12 runs. 16 nature reserves. 25 days. Two of our #teamwild are taking on the Great Run Solo festive challenge to help raise vital funds for Durham Wildlife Trust. But they’ve added a WILD twist.

Membership development officer, Emily, and communications officer, Kate, are planning their routes to take in as many of our wonderful nature reserves as possible.

And occasionally, they may have some four-legged companions joining them.

They kicked off their challenge with 5k around Rainton Meadows and Joe's Pond.

Please support them by donating via their JustGiving page.

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We’ll keep you posted on their progress throughout!

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Run #1: Rainton Meadows & Joe's Pond

For our first run, we followed the popular Run Rainton 5K route, from our annual fun run (which was sadly cancelled due to covid this year). It's a great fundraiser for the Trust and seemed like the perfect route to kick off our challenge. 

Conditions were cold, crisp, and a little muddy under foot.

Reserves Visited:
1)  Rainton Meadows ✅
2) Joe's Pond ✅

Run #2: Hesleden Dene

For our second run we took a trip to Hesleden Dene, near Castle Eden, where we discovered it was a little muddy and steep to pick up much pace. However, we saw and listened to lots of lovely wildlife and enjoyed some stunning views. A quick detour along the old railway track added a little distance on more manageable terrain.

Reserves Visited:
3)  Hesleden Dene ✅

Run #3: Herrington Hill

Our third run started off early at Herrington Country Park. A gentle lap of the park, followed by a steep climb at Herrington Hill Nature Reserve. The views from the top were spectacular! We said a quick hello to the Black Welsh Mountain sheep, currently carrying out some conservation grazing on this wonderful wild space, then set off back downhill and into the park to finish off. 

Reserves Visited:
4)  Herrington Hill ✅

Run #4: Hedleyhope Fell

Hedleyhope Fell Nature Reserve is a mid-altitude heathland with stunning views and an idyllic location for a run.

From the car park, we ran an out and back route, through the reserve past the sheep that graze this land, with many a stop to enjoy the vista and take some photographs.

We were joined by our four-legged friends Bedlam and Fidra for this run, who both did a good job as models!

Reserves Visited:
5)  Hedleyhope Fell ✅

Run #5: Low Barns

Located just outside Bishop Auckland, on the banks of the River Wear, Low Barns Nature Reserve hosts one of the Trust’s two visitor centres and coffee shops. After a quick lunch break (delicious!) we set out on two laps of the reserve.

With accessible pathways around the perimeter, it made a great location for a run, despite the rain! We ended with a photograph of the dogs in front of the beginning of the Woodland Reindeer Trail - something fun and festive to bring the kids along to -  which will run every day from 11th to 23rd December. Find out more.

Reserves Visited:
6)  Low Barns ✅

Run #6: The Whinnies

This route took us to The Whinnies Nature Reserve next to Middleton St George where we ran along the railway path in both directions. The reserve features woodland and ponds and was a lovely location for a run, with plenty of opportunities to see a variety of bird life. 

Reserves Visited:
7)  The Whinnies ✅

Run #7: Trimdon to Town Kelloe

Our route for this run began at the roadside near to the Raisby Way Railway Path, along which we ran before entering Trimdon Grange Quarry Nature Reserve. This is a small but impressive looking reserve, best seen in summer (and very muddy today!). We did a circuit of the reserve then headed back along the path to the road. 

We followed the main roads to Town Kelloe Bank Nature Reserve. This wild space is often grazed, does not have a footpath and is not accessible without prior arrangement. 

We viewed the reserve from a distance, then set off back towards the start of our run. 

Reserves Visited:
8)  Trimdon Grange Quarry ✅
9)  Town Kelloe Bank ✅

Run #8: Bishop Middleham Quarry

Conditions were not favourable for our short run around Bishop Middleham Quarry Nature Reserve. But consistent rain and very muddy underfoot conditions did not detract from the beauty of this space.

The landscape is dramatic, and we enjoyed a circuit of the reserve, before completing the run back where we started. A short, but sweet, route. Again, this wild place is best seen in summer. 

Reserves Visited:
10)  Bishop Middleham Quarry ✅

Run #9: Edmondsley Wood

Our ninth run took us north to Edmondsley Wood Nature Reserve, near Sacriston. 

With steep paths and a lot of mud, the conditions were not ideal for running - particularly when each of us was attached by lead to our four-legged friends for this one!

We ran down through the woodland to a clearing, then followed the burn to come back up the other side. The sunlight through the trees made for a magnificent sight, which we captured on camera. A lovely reserve, best suited to walking in boots we would say!

Reserves Visited:
11)  Edmondsley Wood ✅

Run #10: Shibdon

For run number ten we headed north to our wild spaces near Gateshead. Starting the route at Shibdon Pond Nature Reserve, we followed the newly installed boardwalk through the ponds. This area has unfortunately been closed to the public for some time while the old and unsafe boardwalk was waiting to be replaced. We're delighted that this work is almost complete and that the area will be open to the public again soon. 

We left Shibdon Pond Nature Reserve at the far end of the ponds, where we encountered the flying squirrel pictured below! We passed under the A1 via a underpass which took us to a railway path. Running along the path and exiting near an industrial estate, we were almost into Shibdon Meadow Nature Reserve

This area is a relatively new wild space for the Trust, and the conservation team and volunteers have been working hard for some time to create and enhance the wetland habitat. Work is underway to open up two viewing screens at either end of the Meadow for wildlife watchers.  The best time to visit is at high tide, when birds leave the inundated banks of the River Tyne and move onto this high tide roost site.

We were lucky enough to see a number of different species of wading birds, and also a bevy of roe deer happily grazing. 

To complete the run, we headed back via the railway path to the start at Shibdon Pond.

Reserves Visited:
12)  Shibdon Pond ✅
13)  Shibdon Meadow ✅

Run #11: Barlow Burn

This route took us along a cycle path to Barlow Burn Nature Reserve, which was a beautiful spot although, again, a little muddy at this time of year. The reeds looked fabulous and we ran alongside the ponds before turning to return the way we had come.

Reserves Visited:
14)  Barlow Burn ✅

Run #12: Hawthorn Dene to Blackhall Rocks

This route began at Hawthorn Dene Nature Reserve. We set out to run through the Dene but our running pace for very much hampered by the muddy conditions. However, the incredible habitat kept us distracted from the slow progress. After a mile we emerged at the coast and set out to run south along the Durham Heritage Coast.

Quite simply, this running route was stunning. We were gifted a bright and sunny day and the views were spectacular.

We followed the coastal path towards Horden, moving slightly inland in places then returning to the clifftop tracks as soon as possible. There was a fair amount of descent and ascent during the route, but we finally arrived at Blackhall Beach.

We completed the route, the longest of our twelve on the beach at Blackhall Rocks Nature Reserve where we carried out a quick litter pick before finishing our challenge back up on the coastal path.

Reserves Visited:
15)  Hawthorn Dene ✅
16)  Blackhall Rocks ✅

In total, we completed our 12 runs, visiting 16 nature reserves and covering an overall distance of 36+ miles. Thanks to everyone who has supported our fundraising. 😊