Volunteering with Chase & Chalke: Mike Gilbert

by Mike Gilbert
26th April 2023

The Chase & Chalke Landscape Partnership Scheme talked to Mike Gilbert, one of the volunteers working on the ground and helping the projects develop. Mike has done fantastic work as a walk leader and a Route Checker on the Ancient Ways project, as well as supporting our community engagement activities at public events. 


Hi Mike, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a volunteer with Chase & Chalke?
I retired in July 2021 at the age of 65 and wanted to find some form of volunteer work. I saw in The Hart magazine that route checkers were required for the Chase & Chalke Landscape partnership.

Before you joined Chase & Chalke, what has been your experience of the landscape of Cranborne Chase?
I had taken many walks in the area and had some knowledge of the history and archaeology of the area.

Why were you interested in becoming a Route Checker? Were you a regular walker before this?
I have been a regular walker for around 20 years. Route checking was ideal as it involved walking and volunteering for and helping the Chase & Chalke Landscape Partnership.

What’s it like to be a Route Checker?
It is very enjoyable.

It is satisfying to walk routes and check they are accessible for anyone to use. It is ideal that I can do the walks when it suits me.

Can you suggest any walks or routes that you recommend people try out? Perhaps hidden gems or you favourite places to visit?
I am intending to suggest some walks in the near future. I have done lots of walks around the Cranborne Chase area so I should be able to suggest some good routes.

You took part in the Walk Leader training, why did you choose to do this?
I find it very rewarding to teach people about the area. Leading a walk is the ideal way to show people the scenery and tell them about the history.

Have you used the Walk leader training already, or are you planning to lead or design a walk?
I led my first walk on 31st January (Red Kite walk). It was originally planned for December but was postponed because of the exceptionally cold weather.

You volunteered with Chase & Chalke to assist with our community engagement activities at the Chalke Valley History Festival, what drew you to volunteer for this event?
I am very interested in history and I saw that Chase & Chalke were short of volunteers for the event. I enjoyed the first day so volunteered for extra days.

You also volunteered as a steward for our Artist Residency ‘Unearthing’ Exhibition. What was it like to interact with the public at these types of events?
It was very rewarding to inform people about the partnership and the history and scenery of the area. Everybody who attended was very interested in learning about the walks and other activities organised by the partnership.

What skills do you think you’ve learnt or developed during your time with Chase & Chalke so far?
I have learned how to lead a walk responsibly and safely. My interaction with other people has improved considerably.

Did anything come as a surprise as your embarked on your volunteering or training experiences?
I have been surprised how many people do not know their local area. This was very apparent when I volunteered at the Unearthing Exhibition in Martin (with Artist in Residence Sara Dudman).

When spending time in nature or with other people, many different things can happen. Are there any memorable experiences, or moments that you would like to share? 

The Red Kite walk was suggested by me after I saw around 50 of the birds roosting when I was returning to Broadchalke at the end of a walk. I have experienced this sight on two other occasions

And finally, what’s your favourite thing about the Cranborne Chase area?
The differing landscape and the history of the area. The number of available footpaths and bridleways.


If you would be interesting in viewing the Chase & Chalke Volunteering and Training Opportunities, please register on the volunteer hub here. If you have any questions about volunteering or training, or would like to have a conversation about how you can get involved, please email chaseandchalke@cranbornechase.org.uk.