A blog written by Dan Tubb, Young Ambassador for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Clouts Wood is an ancient forest located in northern Wiltshire, by the large village of Wroughton. Owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, it forms part of a much larger, and very diverse reserve, along with Kings Farm Wood, Markham Banks and the Diocese Meadows.

A walk through Clouts Wood is truly a sensory experience, with an extensive range of smells sights and sounds to be enjoyed. Walking through the gate, on the path which runs along the top of what is locally known as Rabbit-Valley, you are often greeted by a robin or two singing from the trees surrounding the gate. After around five minutes of strolling along the path, having not been startled on more than one occasion by a wren in the undergrowth, I arrived at a series of steps. I’d heard that there was a woodpecker nest at the top of these steps, so went in for a closer look, mindful of if there was still a nest of course, only to be presented with a treecreeper knocking bits off of a tree onto me, to which I bid a hasty retreat as I did not want to mess with this most worthy of opponents. 

Around halfway down the steps, there is a path that leads off to Markham Banks, which I decided to take as a detour to explore further and see if I could spot the Dexter cattle that graze the area. Heading towards the large tree along the path that leads up onto the top of the bank, I was presented with a cacophony from a nearby bush from a large group, or as I’ve since found out is called a ‘charm’, of goldfinches, which was a pleasant surprise. The views from the top of the bank into the valley below are incredible, seeing the woods flowing down the other side of the hill. On most occasions when I come to Markham banks there is a red kite or two circling above, and this time around they certainly did not disappoint, and put on a show, swooping and calling almost the entire time, which was quite the spectacle.

Dexter cattleDexter cattle. Credit: Dan Tubb

It was relatively easy to spot the Dexters, I mean a dozen black cows standing together by a gap in the bush isn't exactly difficult to spot. What is difficult, however, is to get down the bank when you reach the other end where they are, typically having to resort to a scramble on all fours. Having got down, I took headed back towards where I entered by walking down the valley floor, which presents a vastly different experience to that of the top. Being the edges of Clouts wood, the shrubbery around the floor was teeming with small birds flitting across between both sides.

Back on the stairs after about 20 minutes of the detour, I headed the way I had originally been going, further into the woods. I mentioned earlier that Clouts wood is a fantastic experience for the senses, and it really is, with the earthy smells emanating from the shrubbery and undergrowth accompanied by that of wild garlic, add the intermittent calls of the numerous dunnocks chiffchaffs and wrens it feels like you have gotten away from the hubbub of daily life. That is until you’re rudely awakened by cars on the nearby roads.

I decided to take a different path out of clouts woods, one which led to a more hidden entrance. Upon almost reaching the exit, I was met by a group of long-tailed tits, which I’m sure probably have their own fun name, in amongst the bushes and stopped to watch them for a while. Exiting into ‘rabbit valley’ I headed through the bottom field of the diocese meadows, which were teeming with butterflies, bees and moths, as well as all sorts of wildflowers, toward kings farm woods and my eventual exit.

Comma butterflyA comma butterfly. Credit: Dan Tubb

Walking along the bottom path in kings farm woods, you are further presented with yet more bird species, including blackcaps and many bluetits. As I was just entering a covered part of the path, I saw a huge buzzard flying away from me down the tunnel of trees, which sealed the walk as having been a success! To see such a large bird at such close range, no more than 10 metres away, was just incredible!

In all, my walk at Clouts woods and the surrounding reserves was a resounding success, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a mindful walk in the fresh air, wanting to see a wide variety of species, or both! It’s truly incredible how such a wide variety of species and habitats including wildflower meadows, ancient woodlands and chalk hills can all be found within such a small area, right on the fringes of Swindon. 

Discover Clouts Wood nature reserve