Rothschild Way is a footpath extending to Woodwalton Fen from Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire and commemorating the early wildlife conservation work of Charles Rothschild. The route is undertaken by a number of people annually in June through the Rothschild Way Challenge event, set up to raise funds for our work on the Great Fen.
The footpath was the idea of Adrian Kempster, Chairman of the Great Fen Local Group and links the two National Nature Reserves of Wicken Fen and Woodwalton Fen, a distance of 39 miles. The historic link between these two reserves is that Charles Rothschild bought them in 1899 and 1910 respectively. He then went on to become a major pioneer in developing the wildlife conservation movement in the UK.
For a more detailed route refer to Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps 225, 226, 227. The map below gives a rough outline of the route.
The route follows existing public footpaths between Wicken Fen & Woodwalton Fen, is 39 miles in length and is recognised as a long distance route by Cambridgeshire County Council.
It is not a circular route so transport would be required and if you are intending to walk the whole route in one go it is strongly advised you not to drive yourself afterwards. The route takes around 13.5 to 16.5 hours, so leave yourself plenty of time and take into account the daylight as it could be difficult in places in the dark. Please note the footpaths are the responsibility of Cambridgeshire County Council, not the Wildlife Trust or the National Trust.
There is some way-marking for the Rothschild Way and for a considerable distance the route follows the Fen Rivers Way, between the A1123 and West River Bridge, the Ouse Valley Way between West River Bridge and Brownhill Staunch and the Pathfinder Long Distance Path between Brownhill Staunch and Broughton marked with distinctive Pathfinder aeroplane way-markers.
An introduction to Charles Rothchild...
Nathaniel Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) was an entomologist, a pioneer of nature conservation in Britain and the inspirational founder and first Chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves – the organisation that went on to become the Wildlife Trusts. Rothschild bought part of Wicken Fen in 1899, creating Britain’s first nature reserve. He gave the reserve to the National Trust, who still manage the reserve to this day. In 1910, he bought Woodwalton Fen intending to donate this site to the National Trust too, but the Trust was reluctant to take on a second nature reserve when the upkeep of Wicken Fen was proving costly. For a while, Rothschild kept Woodwalton as his own personal nature reserve.
Probably Rothschild's most important contribution to nature conservation was when in 1912 he formed the first society in Britain concerned with protecting wildlife habitats - the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves for Britain and the Empire, now the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. He donated Woodwalton Fen to the society in 1919 and The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts still own the reserve today. The society now manages 2,300 nature reserves across the UK, with the support of more than 800,000 members – a testament to the legacy of Charles Rothschild.