It’s amazing what a team of dedicated people can achieve. Across the county groups of volunteers are hard at work all year round to ensure Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves are in tip-top condition for wildlife to thrive. And it’s not just Trust nature reserves where these efforts are being made.

Just over a year ago, the Devizes Community Area Board gave the Trust some funding to manage the old orchard and cricket field on the grounds of what was once Roundway Hospital which – since closing in the 1990s – is now a collection of flats and houses.

The grant gave project officer Nick Self and his West Wiltshire Wellbeing group the funding needed to transform the site into a wildlife haven. Nick had a clear vision from the start – to manage the orchard and to sow wildflowers on the old cricket pitch so both would become attractive habitats for wildlife, and to generally make the site a more inviting place where visitors can stop and enjoy nature.

Thanks to Nick’s group of dedicated participants – who were out in all weathers, come rain or shine – the old cricket field now boasts a wildflower corner bed, sown with seeds from the Trust's flagship lowland grassland nature reserve Clattinger Farm. Seeds of corn cockle, corn chamomile, corn marigold and field poppy were planted, and it was amazing to see last summer how this once plain corner plot was teeming with bees and butterflies soon after the flowers had emerged.

Devizes Roundway Orchard Wild flower meadows

The flower bed is neatly framed by low-lying hazel hurdles which were also constructed and installed by the group. To the side of the field, by the trees, there is now a beetle bank which the team created using the turf that was removed from the pitch to make way for the flower bed; this is now home to all sorts of wonderful creepy crawlies. The remainder of the cricket field will be kept as open space for local people to enjoy.

Beetle bank Devizes Roundway Orchard

In the orchard, participants have been replacing diseased trees with Wiltshire varieties such as Roundway Magnum Bonum. The team have also installed two picnic benches, both wheelchair friendly, which they assembled and installed and which will provide a welcome resting point where visitors can sit down and enjoy the surroundings. Orchards are fantastic and important places for wildlife: pollinating insects explore the flower-rich grass between the trees; butterflies like the brimstone, orange-tip, red admiral and tortoiseshell feast on nectar in the fruit blossom; old trees and areas of dead wood provide homes for lichens and beetles; whilst apple windfalls provide essential meals for redwing, fieldfare and fox in cold weather.

Last October, the team held an Apple Celebration event, where local people were invited to come along and help pick apples for juicing and bottling to make the Trust’s very own apple juice (and also take some home for themselves!). Up to one-third of the crop was picked, leaving plenty of apples to provide winter feed for wildlife. The day also featured activities like apple pressing, dipping apples in chocolate and peeling the longest peel competition – all of which proved to be very popular with the youngest visitors who came along to the event.

Apple Celebration Event Devizes Roundway Orchard

As well as celebrating all things apple, the event was very much a celebration of what had been achieved on the site by the Wellbeing participants. The Wellbeing Programme has been running in Wiltshire since 2008 and provides nature-based activities for people struggling with mental health issues.

We all know the saying 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away'... but in this case, the whole orchard is providing a source of immeasurable benefits, not just for wildlife but for people’s wellbeing too.

The Trust and in particular the Wellbeing Team are extremely grateful to the Devizes Community Area Board for the funding that has enabled these positive changes to take place for wildlife and people

Bench at Devizes Roundway Orchard