It started with a half-hearted promise to myself to hit my Garmin Vivoactive steps target everyday in November (something I’ve been very inconsistent with since giving up work) and (after a very nice walk on Saturday) ended with the plan to walk the length of the Ridgeway over the winter of 2018/2019.
The Ridgeway National Trail
“The Ridgeway National Trail is a walking route in a surprisingly remote part of southern central England. It travels in a north-easterly direction for 87 miles (139 Km) from its start in the World Heritage Site of Avebury. As Britain’s oldest road The Ridgeway still follows the same route over the high ground used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers….. the 87 mile long Ridgeway passes through ancient landscapes through downland, secluded valleys and woodland.” (https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway)
We are lucky enough to live very near to many sections of The Ridgeway and so logistically this shouldn’t be a huge challenge. However, as we are going to tackle the walk bit by bit (rather than taking a week out to walk it on a walking holiday) it does mean that we will potentially be walking each section twice – i.e. out and back!
We will be tackling the walk with our two faithful whippets, who, both aged 11, are little troopers.
Walking The Ridgeway – the kick-off walk
Our inaugural walk was a good one, it was in fact the walk that gave me the idea to walk the whole of the trail. We parked the car at a National Trust property called Ashdown House and walked 1.5 miles to join The Ridgeway through the beautiful woodland of this property.
Once on the trail we were treated to an aerial display by buzzards, red kites and a kestrel (it felt like we were playing bird of prey bingo!) and soon we arrived at Wayland Smithy. Wayland Smithy is “a Neolithic chambered long barrow, it was once believed to have been the home of Wayland, the Saxon god of metal working. Human remains found on the site indicate that 14 people were interred in an earlier burial structure between 3590 and 3550 BC. Between 3460 and 3400 BC a second far larger barrow was constructed on top.” (English Heritage). It was also a great place to stop for lunch – homemade sourdough vegan sandwiches – yum.
From Wayland Smithy we headed to Whitehorse Hill “which measures 111 metres from the tip of its tail to its ear, has been dated to the later Bronze Age or Iron Age, between 1740 and 210 BC. It may have been a territorial marker or a fertility symbol – its function is not certain.”. (English Heritage). To say it was windy at the top of this hill was an understatement and so we did a quick lap and then headed home, so as not to completely retrace our steps we cut through some more beautiful woodland and hopped across the road to the car.
And so a plan was formed…. this winter we are walking The Ridgeway!
Statistics – Walk 1
- Total miles walked – 8.69
- Ridgeway miles walked – 5
- Average pace – 25.43min/miles
- Elevation – 165m
Walking the Ridgeway – a step too far
It is fair to say that Saturday’s walk took it out of us, nearly 9 miles is no mean feat for four out of practice walkers (two human, two canine) in varying degrees of ‘out of shapeness’! Also the weather forecast was a bit hit and miss, so we decided that we would drive to the section of the Ridgeway closest to us (just a 20 minute drive) and walk a couple of miles out and a couple of miles back.
When we arrived at the carpark at Barbury Castle the weather was dull and a bit misty but within a few minutes it brightened up and it would seem our luck was in. Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and after 1 mile of walking we realised that we weren’t in fact on the Ridgeway but on a parallel track! After consulting our trusty OS app we decided that we could still retrieve the situation and do a rather nice circular walk which would bring us back on the Ridgeway – win, win?
The walk took us through fields, woods and over a ridge (Smeathe’s Ridge) where you could see for miles in all directions, there was a lot less wildlife but the walk was marvellous and we didn’t see another person for miles. Which brings me to the only downside – the miles ….. what we wanted was a gentle 4 mile pootle – what we got was a, less than gentle, 8 mile romp on already very tired legs. However, we did it and in hindsight we loved it.
Statistics – Walk 2
- Total miles walked – 8.05
- Ridgeway miles walked – 3
- Average pace – 26.18min/miles
- Elevation – 175m
As you may have guessed this isn’t a very thought out challenge and whilst we will try to walk most weekends we don’t have a plan (yet) of which walks we’ll be tackling each weekend, we certainly won’t be completely the Ridgeway in order, but we will make sure we tick off all those miles. I am rather excited by the prospect as winter walking is my favourite.
Wish me luck!