Mon, 29 Jun 2020
HUNGERFORD river keeper Jimmy Hill knew just what to do when he spotted a stoat racing along, carrying its prey. He stood stock still and videoed the river creature as it ran towards him and nosily got close up to him before darting into the undergrowth.
Mr Hill, 25, is employed by the Town & Manor of Hungerford to look after the part of the river that runs through the town and adjoining land.
He said: "I have seen quite a few stoats in the five years I've been working here, but never one with prey in its mouth."
He said that as it got closer he could see that the stoat was carrying a bank vole – water voles are a lot bigger and would have been harder for the stoat to manage.
Mr Hill, who grew up in Woolton Hill, says he feels very fortunate in his job: "I always loved the outdoors as a child – fishing and watching the wildlife.
"This job is ideal and so varied – I can be doing anything from tidying up the apple orchard to mowing the grass, moving cattle or repairing some fencing, as well as guiding anglers to the best fishing areas. The only downside is when it's freezing cold or pouring with rain."
During lockdown no fishing was allowed, but, as the fishing season doesn't start until May 1, Mr Hill said this didn't really cause too much disruption: "When anglers were finally allowed to fish, we opened on May 13 and, after the first flurry, it has settled down to pretty much normal numbers."
The area covered by the Hungerford river keepers – there are two of them – encompasses the area from Chilton Foliat to Denford and includes the Dun as well as the Kennet.
Mr Hill says that lockdown didn't really make a lot of difference to the job he does because there is always plenty to do, "it's outdoors as well and you don't really come across other people so we just carried on with the general maintenance".
And one of the bonuses of the job is definitely spotting wildlife and sometimes capturing a magic moment on video, which you can see here: