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Stepping back to the Bronze Age: The Ridgeway Walk

The Ridgeway Walk is the oldest walk in Europe, and we’re very fortunate to have this National Trail here in the UK. Stretching 87 miles from Overton Hill in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, the Ridgeway Walk takes in ancient forts, a 100m white horse carving, rivers, nature reserves and the Prime Minister’s country residence!  
The starting point at Overton Hill is within an hour of all our BCH Camping stores so we often help our customers with kit for this trek that will take several days. They come to us for footwear, backpacking tents, rucksacks and clothing. We advise them on their choice of footwear, waterproof clothing and size of rucksack, all depending on the weather and how long they expect it to take them to the complete the walk.
 

Getting started on the Ridgeway Walk

Although the walk officially starts at Overton Hill you will probably begin at Avebury as this is where there are facilities for accommodation and parking. This is no bad thing because it only adds 3 miles to the journey and Avebury has the largest henge in the country which encircles the old village. Featuring giant sarsen stones, visitors can walk along them to admire the hard work of our Neolithic ancestors who dragged the stones down from the hills for reasons that are still unknown.
 
After Avebury, the path takes you past the man-made Silbury Hill which, folklore decrees, has an old king lying beneath it, wearing golden armour. You’ll soon come to West Kennett Long Barrow, a large collective burial mound which you access by going through a small stone entrance. You won’t stay in there long as it is bitterly cold, even during the best of outdoor temperatures.
 
As you reach Overton Hill you will see stumps of stone as reminders of its ancient past. These stones mark were tall sarsen stones would have once stood, and the site of The Sanctuary, a wooden circular prehistoric structure.
 
Over the road you will see a car park with a sign indicating the real start of the Ridgeway Walk used by 5000 years’ worth of druids, traders, travellers, armies and walkers.
 

Outstanding features of The Ridgeway Walk

 

Barbury Castle Iron Age Fort

The views at Barbury Castle are fabulous on a clear day. This Iron Age hill fort is one of several forts found along the Ridgeway route. Occupied 2500 years ago, it was in use during the Roman occupation of the area.
 
The terrain through this remote landscape is mainly grassland until you reach Ogbourne St George, a pretty village with archetypal thatch roofed cottages and two pubs that welcome walkers. If you wish to partake in traditional pub fayre, once you are refuelled, you are then ready to take on the more difficult section of walking to reach Bishopstone.
 

Wayland’s Smithy

By taking a small circular walk on The Ridgeway you can visit Wayland’s Smithy, a Neolithic long barrow and chamber dating back to 3460–3400 BC. It includes a burial chamber and a pair of small side chambers all of which is thought to have housed 14 bodies. It’s tucked away in a small grove of trees, and four of the sarsen stones that guarded it still remain.
It was believed that the Norse weapon-forging god once lived there, and the structure was named Wayland’s Smithy after him.

Uffington Castle, the White Horse and Dragon Hill

Uffington ‘Castle’, isn’t actually a castle! It’s a large Iron Age hillfort located at the summit of Whitehorse Hill.
 
Whitehorse Hill is so-called due to the famous Uffington White Horse, the oldest chalk- cut figure in Britain. Dating back to around 800BC, the Uffington White Horse is over 100 metres long and one of the highlights of the Ridgeway Walk so take some time to take it in and enjoy it.  
 
Nearby, Dragon Hill is a natural chalk mound of approximately 10 metres in height with an artificial flat top. It is named for its association with the legend of St George; it is claimed that St George slew the dragon on its summit and a bare patch of chalk where grass cannot grow, is where the dragon’s blood spilled.
 

Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve

Bordering The Ridgeway Walk, this beautiful nature reserve is home to a variety of butterflies, flowers and birds. Thirty species of butterfly have been identified on the reserve including the Chalkhill Blue, Dingy and Grizzled Skipper, along with birds such as Finches, Red Kites, Wheatears, Whitethroats and Blackcaps.
 
There is a Talking Trail at the reserve which has 6 locally crafted sculptures along a 2km trail, with each sculpture providing a wind-up listening post that tells you about the sculptures and the reserve.
 

Chequers and Coombe Hill

Chequers, the 19th century Prime Minister’s country home is located along the Ridgeway Walk. By walking through the same gate used by many high profile politicians and heads of state you find your way to the walk up Coombe Hill. At its summit you will find the monument to the Boer War which marks the highest point of The Ridgeway in the Chilterns.
 
The top of Coombe Hill offers stunning views of farm land, the Vale of Aylesbury and the Berkshire Downs, with The Cotswolds in the distance.
 

Ivinghoe Beacon

Part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ivinghoe Beacon marks the end of the Ridgway Walk. At 757ft above sea level, Ivinghoe Beacon boasts 360° views over land that has been farmed for centuries, making it a popular spot with walkers and sightseers. 
 
The Ivinghoe and Pitstone Hills are designated sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) for wildlife.
 

Be prepared!

The Ridgeway Walk has a mixture of terrain and the amount of time it takes to complete it depends on whether you take a direct route or indulge in the many circular walks available. As such, you need to plan well, decide which footwear or clothing you need, how many days you are going to take and book any accommodation that may be needed along the way in advance.
 
At BCH Camping we can provide you with any clothing, footwear or equipment you might need for this historical gem of a walk, so pop into our stores, visit our website or give us a call – we’d be delighted to help.
 
 
 
 
 

September 10 2018 | Garth
Filed under: England, UK, Walks

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