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The Ridgeway:  Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon

The Ridgeway: Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon

Excerpt:
Introduction


Contents list | Introduction | About the Ridgeway | Planning your walk | Using this guide | Sample route guide: Foxhill to Court Hill (& Wantage)


INTRODUCTION

The Ridgeway stretches 87 miles (139km) across five counties, starting at Overton Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire and passing through Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire and ending at Ivinghoe
Beacon in Buckinghamshire. Part of a network of tracks that from time immemorial naturally evolved all over the country, the Ridgeway was used by travellers, traders and drovers. Nowadays it is used only by travellers, most of them walking for pleasure. It is easily accessible from major cities such as Swindon, Oxford, Reading and London making it an ideal place to ramble, yet few seem to take the
opportunity. 

From its starting point at Overton Hill in Wiltshire, the trail immediately takes you up onto high ground with views of the countryside which change with the light and reach endlessly to the horizon. This stretch is open to the elements but it is exhilarating; on sunny days the air is wonderful, filling you with energy and physical well-being. It is also one of the most enjoyable sections of the Ridgeway; in blissful solitude you can look down at the towns and villages far below. Walking up here you’re unlikely to meet many
people and you are soon back in the distant past with the huge Iron
Age forts of Barbury Castle and Liddington Castle. More ancient
remains are at Wayland’s Smithy, a Neolithic long barrow, before
you reach the magnificent Uffington White Horse.


After the village of East Ilsley human habitation becomes more
frequent and the path’s character changes completely. A gradual
descent brings you to the village of Streatley, on the banks of the
Thames, and the bridge crossing into the neighbouring town of
Goring. From here an easy trail runs along the tranquil banks of the
Thames for several miles, passing through the attractive villages of
South Stoke and North Stoke, then turns eastwards just before the
towns of Wallingford and Crowmarsh Gifford.

The path now follows an ancient earthwork, Grim’s Ditch, for
several miles until it reaches Nuffield where the Ridgeway crosses a
golf course. From here on the woodlands become a frequent compan-
ion with many ascents and descents before you can visit some of the
old market towns just off the official route, such as Watlington,
Chinnor and Princes Risborough. The trail continues through some
fine beech woods; from the occasional clearings you look down on
the landscape far below. The route then goes through the Chequers
Estate, traditional country home of the prime minister. Later it passes
close to small, picturesque villages, such as Wigginton and Aldbury, after which
it climbs steadily as it enters the final section of woodland. When the trees thin
out you can see your goal up ahead in the distance, several more hills away. At
the end of the path, at Ivinghoe Beacon, you may be tired but you’ll be rewarded
by some spectacular, panoramic views of the countryside below.

Walking the Ridgeway is not difficult. It can be done in five days but this
won’t leave much time for relaxation or for enjoying the countryside you are
walking through. You should also allow time to explore some of the towns
along the way.



The Ridgeway: Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon

Excerpts:

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