Tales of the riverbank

A water vole nibbles on grass

‘Plop!’…The telltale sign that a water vole’s about – and closer than you’d ever imagine. Down on the riverbank by Arlington Row in Bibury, new recruit and ranger Ellie Castle is proud of her little patch of wild paradise – Rack Isle.

Right in the buzzing heart of one of the most photographed villages in the country, nature is quietly going about its business under our very noses. ‘If I wait patiently and scan the far riverbank I often spot water voles splashing about on the edge, and no one else seems to notice!’ says Ellie.

Take Ellie’s advice, find a perch and quietly scan a riverbank. First off, looks for their neat little burrows in the bank, or tidy, grazed ‘lawns’ of grass – these keen vegetarians have to eat up to 80% of their body weight every day. And during spring they are hyperactive – finding mates and having babies. These charming little creatures may be in decline, but given a helping hand they can sometimes thrive.

Rack Isle is a boggy old meadow, and home to many unusual plants and animals. You might glimpse the electric blue flash of a kingfisher, and helicoptering dragonflies. Hidden in the long grasses are slow worms and grass snakes, and in late summer black and white ‘humbug’ Belted Galloway cattle plod on to the meadow to graze, and do their own bit to encourage wild flowers. Nature and Ellie are in their element.

Arlington Row at dusk


Arlington Row and the Rack Isle are in the picturesque village of Bibury