Walking Britains oldest road 87 Miles in 4 days

Walking Britain’s Oldest Road

White Horse Hill, Uffington

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.

Sardinia – Dragonflies and other wildlife

Having enjoyed the trip to The Camargue so much in 2009 looking for Dragonflies, I decided to follow on searching for Odonata in another part of Europe, this time for a week in Sardinia leaving in June 2010. 

Hibiscus flower

Sardinia is often referred to as the ‘Jewell of the Mediterranean’ and is the second largest island of this area with diverse habitats of forests, mountains and white, sandy beaches with sharp rocky coves. The clear blue waters are pristine and full of colourful fish and this unspoilt island provides a habitat for wild horses, white albino donkeys, reptiles such as tortoises, tree frogs,lizards and gecko, some impressive raptors including gryphin vultures and over 30 species of dragonflies. My interest was primarily Dragonflies and other insects and as it is so close to Africa Sardinia has some brightly coloured species to search for including the Violet Dropwing and the much sought after Green Hook-tail and Blade-tail species.

This trip was led once again by Dragonfly expert Andy McGeeny who is an excellent field guide, there to ask questions if needed, yet generally you are left alone to do your own thing; which suited me well. Andy spotted me at Heathrow airport so I sat with him on the plane journey over and talked to him about his books and what we might see in Sardinia.

Also on the plane were three other members from the trip to the Camargue, two of which I was delighted to see, Jan and Harvey, as we had got on so well in the Camargue, there only being 8 in the group for this week that meant that 50% of it had already met.

We arrived at Alghero and while waiting at the airport for the hire vehicles I photographed some House Martins flying in and out of their nests on the ceiling of the airport where they had nested in each light all the way along the building. The female birds faithfully flew in to feed their demanding young, which we could hear squawking for feed constantly.

Housemartin leaving its nest

Once the vehicles arrived we headed off to check in at a hotel in the town of Porto Torres, which is an industrial port, I was glad that the single supplement was within my budget this time so that I did not have to share within anyone; it is pot luck who you get and can often make or break a trip.

The grounds were surrounded by stoney walls covered in bright red Hibiscus flowers which I photographed, these showy flowers are edible and are often used in salads or added to syrup and drinks. Hibiscus flowers have a range of colours, but the red ones really stand out and are so striking to the eye, some of the flowers are scented, yet just as many are unscented. There was an underground car park which had baby spotted flycatchers in a nest, I decided to watch them as much as I could in the short time at this hotel.

Dragonflies and Wildlife of the Camargue

I have always had a fascination with Dragonflies and Damselflies known as the Odonata order of insects.

Damselflies can be differentiated from Dragonflies by their much slimmer bodies, with their wings folded back when resting and by being weak flyers.

Willow Spreadwing (Lestes viridis) Camargue 2009 by A.K.

Dragonflies in comparison are much more robust, very strong flyers keeping their wings extended outwards at rest, they are also by nature extremely predatory and territorial. To me they are the perfect aerial predator acting as miniature flying machines

It is important to help keep some wild water areas for Dragonflies as they are threatened by loss of habitat, pesticides and of course predators such as blackbirds, ants and collectors. These days as digital photography is so widely used there should be no need to collect these insects, as a few photographs at different angles is generally enough to identify them.

Dragonflies have compound eyes which allows them almost 360° field of vision, there is no central lens or retina which gives poor resolution, however they can detect movement and light change very efficiently. Therefore if you see one resting, you will need to approach very slowly; it also helps to crouch down to their level and avoid casting any shadows over them otherwise they will fly away.

I have watched Dragonflies for a few years in the UK as soon as the season begins from Spring when they begin to emerge through to as late as October where a few hardy Hawkers can still be spotted.

After building up a gallery of images for Dragonflies of the UK (please see www.amanda-king-akimages.com) I decided it was necessary to start gathering images from further afield, so booked a trip to the Camargue in the South of France in August 2009.

The Camargue in Provence, South of Arles an historic Roman town, boasts one of the most impressive Wetlands of Europe and these areas are prime spots for Dragonflies providing the sought after habitats that they need.

I was itching to get out there and photograph some Dragonflies so I packed my bags and finished work early setting off for my journey to Oxford>Luton>Nimes/Camargue France.

Once in Oxford I headed for the Old School House pub opposite the bus station and had a large glass of wine in the sunshine and a polite German waiter brought me out some Quavers, it was a good start to the trip.

Back at the Oxford Coach station, I had been waiting for ages then was told that the coach destined for Luton airport had broken down!!! It was to be a very long wait.

After 2 hours standing in a queue I went to the ticket office and asked to have my ticket changed and then was re-directed to Heathrow Airport to then change on to Luton, I set off at 2pm and arrived just after 9pm so it took 7 hours, which is crazy.