Of course, the ‘Ratty’ in Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved tale The Wind in the Willows is not, in fact, a rat, it’s a Water vole (Arvicola amphibius), as are the gorgeous little creatures in my photographs.
Water vole numbers have declined hugely in recent years, partly, it seems, due to predation by American minks and partly due to loss of habitat. Luckily for me, one hundred Ratties were recently reintroduced at one of my local country parks, and a few of them have made themselves at home in a location where they are easily visible.
You have only to be quiet and watchful to see them swim out from their hiding places amongst the reeds at the edge of a pond, nip off a leaf from the floating water lilies, swim back to the pond edge, and sit contentedly nibbling away. They are the cutest wee creatures!