Walking the Ridgeway

I’ve just been tidying my garden in preparation for the winter. It is a lovely English autumn day and I have sat down with a cup of tea after my labours. My body is still recovering from my 90 mile walk of the Ridgeway long distance national trail, and now it has stiffened further after the gardening! So I have time to share a few thoughts about the Ridgeway walk I have just completed.

Following a route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers the 90 mile long Ridgeway passes through ancient landscapes through downland, secluded valleys and woodland. It is a trail of two contrasting halves, separated by the Thames. The western part of this National Trail largely follows the route of a prehistoric ridge track along the crest of the North Wessex Downs and passes many historic sites, including Barbury, Liddington, Uffington and Segsbury Castles (hill forts), Wayland’s Smithy (long barrow) and Uffington White Horse. Near the western end start of the route, that is at the Sanctuary, is the Avebury World Heritage Site (a joint Site with Stonehenge).

The eastern part at Streatley crosses and then follows the River Thames for five miles before heading east into the Chiltern Hills, mainly along the north-western escarpment. The walking on the eastern half is more varied, along tracks and paths, across open downland, and through farm and woodland, passing Nuffield, Watlington, Chinnor, Princes Risborough, Wendover and Tring, ending up at Ivinghoe Beacon.

Whilst generally fairly level, the walk can be deceptively hard, as on a couple of days one needs to walk around 30km to find accommodation that is on, or very close to the route. I did not want to travel 2-3 miles off the route to find bed and breakfast. This is particularly true of the western half between Avebury and Streatley.

I completed the walk in five and half days last week. I love walking in England in the autumn. There was some rain, but the worst part was the very soft going underfoot which made it quite tiring at points, particularly as I was carrying a large pack. If you do decide to walk the route and don’t wish to carry everything with you, there are bag carrying companies that will take your large bags to your next BnB enabling you to walk with just a day sack.

A few tips from me if you want to walk this lovely route across southern England:

Given the sparsity of on the route accommodation, it may be best to plan the route a little more than I did (I just set off with no forward planning!) and then to choose and book BnB places; at busy times of the year, finding somewhere may be hard to find.

Buy a copy of The Ridgeway Adventure Atlas by A-Z. It has the whole route in Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 mapping in one map sized book that is easy to slip into and out of your trouser pocket or waterproof jacket map pocket (I had plenty of practice). It is all you need map wise and is designed to last at least one walk of the route. Buy The Ridgeway Adventure Atlas

Avoid The Ridgeway: Trailblazer British Walking Guide. It has lots of information and may be useful for pre-planning, but it is useless on the route. I carried it for 90 miles and did not open it once.

Research the route on the National Trails site and the Long Distance Walking Association site.

My route and accommodation:

Start point was at Ivinghoe Beacon. I stayed at a hotel near Tring (direct train from London Euston) and took a taxi to the Beacon in the morning.
Night one I stayed at the Red Lion in Wendover.
Night two at England’s Rose pub in Postcome which is about two miles off the route, but if you call the landlady, Shelia, she will collect and return you to the route.
Night three was a stay at The Swan in Streatley which was very good.
Night four at Hill Barn BnB right on the route at Sparsholt Firs.
Night five at The Sanctuary in Ogbourne St George.
End point at the Sanctuary (Overton Hill near Avebury) and then walked to the Red Lion at Avebury for lunch. I was collected but there is a regular bus service direct to Swindon train station.

A few photos to review if you have nothing better to do on a Sunday evening!

10 thoughts on “Walking the Ridgeway

  1. Judith Stove

    Lovely walk and great pics. Great to hear from you. I don’t check into this page as often as I should…last April, my husband and I walked Helvellyn via Striding Edge, which was wonderful, after some walks in the west of Scotland. We’d visited a heap of Neolithic sites in Orkney (where my Stove ancestors came from)…a great trip. Very best wishes and thanks for posting.

    Reply
  2. Alun Davies

    A great walk and thanks for sharing it. We have walked 2 routes this year, also staying at hostels, B&Bs and pubs. They were Glyndwr’s Way which is horseshoe shaped Knighton – Machynlleth – Welshpool, and the Great Glen Way from Fort William on the west coast to Inverness on the east. We travel light with our packs between 12-15 pounds which makes walking more pleasurable.

    Reply
  3. Stephen Johnson

    Oh, England, my Lionheart! And now you are about to be torn apart by a General Election full of empty promises ( except those of the Greens because they put the environment first where it belongs). Surely these ruminations crossed your mind passing Chequers?
    Lucky with the weather. Your photographs capture the essence of the walk really well

    Reply
  4. helenruston6376

    The picture journal is wonderful .. especially loved your “shadow.” You are very creative. Make
    copies and put in an album or a BOOK .. Wondering about the marshy spots: Is it possible
    for trail volunteers to put planks down? I have seen it done in NewFoundland and in the
    Grand Canyon where the trail runs along a Bright Angel Creek. Thank you again for sharing!!!
    Great tips, too!!

    Reply
  5. Nelly

    The picture journal is astounding!! Love the ‘shadow’. You are very creative. Sorry it
    was soft walking underfoot. Possibly another season? Possibly ‘Trail Friends’ could
    put planks over the marshy zones?

    Reply

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