Worth watching out for.
— John Cleare
Planning your walk
Contents list | Introduction | About the Ridgeway | Planning your walk | Using this guide | Sample route guide: Foxhill to Court Hill (& Wantage)
There is plenty of accommodation along the Ridgeway and if you plan ahead you
shouldn’t encounter any problems finding somewhere to stay. However, most
accommodation falls into the B&B category: there are a number of campsites but
only one YHA hostel and one bunkhouse on/near the path.
On the western section, up to Streatley, there is virtually no accommodation
on the Ridgeway itself and the nearest place to stay might be a mile or two off
the path: for this reason, you really should book ahead otherwise you might find
yourself very tired and without a bed for the night.
Wild camping (see also pp48-9) is not strictly allowed on the Ridgeway: it’s
private land and although it’s a public right of way this does not entitle you to
stop and camp. However, if you pitch your tent on the path and move on the
next morning leaving no trace of yourself, you shouldn’t have any problems. In
many places the path is wide enough to pitch a tent and leave room for anyone
else passing by. Unless you have personally asked permission from the land-
owner, do not pitch your tent in fields or woods next to the Ridgeway.
There are a number of official campsites with basic facilities such as toilets
and the all-important showers with prices around £5 per person which makes
this the cheapest accommodation option. The campsites aren’t usually open in
the winter (October to March), which is a strong hint that camping at this time
of year really isn’t much fun.
There simply aren’t enough official campsites along the Ridgeway for you
to stay at one every night of your walk so sometimes you’ll have to engage in
a spot of wild camping or splash out on a B&B.
YHA hostels and bunkhouses
YHA hostels and bunkhouses are cheap and allow you to travel on a budget with-
out having to carry cumbersome camping equipment. They are also good places
to meet fellow walkers and in many cases are just as comfortable as B&Bs.
However, there is now only one YHA hostel actually on the Ridgeway – at
Streatley – and one independent bunkhouse, at Court Hill.
Both Streatley (see p130) and Court Hill (see p116) provide bedding so
there is no need to carry a sleeping bag if you are expecting to be in B&Bs most
other nights. Additionally both have a self-catering kitchen and provide meals.
YHA hostels are, despite their name, for anyone of any age. You can join
the Youth Hostels Association of England and Wales (YHA; â˜Ž 01629
592700, www.yha.org.uk) on arrival at any hostel, or over the phone or on
the internet, for £15.95 per year. However, if you are not a member and are only
planning to stay in Streatley for one night it is cheaper to pay the non-member
rate, an additional £3 per adult.
Bed and breakfast
Anyone who has not stayed in a bed and breakfast (B&B) has missed out on
something very British. They usually consist of a bed in someone’s house and a
big cooked breakfast (see p14) in the morning. For visitors from outside Britain
it can provide an interesting insight into the way of life here as you often feel
like a guest of the family.
What to expect The B&Bs in this guide are included primarily due to their
proximity to the Ridgeway. They basically all offer the same thing but can vary
greatly in terms of quality, style and price.
Many B&Bs offer en suite rooms but often this can mean a shower and
toilet have been squeezed into a corner of the room. For a few pounds less you
can usually get a standard room and it’s rarely far to the bathroom, which may
have the choice of a bath or a shower, though admittedly you might have to share
with other guests. At the end of a long day’s walking some people prefer to
stretch out in a bath rather than squash into a shower.
A single room has one bed in it, though not all B&Bs have a single room so
if you are walking alone you might have to book a twin or double room and pay
a supplement (see p14). Twin rooms and double rooms are often confused but
a twin room comprises two single beds (which may be pushed together or left
separate) while a double room has one double bed. Family rooms are for three
or more people: they often have one double bed and one or two single beds but
sometimes these are bunk beds.
If you think you would like an evening meal ask when you are booking as
most B&Bs require advance warning. Alternatively, the owner may give you a
lift to and from the nearest eating place if there isn’t a pub or restaurant within
walking distance. Some proprietors will make a packed lunch as long as you
request it by the night before.
B&B owners may also provide a pick-up service from the Ridgeway and
drop you off there the next morning, which can be a great help; offering to pay
something towards the petrol would definitely be appreciated.
Rates Some places charge a rate per room based on two people sharing, others
charge per person. Many places do not have single rooms; if the rate is charged
per room there may be a discount for single occupancy but if the rate is per
person a supplement may be payable; in both cases this will be about £10-15.
For further details see p23.
