Christine is walking 240 miles around every WWT nature reserve to raise money for Salisbury District Hospital and WWT. This will take Christine over three weeks to complete. You can help support her by going to her fundraising page here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChristineRolt 

Christine is keeping us updated throughout the walk in her blog below: 

Tuesday 5th April:I have finished this amazing journey through Wiltshire!

I need to go back a few days to describe the final part of my journey.  After leaving Wroughton I made my way to the East of Swindon to South Marston.  Here I found the St Julian’s Community Wood.  A tiny patch of relatively new woodland, obviously much loved and tucked in behind a housing development.  After that I visited the three reserves in Swindon.  Two are tiny – Hagbourne Copse (a little patch of ancient woodland which hosts a dense array of bluebells) and Rushey Platt (a tiny remnant of the marsh that used to extend over much of South Swindon).  Both of these reserves are surrounded by housing and industry.  The third reserve in Swindon is the impressive Swindon Lagoons.  Another heartening story of regeneration as these lagoons used to be sewage works!  My daughter and I were met by warden Simon Wicks who gave us a wonderful guided tour.  It was amazing to learn about the host of wildlife that lives and visits this reserve.  We even saw two deer – most unexpected so close to an urban conurbation.

The final three days were among the best in the whole walk.  There are 8 reserves packed in to the NW of Swindon.  It is a lovely rural area quite unknown to me before.  The walking was very pleasant with many of the footpaths little used.  At the Firs woodland reserve I was met by WWT’s Ellie Jones.  It was so boggy and wet underfoot that we did not venture very far into the wood before walking on to Echo Lodge.  Ellie’s knowledge of the reserves is impressive and she told me so much about the wildlife as well as explaining her role within WWT.  Thank you Ellie!   Echo Lodge reserve is a series of flower-rich hay meadows.  I spent a lovely hour here having my picnic lunch. These meadows host very different flora to the chalk grasslands in the South of the county where I live.   My final destination that day was Ravensroost, a sizeable reserve with woodlands and meadows.  It was extremely sticky underfoot so I didn’t explore as much as I would have liked.  Definitely one to revisit.

Next came Emmett Hill Meadows and Cloatley Meadows.  I absolutely loved Cloatley with its ridges and furrows – remnants of medieval farming practice. The beautiful dense hedgerows and small fields a real reminder of how the landscape used to be and how WWT is trying to preserve this precious heritage.  Then to Lower Moor Farm.  If I had to pick a favourite reserve I think this would stand a very good chance of winning – extensive, varied and absolutely brimming with life.  We have already booked a few days away later in the month just so that we can see the thousands of snake’s-head fritillaries that this reserve supports.  I would love to spot one of the otters.

I left Lower Moor very reluctantly on the last day to make my way to Upper Waterhay where I was to be met by warden, John Grearson.  My route took me along the Thames Path which was flooded in part!  I had to wade up to my knees through flood water!  All was worth it though, and John was yet another warden with so much knowledge of his reserve and I was fascinated to see his meticulous record of sightings and lovely photographs.  We saw the fritillaries just bursting their buds. Then just a mile or so to the end at Blakehill.

WWT’s Tamsin Whinton had taken so much trouble to give me a really lovely finale.  Welcome signs lined the route and a lovely barbecue and cake marked the end of my journey.  Thank you to family and friends and the WWT gang who made it so special.

This has been an amazing personal journey for me on many levels.  The fact that I have been able to walk around Wiltshire almost entirely on footpaths and quiet lanes, often seeing no-else all day, is in itself quite something.  Every day brought a new reserve, large or small, always unique and with some very special reason for being in the WWT portfolio.  I have met some wonderful volunteer wardens who are just so knowledgeable and dedicated.  Above all I have learnt so much more about WWT.  The charity is not just about looking after these special places.  Outreach work plays a significant part of their work, far more than I had realised, engaging with a broad range of people of all ages, backgrounds and needs. 

Finally thank you to all my sponsors who made this whole thing so worthwhile.  Thank you for following my blog and make sure you visit some of these wonderful reserves!

Saturday 31st March: 

Over the past few days walking has been mixed with some beautiful sections.  More hares and red kites and a corn bunting.  Primroses have been in abundance and at last the hawthorn leaves are showing in sheltered spots and also blackthorn blossom.  The low points have been the rain on Thursday and a very intensively farmed section today which was a bit dreary and depressing to walk through.

The highpoints have been the reserves (obviously) and some really beautiful villages.

Ham Hill was a sweet little reserve based on a really old sunken lane.  I have walked through sunken lanes many times but none as deep as this one.  As it happened I met the warden the next morning as I set off towards Ramsbury and it Meadow.  I loved this little reserve which is obviously very well loved with an impressive board walk.

High Clear Down reminded me of Dunscombe Bottom but in a very remote location.  Although too early for the chalk loving wild flowers there were impressive views from the top.  I also found the old dew pond.

My end point today and reserve number 25 was Clouts Wood.  Part of a huge reserve on the edge of Wroughton.  I would have really loved this if it had not been for the mud!  I entered by footpath from the South end and it was most impressive. I would like to explore it further when the weather is drier.

I will finish this adventure on Thursday lunchtime at Blakehill Farm.  It would be lovely if a few of my friends could be there.  Watch out for my final blog instalment!

Saturday 28th March 2018:

I have now walked 180 miles and have visited 21 of the 37 WWT reserves. With just 8 days of walking left, I am confident that I am going to complete my ‘Walk for Wiltshire’.

From Devizes, the walk has been mostly along the Kennet and Avon canal path heading East with brief forays to Peppercombe Wood and Hat Gate, both small wooded reserves.

Boardwalk

The highlight of the last couple of days has to be Jones’s  Mill.  This is a fantastic reserve, alongside the canal at Pewsey, and is worth a visit whatever the season or weather.  Walking along the board walk, through the marshy woodland, you really feel that you are in a primeval landscape unchanged for many hundreds if not thousands of years. 

Thursday 26th March 2018: 

I am now over half way through my walk.  The last few days has taken me from Warminster to Trowbridge, Melksham, Calne, Chippenham and Devizes.  After Warminster, the hills gave way to the flatter landscape of West Wiltshire.  My route has taken me along part of the Kennet and Avon canal and a disused railway line as well as innumerable little-used field paths. 

Most of the reserves in this section have been very close to centres of population.  The Green Lane reserve abuts a housing development.  It is a huge area, mostly wooded, and I particularly enjoyed the area known as Biss Wood.  There had been some recent coppicing and I spotted both frog and toad spawn in the pond there.

Toad spawn at Green Lane Wood

Next stop was Widbrook Wood.  This was an interesting little-wooded reserve sandwiched between the canal and the River Avon towards Bradford-on-Avon.

Conigre Mead in Melksham is tiny but has real charm and is obviously much enjoyed by local people.

Vincients Wood abuts housing in Chippenham.  It was full of birdsong and I was lucky enough to spot a nuthatch.

Next stop was Penn Wood.  A wonderful reserve which has had around 10,000 trees planted.  Despite the fact that the trees are so young there is a lovely feel to the reserve which has ponds and older trees and hedgerows as well.  Another visitor had spotted a grass snake and snipe but I was not so lucky on this visit.  From here I walked on to Morgans Hill via Cherhill and its white horse.  Another chalk downland reserve with wonderful views.

Cherhill White Horse

My end point today was the Devizes and Roundway Orchard and Cricket Field. A totally different type of reserve, preserving an old orchard and cricket pitch was originally part of the old mental hospital.  Another wonderful area for local residents.

Saturday 21st March 2018: 

The last three days have taken me from Oyster’s Coppice near Semley up to Dunscombe Bottom at Heytesbury and then on to Warminster and Smallbrook Meadows.   Almost all of this section has been along the Wessex Ridgeway and the views have been superb.  I have been accompanied by skylarks and red kites, passed hillforts and a hunt, and have negotiated deep snow and plenty of mud.  There are so many surprises along the way and I was intrigued to find a plague stone just along the road from Oyster’s Coppice.

Plague Stone near Oysters Coppice Wiltshire

Dunscombe Bottom still had a lot of snow.  The reserve covers a very steep hillside that has never been ploughed.  I was hoping to see the grazing mules but no luck.  This reserve comes into its own later on with the chalk downland flora, butterflies and insects.  I have visited this little reserve before.

Christine Rolt Walk for Wiltshire

Smallbrook Meadow was delightful.  I imagine it gets very busy being so close to the town but today it was very peaceful.  I had my lunch by the river and spotted frog spawn, at last, in the wetland area.

Having visited the reserves in the South of the county I now head north to areas that are quite new to me.  I am really enjoying myself so far and coping with the daily walking rather better than I had imagined.  I am a third of the way through the walk and have covered 96 miles so far.

Sunday 18th March 2018

I have been defeated by the weather today.  Heavy snowfall overnight means we are marooned at home and the weather towards Shaftesbury, where I would be walking, is even worse.  It will put me back a day but I will catch up time later in the trek.  I walked the dog to our local wildlife area called Lime Kiln Down instead!

