River Chess Restoration, Latimer

Creating and supporting a better habitat for water voles at Restore Hope, Latimer.

Chilterns ANOB

The Problem

The River Chess supports the last population of water voles in the Chilterns. Surveys of the Chess have shown two populations in the area, one just downstream of the restoration site and the other just above it. The objective is to improve the area between so that the two groups can expand and ultimately inter-breed.

The Plan

If we can support the growth of a larger water vole population with greater genetic diversity and an increased range, it will be far more resilient to external impacts from predators, pollution and climate change. By increasing the light levels reaching the channel we hope to encourage the growth of in-channel and marginal vegetation which will provide both populations with the immediate benefit of additional sources of food & shelter

Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB


We engaged with nearly 200 volunteers and installed 47 wood habitat features. This equates to 840 hours of work, approximately 120 FTE days.  

Some of the headlines include: 

  • 130 hours of bank side tree work by 44 people. Some people came back for repeat visits. 
  • 700 hours of river restoration activity by 146 people, including four corporate teams. Some people came back for repeat visits. 
  • 47 channel features installed, including stabilisation of eight natural features.
  • More than 12 new citizen scientists were trained in MoRPh and Riverfly Monitoring (ARMI) techniques for this restoration project and these have also been put to good use elsewhere. 

The Future

Water Voles

Through this project we have created an environment that will provide burrowing sites, feeding sites, and shelter for water voles, helping to establish and sustain a viable population for the future. Through improving the habitat for water voles, we have also directly supported other riverine wildlife. We have been able to educate local residents, volunteers and landowners in what needs to be provided to support the populations going forward. 

Chalk Streams 

By installing woody debris features into this chalk stream we have improved the channel, restoring some of its natural character. This helps to correct decades of channel neglect and provides a good platform on the which the health of the stream can be maintained going forward. 

Citizen Science 

The volunteer citizen scientists who were trained in MoRPh to help with the pre-restoration surveys at this site, have gone on to help with two other river restoration projects and are already embarking on repeat surveys to provide post-restoration data. Some of the same citizen scientists have gone onto be trained in RiverFly monitoring and are combining the two complimentary survey techniques.