Booking You should always book your accommodation in advance. In sum-
mer, at weekends and on public holidays there can be stiff competition for beds
and in winter there’s the distinct possibility that the place could be closed.
Some B&Bs have their own website and offer online/email booking but for
the majority you will need to phone. Most places ask for a deposit (about 50%)
which is generally non-refundable if you cancel at short notice. Some places
may charge 100% if the booking is for one night only. Always let the owner
know as soon as possible if you have to cancel your booking so they can offer
the bed to someone else.
Larger places take credit or debit cards. Most smaller B&Bs accept only
cheques by post or payments by bank transfer for the deposit; the balance can
be settled with cash or a cheque.
Guesthouses, pubs, inns and hotels
Guesthouses are usually more sophisticated than B&Bs and offer evening
meals and a lounge for guests. Some pubs and inns offer accommodation; these
have the added advantage of having a bar downstairs so it’s not far to stagger
up to bed. However, the noise from tipsy punters might prove a nuisance if you
want an early night. Hotels are usually aimed more at the motoring tourist
rather than the muddy walker and the tariff is likely to put off the budget travel-
ler. You’ll probably arrive there in the late afternoon and leave fairly early the
next morning so it’s hard to justify the price. However, if you want a few more
luxuries in your room, or room service, it may be worth considering a hotel.
FOOD AND DRINK
Breakfast and lunch
Almost everywhere you stay, other than if camping, you’ll be offered a full
English cooked breakfast. A cooked breakfast includes some or all of the fol-
lowing: fried bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and
fried bread – in addition to cereal and toast, washed down with a fruit juice and
tea or coffee. This will certainly be enough to set you up for a day’s walking – if
you are thinking about calories, you’ll probably want to spend the day trying to
walk it off – but it may be more than you are used to or even want. If so, ask for
a continental breakfast. If you want an early start or would prefer to skip break-
fast it might be worth asking if you could have a packed lunch instead.
Many places to stay can also provide you with a packed lunch for an addi-
tional cost. Alternatively, packed lunches (and indeed breakfast) can be bought
and made yourself. In most towns and villages you should be able to find at least
one shop selling sandwiches and usually a cafeÌ. If you are lucky you may be in
town when there is a farmers’ market (see box opposite).
Remember that certain stretches of the walk are devoid of anywhere to eat so
look at the town and village facilities table (pp26-7) and check the information
in Part 4 to make sure you don’t go hungry.
There are some lovely pubs and inns on the Ridgeway but none directly on the
path before Streatley. Although there are fewer freehouses than there used to be
you can still sample some excellent beers (see box pp16-17) during or after a
day’s walking. Most pubs also serve food (at lunchtime and in the evenings,
though not always daily) and this ranges from standard ‘pub grub’ to restaurant
quality fare. There will usually be at least one vegetarian option. A popular
lunchtime option in a pub is a ‘ploughman’s lunch’. This is a cold meal tradi-
tionally comprising a thick slice of cheese, bread and butter, salad, some pickles
and possibly an apple, though there are many variations.
There are some quality restaurants in the larger towns. Additionally, most
towns and some of the larger villages are riddled with cheap takeaway joints
offering kebabs, pizzas, Chinese, Indian and fish ’n’ chips; they can come in
handy if you finish your walk late in the day, since they usually stay open until
at least 11pm.
Buying camping supplies
If you are camping, fuel for your stove, outdoor equipment and food supplies
are important considerations. Plan your journey carefully as, particularly on the
first half of the Ridgeway, there aren’t many opportunities to stock up without
embarking on a fair trek to the nearest shop and back.
Depending on the weather you will need to drink as much as two to four litres
of water a day. If you’re feeling lethargic it may well be that you haven’t drunk
enough, even if you’re not particularly thirsty.
Drinking directly from streams and rivers is tempting, but is not a good idea.
Streams that cross the path tend to have flowed across farmland where you can
be pretty sure any number of farm animals have relieved themselves. Combined
with the probable presence of farm pesticides and other delights it is best to avoid
drinking from these streams.
There are drinking water taps at some points along the Ridgeway and these
are marked on the maps. Where these are thin on the ground you can usually ask
a friendly shopkeeper or pub staff to fill your bottle or pouch for you – from a
tap, of course.
- Contents list
- About the Ridgeway
- Planning your walk
- Using this guide
- Sample route guide: Foxhill to Court Hill (& Wantage)
Price: £11.99 buy online now…