Friday and Saturday, however, went according to plan.  My route over the two days took me from Downton over to the Coombe Bissett reserve and then on to Middleton Down via the Ox Drove.   From there I walked up to the Old Shaftesbury Drove before wending my way to Oyster’s Coppice.  After the gentle landscape of the New Forest I was back to the rolling downs of South Wiltshire.  It was glorious walking although bitterly cold on Saturday.  I came across wild violets, primroses and celandine, heard corn bunting and skylarks and caught sight of a lapwing and lots of chaffinches.

The Coombe Bissett reserve is my local reserve and as we walked through we met WWT’s Chelsie and Mike doing some clearance with the Adult Wellbeing Group.  It was good to meet them all.

Middleton Down reserve is in a beautiful spot just below the Ox drove, one of many old drove roads in the area.  You walk down a picturesque valley with old oak trees.  Really lovely, with cattle grazing.

I loved Oysters Coppice.  A beautiful stretch of ancient woodland with delightful pond and wild daffodils.  I even heard an owl.  Bluebells and wild garlic were growing apace and will provide a wonderful carpet of colour soon.  Another reserve, relatively close to home, that I will return to soon.  

             

Thursday 15th March 2018:  

I have now walked 76km and visited 6 reserves.  Only 31 reserves to go!

The last two days have had a different feel as the Wiltshire downs gave way to a gentler, wooded landscape on the edge of the New Forest.  Beautiful walking the whole way although lots of very wet, slippery paths!

Yesterday I walked with a friend through the remains of Clarendon Palace, along the Clarendon Way to Pitton.  Then on to Blackmoor Copse.  We had both been there before and it is as delightful as ever.  We were just thinking about lunch when we found a picnic table.  Perfect.  A very atmospheric reserve with lots of bird song.  There were lots of little green shoots among the leaf litter, another reminder that spring is nearly here.

Today was a ‘green’ day as I managed to get a bus to the start in Whiteparish and from the end in Downton.  The first day walking on my own but I was in high spirits as I set off.    Landford Bog was new to me and more or less how I had imagined it.  It is a tiny remnant of the old Landford Common.  The gorse was just starting to flower, attracting a number of bees.  The landscape of the reserve is quite atmospheric and once again I found a good picnic spot.  I hunted for the raft spiders in the pools but I think it is probably much too early in the year.  I have yet to see any frog spawn this year.

        

Tuesday 13th March 2018:

"At last my walk is underway.  I have completed 2 days, walked 39km and visited 4 reserves. 

Tamsin (WWT) had organised a great send off for me and my friends from the wonderful Langford Lakes Reserve.  A lovely walk followed, walking up to Grovely Woods and on to Wilton and then on to Nadder Island in Salisbury.  Nadder Island is inaccessible but can be viewed from the banks of the River Nadder.   I did not spot any birds but did see a little clump of daffodils coming into flower on the island.  Spring really is on its way.

  

The second day took me up past Old Sarum to the Devenish Reserve.  A big thank you to Richard Death who was there to greet me and give a tour of the reserve.  I was very taken by the Balwen sheep.  Richard was a mine of information about the flora and fauna of the reserve and we spotted a scarlet elf cup which was exciting.  We also saw some recent coppicing and ingenious deer proof enclosures woven by volunteers.  I can’t wait to go back at leisure and explore every corner of the reserve.

A lovely sunny walk followed over to Cockey Down.  Most of this walk was along the ‘Monarch’s Way’, a lovely grassy track which was easy to follow.  This reserve is probably best visited in the summer months to catch the flowers and butterflies but great views across Salisbury can be guaranteed in all seasons!"

Sunday 4th March 2018:

"There is only 8 days left until the start of my ‘Walk for Wiltshire’ and I am anxiously watching the weather forecasts.  It looks as if it should be considerably warmer by then, so fingers crossed.  I will be walking approximately 240 miles around Wiltshire, visiting each and every one of the 37 Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserves along a route that I have researched myself. This is a unique challenge and one I am expecting to take at least 3 weeks to complete.

The ‘Beast from the East’ has played havoc with my training schedule.  My target for this week was to cover 70km over 5 walks but it is going to be nearer 15km.  I did manage to walk this morning but it was really hard work and I kept hitting snow drifts.  I have some special anti-skid attachments for my boots which help over icy patches.  I hope that they will not be necessary when I start the trek. The highlight today was seeing a fieldfare in the garden on my return.

  

I have been so encouraged by the interest this walk has generated.  Every single sponsorship, however small, gives me a real buzz.  How kind and generous people have been.  I know that both of my charities will spend every penny wisely so do please add to my sponsorship if you can.

I start walking on the 12th, accompanied by a few friends on the first leg.  I am getting quite excited now. Everyone is welcome to come and see me off from Langford Lakes at 10.30 on the 12th."

You can help support Christine by going to her fundraising page here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChristineRolt