The Ridgeway is a fantastic long-distance walking route through the south of England. Here are 8 things you may not know about this wonderful National Trail.
1) The Ridgeway runs for 86 1/2 miles (139km) between Avebury and Ivinghoe Beacon and can be walked in a week
Walking the Ridgeway National Trail takes you on a journey through a landscape steeped in history, following old trackways that have been used since prehistoric times past the remains of Neolithic burial mounds and Iron Age hill forts with commanding views. On the way there are plenty of distractions just off the route, from picturesque towns and villages with thatched cottages and cosy pubs, to historic churches and interesting museums.
2)At 5000 years old the Ridgeway is Britain's oldest trail
The Ridgeway, often called ‘Britain’s oldest road’, offers a fascinating history stretching back thousands of years. The earliest inhabitants of the area were nomadic hunter-gatherers, who travelled through the wooded landscape over 10,000 years ago, shortly after the end of the last ice age.
3) The Ridgeway National Trail passes through two AONBs - the North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills
The Ridgeway National Trail lies within two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): the North Wessex Downs and The Chilterns. There is also a concerted effort by the Friends of the Ridgeway, the Chiltern Society and the newly formed Ridgeway Partnership, to help preserve this special area for future generations.
4) You will also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avebury's Neolithic stone circle and the Uffington White Horse
The western half of the walk, from Avebury to the little village of Streatley, travels along the northern edge of the North Wessex Downs AONB passing a number of impressive prehistoric sites including the Uffington White Horse, Wayland’s Smithy and several Iron Age hill forts.
The eastern half travels through the Chilterns AONB, a much more intimate, wooded landscape overlying the chalk hills, along the way there are some great viewpoints such as Whiteleaf Hill and Coombe Hill, looking out over the Vale of Aylesbury. The route ends with a grand view from Ivinghoe Beacon.
5) It's a great walk for wildlife enthusiasts - it is possible to spot deer, dormice, woodpeckers and red kites along the way
You should have plenty of opportunities for catching glimpses of local wildlife. Alongside the River Thames you may see the vivid turquoise-blue and orange flash of a kingfisher while the ever-present ducks and mute swans will keep you company.
In the ancient woodlands you may hear the drumming knock of the great spotted woodpecker or the raucous call of a jay. The open chalk grasslands support a myriad of butterflies, plants and birds. High above you might spot a buzzard or a red kite.
Red kites were successfully re-introduced between 1989 and 1994 and their numbers have steadily increased: you’d be unlucky not to see one, especially along the eastern half of the Ridgeway.
6) You can get a certificate of completion and even a cloth badge - visit the National Trail website for details
After completing your walk please take time to complete the Ridgeway feedback form available from the National Trails website: this allows the National Trail team to pick up on things that people either have a problem with or would like provided; plus, when you complete the form, they’ll send you a certificate and/or a cloth badge.
7) The Ridgeway forms part of the Greater Ridgeway, a challenging 363 mile (583km) route from the Dorset coast to the Norfolk coast. Cicerone publishes a guidebook to the Peddars Way which also forms part of the Greater Ridgeway
Running diagonally across southern England, from the south coast in Dorset to the Norfolk coastline, the Greater Ridgeway offers a much more challenging long-distance route. This 583km (363-mile) route follows four distinct long-distance paths:
- The Wessex Ridgeway – covering 219km (136 miles) from the Dorset coast at Lyme Regis to Marlborough in Wiltshire.
- The Ridgeway National Trail
- Icknield Way – running for 206km (128 miles) from Ivinghoe Beacon to Knettishall Heath near Thetford
- Peddars Way National Trail – the Greater Ridgeway follows part of this national trail northwards for 79km (49 miles) through Norfolk from Knettishall Heath to the coast at Hunstanton.
8) The Cicerone guidebook includes a mapping booklet of the entire route, using 1:25k OS mapping
The Cicerone guidebook has been updated and now includes a mapping booklet of the entire route of the Ridgeway using 1:25k OS mapping - we hope you find it useful. The booklet is free with the book or can be purchased separately for £7.95.