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
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories