The water vole was once a common sight along rivers, lakes and canals - but it is now perilously close to extinction.

However, on a secluded stretch of the River Gade in Croxley Green, a group of anglers are working to reverse the fortunes of one of the UK’s rarest mammals.

They are working with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to improve the habitat for water voles along a 350 metre stretch of the river at Croxley Hall Fisheries.

The project will see a team of anglers working through the winter removing fallen and over-shading trees. This will reduce shade, open up the river corridor and encourage plants to grow.

Watford Observer: the River Gadethe River Gade

Colne Valley rivers and wetlands officer Lydia Ennis said: "Not all the trees and scrub will be removed along the river for water voles, as other wildlife depend on these habitats and we do not want to lose them.

"The aim is to create a balanced mosaic of riverside and wetland habitats which can support a range of species: water voles, fish, kingfishers, bats and different types of invertebrates.

"The fishery is also actively involved in monitoring and controlling American mink, ensuring that water voles and other species can make the most of the habitat provided for them through this project."

Watford Observer: Work on the River Gade involves cutting some treesWork on the River Gade involves cutting some trees

Three Rivers District Council is providing funder for the Croxley Hall project, with the National Lottery Heritage Fund helping to fund a wider programme to improve 21 fisheries in the Colne Valley.

Cllr Phil Williams, who has environmental responsibilities at the council, said: "Thanks to ongoing conservation work, we are lucky that Croxley Hall Fisheries has one of the largest water vole populations in the local area, but they are still vulnerable to many threats.

"Small-scale interventions, like the work being carried out in this project, can make all the difference for securing the future of this species."