More news...

Dec 31, 2017
Category: Conservation
Posted by: Kathryn

Restoration works to a tributary of the Chess are planned for early 2018.

Nov 21, 2017
Category: Abstraction
Posted by: Kathryn

River Chess groundwater levels at record lows, a dry river in Chesham for a year, but no water restrictions from Affinity Water.

Sep 18, 2017
Category: General
Posted by: Kathryn

A public River Chess forum will take place in support of the World Wildlife Fund's 'Nature Needs You' campaign.

Jul 12, 2017
Category: Drought
Posted by: Kathryn

With groundwater levels now exceptionally low, the river in Chesham is dry as far as Lord's Mill, Waterside.

Latest News

Water Voles Need Our Help

Mar 13, 2016

Category: Water Voles
Posted by: Kathryn

The 2015 survey of the River Chess water voles revealed a 46% population decline since 2013. It is estimated that there are 127 water voles now living on the Chess. This decline may in part be due to natural fluctuations in numbers, but there is evidence to show that the invasive, predatory mink are once again threatening the vole population.

Water Vole Surveyor in the Chess

A water vole surveyor on the Chess in 2015

The Chess nearly lost its water vole population in 2003, when mink dispersing along the watercourse caused a 97% population decline. In 2004, a mink control scheme was initiated enabling the water vole population to fully recover by 2011. In October 2015, signs of mink were recorded on the upper Chess once again, helping to explain the poor results of the survey that had been carried out over the summer. In December 2015, mink prints were detected on a mink raft at Latimer and an adult mink was subsequently trapped.

The return of mink to the river caused the Chiltern Chalks Streams Project and BBOWT to carry out an audit of mink rafts that had been placed on the river with landowners between July 2014 and June 2015. Of the 17 rafts in place, only three were still in use and being regularly monitored, explaining how mink had returned to the river without being detected. The RCA, BBOWT, Chilterns Chalk Streams Project and the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust met this week to organise setting up routine monitoring of mink rafts along the entire length of the Chess, from Chesham all the way down to Rickmansworth. This will involve placing new rafts at strategic points along the river, with landowner permission, and engaging volunteers to check the rafts on a regular basis. It is key that the new rafts are in place in time for Autumn, when mink start to travel more widely.

In the mean time, we would ask anyone who sees a mink, or signs of mink, in the Chess Valley to let us know.

The 2015 water vole survey was led by the RCA with support from the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project and BBOWT. We would like to thank all the volunteers who carried out this vital work, and the landowners who generously allowed us to survey their land.