The Ridgeway, often dubbed the Oldest Road in Britain, is a prehistoric track that has been frequented by travellers, merchants, cattle herders and even armies for more than 5000 years. Originally it was a series of routes that extended over 250 miles from the coast of Dorset to the Wash in Norfolk. It gets its name from the fact that, for much of its length, it avoided wet, low-lying areas by following higher ground. This also gave travellers the additional advantage of often being able to spot potential attackers a long way off.
Today the Ridgeway National Trail is a long-distance footpath that runs 87 miles along the downlands of Southern England. It begins on Overton Hill in Wiltshire, close to the Neolithic stone circles of Avebury. From there it follows the edge of the North Wessex Downs northeast, passing ancient hillforts and burial mounds along the way, often with spectacular views northwards across the plains of northern Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
After crossing the River Thames at Streatley, the Ridgeway Trail follows the northern edge of the Chiltern Hills, often passing through woodlands and secluded valleys. Near Ellesborough it crosses the driveway to Chequers, the country retreat of the UK’s Prime Minister. The Ridgeway ends (or begins, I suppose, depending which way you’re travelling) at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, a prominent hill on the northern edge of the Chilterns.
Although there are countless beautiful locations along the Ridgeway’s entire length, two spots are particular favourites of mine. The first is at the very start of the National Trail at Overton Hill, which is hardly surprising given how smitten I am by the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avebury and associated prehistoric monuments.
For similar reasons, I adore the stretch of the Ridgeway than runs between the Neolithic long barrow of Wayland’s Smithy and the Bronze Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle that stands proudly atop Whitehorse Hill, across which the famous Uffington White Horse gallops eternally.
This post was inspired by this week’s Cee’s Which Way Challenge.
While your daydreams are wandering across the ancient landscape of the English downlands, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?
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