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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Voles hole canal bank
Kennet-Avon canal
Some four million gallons of water drained away
Water voles could be partly to blame for the collapse of an embankment on a Wiltshire canal that caused the water to drain away.

The three-mile stretch of the Kennet-Avon canal is to reopen on Monday, a week after four million gallons of water drained into a nearby field.

Evidence of burrowing by water voles - which are nationally very rare - was found near the breach of the embankment.

However, British Waterways said erosion over time, wash from boats and an underground stream were more likely to have weakened the canal wall.

Water vole
The water vole is a protected species

"We think the role of the water voles is very, very small," a spokeswoman said.

The canal was closed between Lock 15 at Semington and Lock 21 at Seend after a three-metre section of embankment collapsed last Monday.

The water drained into a ditch, leaving the canal almost dry.

No boats were left stranded, nor was there damage to nearby land or property.

But the canal had to be closed for emergency repairs to strengthen the 200-year-old embankment.

Now engineers are examining ways of conserving the habitat for the voles - which are a protected species - while carrying out further work.

Click here to go to BBC Wiltshire
See also:

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Mixed fortunes for Ratty
16 Dec 98 | UK
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15 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Rescue plan for Ratty
16 Dec 98 | Sci/Tech
Bee gone!
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