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Walking the Ridgeway, by Anthony Burton

Anthony Burton is author of the official guide and presenter of the new DVD on The Ridgeway, avalable from TVWalks.com. See foot of the page for more details.


Liddington Castle: Copyright Bonza TV LtdThe Ridgeway offers a journey through magnificent scenery, and also a passage through time. This is an ancient track, so old that no one can even put a date on it – all we can say is that it was almost certainly in use as a trading route in the New Stone Age, and that began about 6000 years ago. Monuments from the past can be found all along the way – this is a walk that has Britain’s biggest henge monument at one end – and, yes, it really is bigger than Stonehenge - and an Iron Age hill fort at the other, and most other ages represented in between. This sense of the past would be enough to attract many people to this famous long distance footpath, but it is by no means the only reason. For a start, the route lies within two areas officially designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills.

Although, as the name suggests, the route runs mainly along the top of a chalk ridge, that does not mean there is no variety in the scenery. Starting in the west, the route across Marlborough Downs is exhilarating: a walk in open country of swelling hills and wide vistas. You will find yourself walking along an escarpment edge, with immense views to the north across the Vale of the White Horse, while to the south there is a complex pattern of dips and folds. It all remains very open until the path begins to dip down to cross the Thames at Goring. Once the Thames valley has been left behind, and the Ridgeway has resumed its eastward line, the scenery begins to change, but now woodland is a dominant feature in the scenery. Nearing the eastern end the walk calls in at small villages and towns, before ending in the spectacular upland of Ivinghoe Beacon. It makes a fitting end to this spectacular National Trail.    

Lambourn Downs: Copyright Bonza TV Ltd

Photographs: Liddington Castle and Lambourn Downs. © Bonza TV Ltd

The two most often asked questions about the walk are: which way should I walk and when should I go?  Most agree that walking west to east is preferable, mainly because our prevailing winds are westerlies. That means you get a help along the way on a fine day and you don’t get rain in your face when it’s wet. The other question is more difficult. My personal preferences are for spring and autumn; there is not much shade for much of the route so summer sun can be a problem and winter has the obvious disadvantage of short days. There is a positive side as well to the other options, particularly at the eastern end, when the woods are a mass of bluebells in spring, while the beech trees are at their finest in autumn. In the end, it is all a matter of individual preference – you can look forward to a splendid walk no matter when you go. To whet the appetite, here’s a foretaste of 87 miles of splendid walking.

Overton Hill to Ogbourne St. George (9½ miles, 15km)

Ogbourne St. George to Sparsholt Firs (16 miles, 26 km)

Sparsholt Firs to Streatley (17½ miles, 28 km)

Streatley to Watlington Hill Road (15 miles, 24 km)

Watlington Hill Road to Wendover (17 miles, 27km)

Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon (12 miles, 19km)

 

READ THE BOOK – SEE THE FILM

The official guide to the National Trail is published by Aurum Press in association with Natural England. It has detailed descriptions of the entire route accompanied by maps specially prepared by the Ordnance Survey, based on the 1:25,000 Explorer maps. It is fully illustrated with specially commissioned photographs, and as well as the detailed notes on the route, there is an introduction to the Trail and lots of information about places of interest met along the way. There are also five circular walks for those who would like to explore more of the countryside around the Ridgeway.

Anthony Burton, The Ridgeway, Aurum Press

For those who want to get a real feel for the whole walk before setting out or a reminder of its pleasures after finishing, Anthony Burton is your guide on a filmed tour of the Ridgeway, featuring all his favourite scenic sections and a selection of some of the fascinating places you can visit. It is available as a DVD or as a direct download from the website. Full details and a short trailer can be found at www.tvwalks.com.

Buy the DVD online, at a special 25% discount for Members of the Friends of The Ridgeway: only £9.00 plus p&p.  Click here to go to tvwalks.com, and use the code published in the latest copy of the Newsletter. You will need to key the code into the 'Voucher Code' box which appears on the page where you choose your payment preference.

 

All photographs in this section of the website come from the Ridgeway DVD and are © Bonza TV Ltd.