(reprinted from Aspects of the Ridgeway)

From the hills south of Oxford, from Boars Hill and Wytham, the dark line of the Downs marks the horizon. Between it and the river lies the ancient borderland between Wessex and Mercia.

The way that runs along the ridge of the downs between Avebury and Streatley has kept its name unaltered since Saxon times. Some names and boundaries provide evidence older than the literary evidence of Chronicles and early histories: the Ridgeway was already ancient when Alfred was born at Wantage in 849 A.D. and the name of the Icknield Way is pre–English. Our ancestors seem to have assumed that earthworks whose origins were unknown to them should be ascribed to Woden, Grim (a Norse god) or the Devil; these ditches and dykes were probably boundary marks rather than communication routes. We can deduce from dated charters that sections of ancient roads were recognisably in existence in the time of Alfred and later. […]