Walking the RidgewayJune 20, 2009
I’ve had some time on my hands recently, so I decided to do something I’ve had on my “must do” list for a while, and that’s to walk the Ridgeway Path. This is an 87-mile trail from Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, to Overton Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire (or the other way if you want), largely off road.
I’m not going to say much about the Ridgeway since there is an excellent website, other than to say much of it is stunningly pretty, remote and peaceful and that parts of the Ridgeway are old, really old, some used as a road in prehistory.
I divided the trail into six roughly equal segments each of which I could walk in a day. My divisions are different from those on the trail’s own website, mainly because it was my intention to use public transport to get me to the start and end of the trail each day, and my sections were easier to get to by public transport than suggested section breaks.
My six sections, in the order I’ve done them (with approximate distances) are:
- Great Kimble to Aston Rowant (11m) – train out, bus back.
- Aston Rowant to Mongewell (12.5m) – bus out, planned bus back but my wife picked me up
- Great Kimble to Ivinghoe Beacon (15m) – train out, bus and train back
- Mongewell to Bury Down (14m) – drive to Reading, then bus out and bus and train back
- Bury Down to Foxhill (17.5m) – drive to Newbury, then bus out and bus and train back
- Foxhill to Overton Hill (17m) – not yet done – drive to Foxhill then two buses back
Getting to and from these points by public transport takes some planning, thank goodness for the internet, but I also have to thank the volunteers and staff at the national trails who put together the “Public Transport Guide”, although sadly they haven’t had the funding to keep this up to date, my planning would have been infinitely more difficult without it. Then, of course, the internet enabled me to check up to date bus routes and timetables.
My record with pubs on the path isn’t good. When I finished leg 4 I walked the mile or so into the lovely village of West Ilsley only to discover that the pub there, the Harrow, was shut because much of the village was having its electricity supply replaced.
And when I finished leg 5 and got to the bus stop at “The Shepherd’s Rest”, I discovered that it was more like the publican’s rest since it was closed, boarded up and has a “for sale” sign outside. I’m hoping that the Red Lion in Avebury doesn’t close its doors between now and when I walk the final section.
I still have the final section to complete before picking another long distance footpath to work my way along. I’m tempted by the coast to coast (particularly after having watched the delicious Julia Bradbury walk it for a TV series earlier this year) but I’ve already walked some of it when I did the Cleveland Way back in the very hot summer of 1976, and I’ve cycled the similar C2C with my neighbour a couple of years ago. So perhaps I should pick a different path?