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Ratty lives on in peace as pipe-layers work around him

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 26, 2012

Ratty the rare water vole was reintroduced to the River Tale in 2004 and engineers took special care to avoid disturbing the fragile population when they laid a new water main in the area

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In the classic children's tale The Wind in the Willows, Ratty was known for his leisurely riverside lifestyle.

Now a real-life water rat – actually a vole – has forced workers laying a Westcountry water main to down tools and divert their operations around a colony of the rare creatures.

Engineers working for May Gurney and South West Water in Devon were forced to devise a solution which avoided damaging the vole's fragile wetland eco-system.

And now the firm's careful attention at the site, near Feniton, has won the company plaudits from conservationists as well as a Green Apple award from an environmental organisation, which will be presented at the House of Commons in November.

May Gurney project manager Ian Fawcus said a special "directional drilling" method had been used.

"It is also much quicker than other methods of laying pipes, which meant we could be in and out of the area in a couple of days," he added.

Voles were reintroduced to the River Tale in 2004, but populations remain fragile.

East Devon water vole project officer Mervyn Newman said the problem had required a "bespoke solution", adding that the whole project had taken more than a year.

He added: "It was good to be able to report on a project where, from the outset, care had been taken to find out what was required legally and to comply with the recommendations made by the contracted ecological consultants, and which has resulted in minimal disturbance to the protected wildlife."

South West Water's infrastructure delivery manager, Les Metcalfe, said workers showed "great sensitivity in their approach".

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