The Ridgeway, an 87-mile (140km) stretch celebrated its 50th year as a National Trail in January. But the path that leads from the World Heritage Site of Avebury, through the chalk hills of the Berkshire Downs to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire is known to date back to the Stone Age.
The prehistoric path would probably have been created by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers. It is known to have been a reliable trading route between the Dorset coast and the Wash in Norfolk. The high dry ground made for an ideal route that provided protection against bandits.
During the invasion of the Saxons and Vikings, the Ridge was used by the invading armies to transport food to their troops and for the vantage point. The high grounds enabled the commanding officers to see the defending armies approaching.
In the medieval period, drovers used to the ancient path to herd their cattle to market in the cities along the route. Today, the national trail is typically used by walkers, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and mobility scooters.
Walking The Ridgeway
The Ridgeway is separated in six trail sections making it easy for day-trippers to choose a section of the path they want to walk.
Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George – 9.3 miles (14.8 Km)
The start of the trail is the shortest stretch taking you from Overton Hill to Ogbourne St. George. The Ridgeway climbs gradually through the Beech woodland and countryside to Barbury Castle Iron Age fort. Some of the best views are from Smeathe’s Ridge as you descend from Barbury Castle to Ogbourne St George.
Ogbourne St George to Sparsholt Firs – 16 miles (25.6 Km)
This section of The Ridgeway has some of the most spectacular views and prehistoric monuments to enjoy. The initial climb out of the Og Valley is fairly steep but levels off until you cross the M4. Then you come into contact with an undulating trail lined with hedges fencing cattle into large fields.
Sparsholt Firs to Streatley – 17.4 miles (27.9 Km)
The stretch between Sparsholt Fires and Streatley takes you through punctuated woodlands and delivers stunning views across the Thames Valley and the Chiltern Hills.
Early risers may expect to encounter trainers taking their racehorses out for an early morning jaunt or racing them along the ribbon-lined tracks. So be careful not to stray from the path and into a racetrack.
Streatley to Watlington – 15.3 miles (24.6 Km)
Arguably one of the most quaint stretches of the Ridgeway brings you into contact with water, woodlands and small villages. Following the flow of the River Thames, you’ll pass through meadows where you find cows grazing on the plush, green grass.
The most secluded part of the path runs alongside the ancient Grim’s Ditch before bringing you out into the pretty village of Nuffield. A little further along is the small hamlet of Swyncombe where you can pay a visit to the flint church of St Botolph’s.
Watlington to Wendover – 17 miles (27.2 Km)
The stretch between Watlington and Wendover takes you into the Chiltern valleys – and the most strenuous part of The Ridgeway. The start of the trail takes you along the ancient Icknield Way at the bottom edge of the Chilterns scarp and onto Lodge Hill to Princes Risborough.
It is here where the terrain becomes more menacing and the trail climbs in and out of the valleys before bringing you to the charming town of Wendover. Much of the path belongs to the nature reserves managed by Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust so you expect to find plenty of flora and fauna to admire.
Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon – 11.8 miles (18.8 Km)
The final stretch of The Ridegway is mostly woodland filled with beech, birch and a broad range of coniferous trees. Once you leave the woodlands you find yourself walking along the Grand Union Canal which at one time was a thriving commercial waterway. Nowadays, it’s a peaceful recreational route for boaters and walkers.
The final stretch takes you through Tring Station, Duchies Piece nature reserve and Aldbury Nowers wood before emerging onto Pitstone Hill where you will be greeted with spectacular views of your final destination – Ivinghoe Beacon.
Download the Sweatcoin App
If you’re an avid walker, or if you’re contemplating taking up hiking as a healthy pastime, download the Sweatcoin app and earn money for your walking efforts. Sweatcoin converts your steps into a digital token which can be used to purchase goods from over 300 merchants.
It pays to walk.