure.

Bossy Betty said...

Gotta love a good vole! They are cute little creatures!

walk2write said...

You've enlightened me! I never realized the distinction between regular rats and the Ratty (vole) in the story. Guess that fear of being underwater is why the rats always leave a sinking ship!

Many people who garden mistakenly blame moles for eating their bulbs and plant roots when it's the voles who are the little villains. The moles are doing us a favor by consuming grubs. They just tend to sabotage a nice smooth lawn by leaving their tunnels behind.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ellie .. I think Talli's answered your statement .. we just have to find the Law - I'm sure it's in Toad Hall somewhere!!

Check out Morning AJs additional wording .. how can one resist reading that .. ? Trip to the local library??

@ Talli - well that told Ellie! They look sweet don't they .. especially the bank one here ..

@ Bossy Betty - they are quite delightful .. and cute as you and Talli call them ...

@ W2W .. ah! my pleasure! Now the sinking ship story .. that's a question mark .. !

Moles do inexorable damage .. I'm sure they're moles (not voles) - there are thousands in the countryside .. and they sabotage any grass area!!

My god-daughter said one day (when she was young) .. look at ALL those cow-pats .. I had to enlighten her - they were mole hills!!

Fortunately I didn't write about moles!!

Cheers to you four .. great to have the interactive comments .. thanks - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hi, Hilary. I've actually heard of the Vole. Enjoyed your post about them.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

He's a cute little guy. Looks very similar to the ones we used to see in the creek when I was a child. We called them meadow mice. Or at least my dad did.

Great post as usual, Hilary.

Notes Along the Way with Mary Montague Sikes said...

What's the difference between a vole and a mole? Moles are pretty destructive little creatures in my area of Virginia.

Thanks for the post, Hilary.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susanne - glad you enjoyed the info and the notes on the book.

@ Joylene .. I'm sure they'd be similar .. and probably that's a good name .. & having just checked in Wikipedia - your Dad was right .. it's an alternative American name!!

Clever Dad!! - glad you enjoyed it and it brought back memories of your Dad .. and the creek ..

@ Monti ... MOLES live underground in tunnels eating earthworms, insect larvae and slugs ..

They are solitary creatures and have very poor vision and come out to find a mate.

I hope that helps .. I did post about moles - 2 years ago! .. here: http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/2009/05/moles-worms-and-charles-darwin.html

Thanks Susanne, Joylene and Monti .. good to see you .. Hilary

Sara said...


I liked learning about the Vole and the quotes from The Wind in the Willows. Personally, I think the Vole is kind of cute. Then again, I also kind like mice...not rats, however:~)

You're finally over the hill and heading the slope. What happens when you reach Z?

Southpaw said...

SUPER CUTE! I love “Wind in the Willows”. Classic as a kid and as an adult.

... Paige said...

well, learn something every day Vole. humm

& very poetic & you know I like that :-)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Vole is certainly cute. And WIND IN THE WILLOWS was always a favorite of mine when a child and now as a child at heart. It gave me hope that perhaps one day THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS will capture a few hearts, too. Lovely post as always, Roland

Anonymous said...

Awh cute. Yes I'd heard how the water vole was feared, as if it were a disease carrying rat, for a long time. Thankfully it now gets a better press and a chance at survival and respect. Great post :O)

MTeacress said...

We've got a lot of these little creatures in the field behind our house. One day we cleared the field into large mounds of long, dry grass. When we loaded the piles into the back of the truck, we discovered a vole nest with tiny babies - so helpless. We covered it backup and when we checked back later, there was a new tunnel, and the babies were gone. Mama must have moved them. Interesting. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, Wind in the Willows--such a great story!! And the vole is so adorable. I want to put a little suit and tie on it and dress it up like a doll! :-)

P.S. Thank you so very much for you kind comment on my blog today, Hilary. Much appreciated!

Manzanita said...

Hilary, I have learned so much from this A-Z. I never even heard the word "vole" before. I was probably thinking people were saying mole. Thank you.

