Walking Britain’s Oldest Road
The Ridgeway has been walked on for at least 5000 years and this ancient track once used by traders, villagers and travellers is rich in history dotted with Bronze and Iron Age Hill Forts, small burial mounds and Long Barrows along the way.
You will see many burial mounds, also called Tumuli along the way, these oblong raised grassy mounds are approximately 4000 years old and are often fenced off or have trees planted around them making them easy to spot should you see evidence of this in an open field.
It is often referred to as Britain’s oldest road and was once used as a route by the invading Danish Viking armies back in the dark ages.
The Enclosures Acts were passed by Parliament which ordered the open land to be divided into privately owned fields which were hedged off thus keeping the passing livestock contained on track and therefore protecting the surrounding local fields. This served to shape the Ridgeway as a singular track which became more and more worn over the years.
The Ridgeway was seen as an important long distance walking route from 1947 and the Ramblers Association became involved acknowledging the route in the 1950s until it finally became recognised as a National Trail in 1973 by the National Trust and these days is enjoyed by walkers from near and far.
The Ridgeway crosses five Counties for the 87 miles and I decided to walk it in the direction starting from Ivanhoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, then going through Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and ending up at Avebury in Wiltshire.
It is generally suggested that you walk the route starting at Overton Hill in Avebury and ending at Ivinghoe Beacon in Aylesbury, the main reason for this is that the wind will be behind you, however I chose to walk it the opposite way round and finish at Overton Hill so that I could then head to the Red Lion pub at Avebury and enjoy the view of the stones.
I planned this walk in memory of my boyfriend James Wyse, who died in 2011 as he was so knowledgable and interested in the history of the Ridgeway, which is Britain’s oldest road, the walk was for charity to raise money for Sobell House Hospice.
Rather than do it in the advised 6 days, I would do it in 4 days instead for a challenge and camp along the route.
After some careful thought I also decided that it would be much better to have company along the route, so I put posters up around the local pubs in my home town and invited friends who knew James to take part in the walk, either in its entirety or in sections and also for any volunteers who may like to get involved.