Susan Scheid (Raining Acorns) said...

Only you, Hilary, could make a water rat irresistible!

Anonymous said...

A vole. How adorable. And The Wind in the Willows: truly a classic. So is your blog!
Ann Best, Memoir Author

TALON said...

I think the vole is so adorable!

Hope you're having a lovely week, Hilary!

Susan Blake said...

Hi Hilary! Cute little critters, those voles, but I'll stick with my little dogs for pets. Here I thought they made up voles in the Wind/Willows book - duh, guess not! Now when you call them rats, hmmm, cuteness disapates! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara .. the Wind in the Willows just brings those characters to life - to me we can more easily realise 'they're just like us' .. they need homes, security etc etc ..

Ah! over the hill .. and Z arrives .. then do the ideas I've had tucked away for ages .. also a couple of posts arose from the A - Z .. I'll post those ..

@ Holly - so true a totally Classic book

@ Paige - yes the little vole .. and poetic .. great seeing you ..

@ Roland - great to see you here .. the Wind in the Willows does bring back so many memories .. I too hope for you The Bear with Two Shadows will capture a few hearts .. absolutely no reason why not - so many wise stories you weave into your book. Thanks ...

@ Karen - surprising you hadn't heard of the vole .. well now you have and Wind in the Willows is worth reading .. do you know them as Meadow Mice perhaps? The American name ..

@ Madeleine - yes now that we understand more .. we can appreciate these creatures: must have been what Kenneth Grahame saw as he sat on the river bank back in the late 1800s; certainly the vole seems to be coming back ..

@ Michelle .. interesting about your grass piles - they certainly took advantage of the warmth and dark, and easy home!! Glad they were safely moved ..

@ Liz - Wind in the Willows is a wonderful story isn't it. I loved the pictures in the book - but couldn't find any to use in the post ... sadly!! Because the illustrations certainly bring the creatures to life ...

Pleasure visiting you .. good to see you ..

@ Manzanita - great that we all learn so much .. you and your dance and the Flamenco style .. would never appreciate that otherwise than on your blog!

@ Raining Acorns - Thank you!! Delighted to read this comment - makes me smile irrestibly!!

@ Ann - thanks so much .. that's extremely generous of you .. I expect Jen would love the pictures in The Wind in the Willows .. and lots of green could be used!!

@ Carol .. excellent to hear and hope you enjoyed learning about his little world .. good to see you.

@ Talon - thanks they are .. and you've probably captured some pictures of them?

Good week thank you ...

@ Susan .. great seeing you here .. as pets I agree somewhat .. but just sitting by that chalk stream in the sun watching the little creatures scurrying about living their own lives would be bliss!

Vole .. and 'Ratty' .. just a misnomer - but a fun read .. and now we know the difference .. a true rat needs its head out as it swims ..

Thank you so much everyone .. wonderful seeing you all here - really appreciate the support for the blog ..

Cheers and have wonderful Wednesdays .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of a vole before. I just learned something new today. Cute little critters they are.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. have you read Wind in the Willows to the kids - they'd love it!! Cheers .. a good way to learn about river bank critters! Good to see you - Hilary

Paula RC said...

Water voles are lovely to watch. As a child I grew up near a river and would see them quite often. I know now that it is quite a rare thing to seen which is sad. I hate rats, but they numbers are increasing because us human leave to much rubbish laying around.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jamara .. I must admit but I can't be but bewitched by the vole in Wind in the Willows .. I'll definitely have a different approach to critters by the river bank!

I agree rats are prevalent .. because we're so uncaring with our rubbish ..

Good to see you - thanks for coming past .. cheers Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

I never knew much about Voles. Being a water rat isn't endearing them to me. The last picture is kinda cute though.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. I don't think many of us do know much about voles .. but I have to say after reading Wind in the Willows ... I learnt a lot ..especially re-reading it again.

Definitely a different creature to a rat.

Thanks - good to see you here .. cheers Hilary