The Ridgeway is a ridgeway or ancient trackway described as Britain's oldest road. The section clearly identified as an ancient trackway extends from Wiltshire along the chalk ridge of the Berkshire Downs to the River Thames at the Goring Gap, part of the Icknield Way which ran, not always on the ridge, from Salisbury Plain to East Anglia. The route was adapted and extended as a National Trail, created in 1972. The Ridgeway National Trail follows the ancient Ridgeway from Overton Hill, near Avebury, to Streatley, then follows footpaths and parts of the ancient Icknield Way through the Chiltern Hills to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. The National Trail is 87 miles (140 km) long.
The Ridgeway in Grim's Ditch near Mongewell
|Length||87 miles (139km)|
|Location||southern England, United Kingdom|
|Designation||UK National Trail|
|Trailheads||Overton Hill, near Avebury, Wiltshire and Ivinghoe Beacon, Buckinghamshire|
|Elevation change||3,881 feet (1,183 m)|
For at least 5,000 years travellers have used the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway provided a reliable trading route to the Dorset coast and to the Wash in Norfolk. The high dry ground made travel easy and provided a measure of protection by giving traders a commanding view, warning against potential attacks.
The Bronze Age saw the development of Uffington White Horse and the stone circle at Avebury. During the Iron Age, inhabitants took advantage of the high ground by building hillforts along the Ridgeway to help defend the trading route. Following the collapse of Roman authority in Western Europe, invading Saxon and Viking armies used it. In medieval times and later, the Ridgeway found use by drovers, moving their livestock from the West Country and Wales to markets in the Home Counties and London. Before the Enclosure Acts of 1750, the Ridgeway existed as an informal series of tracks across the chalk downs, chosen by travellers based on path conditions. Once enclosures started, the current path developed through the building of earth banks and the planting of hedges.
The idea for a long-distance path along the line of the Wessex Downs and Chilterns goes back to the Hobhouse Committee of 1947. The present route was designated by the Government in 1972, and opened as a National Trail in 1973.
One of fifteen long-distance National Trails in England and Wales, the Ridgeway travels for 87 miles (140 km) northeast from Overton Hill within the Avebury World Heritage Site to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring. At Marlborough it meets the Wessex Ridgeway, a footpath opened in 1994 which follows the southwest section of the ancient track into Dorset, as far as Lyme Regis. At Ivinghoe Beacon the Ridgeway meets the Icknield Way Path which continues northeast towards Suffolk. The Ridgeway meets the more recent (1997) Thames Path National Trail at the Goring Gap, where the trails use opposite banks of the River Thames between Goring-on-Thames and Mongewell; the Thames Path follows the western bank and the Ridgeway the eastern.
The total height climbed along the path is 3,881 feet (1,183 m). The official guide to the trail divides The Ridgeway into six sections. It is possible to join or leave the trail at other locations with public transport links including Avebury, Swindon, Wantage, Wallingford, Princes Risborough and Tring.
|Section||Start point||Finish point||Distance||Ascent||Descent|
|1||Overton Hill||Ogbourne St George||9.0 miles (14.5 km)||627 feet (191 m)||866 feet (264 m)|
|2||Ogbourne St George||Sparsholt Firs||16 miles (25 km)||1,381 feet (421 m)||1,155 feet (352 m)|
|3||Sparsholt Firs||Streatley||17 miles (28 km)||794 feet (242 m)||1,362 feet (415 m)|
|4||Streatley||Watlington||15 miles (24 km)||1,300 feet (400 m)||1,076 feet (328 m)|
|5||Watlington||Wendover||17 miles (27 km)||1,800 feet (550 m)||1,821 feet (555 m)|
|6||Wendover||Ivinghoe Beacon||11.6 miles (18.6 km)||1,339 feet (408 m)||1,033 feet (315 m)|
The Ridgeway passes near many Neolithic, Iron Age and Bronze Age sites including Avebury Stone Circle; Barbury Castle, Liddington Castle, Uffington Castle, Segsbury Castle, Pulpit Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon Hill, all Iron Age and Bronze Age hill forts; Wayland's Smithy, a Neolithic chieftain burial tomb; the Uffington White Horse, an ancient 400-foot (120 m) chalk horse carved into the hillside near Uffington Castle; and Grim's Ditch, a 5-mile (8 km) section of earthwork near Mongewell created by Iron Age peoples as a possible demarcation line. Other points of interest include the Blowing Stone and Victory Drive, the private drive of Chequers (the British Prime Minister's country retreat).
The Ridgeway's surface varies from chalk-rutted farm paths and green lanes (which have a propensity for becoming extremely muddy and pot-holed after rain) to small sections of metalled roads. Designated as a bridleway (shared with horses and bicycles) for much of its length, the Ridgeway also includes parts designated as byway which permits the use of motorised vehicles. Local restrictions along many byway sections limit the use of motorised vehicles to the summer months. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, many public rights of way in England and Wales that authorities had not explicitly classified as Bridleway or Byway defaulted to the classification "Restricted Byway" which precludes the use of motor vehicles at all times, except authorised vehicles and where required for access. As a result, much of the Ridgeway remains prohibited to motor vehicle use by the general public year-round. However, the Ridgeway is the only means of access for many farms, especially in the more remote parts of the Downs.
Despite the Ridgeway's artificial creation, the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders featured it in 2005 as one of the wonders of the South.
Places that are near to (or on) The Ridgeway National Trail include (from west to east):
Aldworth is a mostly cultivated village and civil parish in the English county of Berkshire, close to the boundary with Oxfordshire, in a rural area between Reading, Newbury and Streatley. It includes the hamlet of Westridge Green. Aldworth is on the high ground of the Berkshire Downs, just off the B4009 road between Newbury and Streatley. The north of it is crossed by The Ridgeway, a pre-Roman Britain 87-mile footpath. The parish church has large medieval figures in white stone, seemingly life-size, although some of the knights have an unlikely height of over seven feet. The Battle of Ashdown, where King Alfred defeated the Danes in January AD 871, is said by some to have occurred near The Ridgeway and Lowbury Hill.Chingford War Memorial
Chingford War Memorial is a Grade II listed war memorial cross at the junction of King's Head Hill and The Ridgeway, Chingford, London, E4.It was unveiled in 1921, and was designed by W. A. Lewis.Grange Academy, Kempston
Grange Academy (formerly Grange School) is a coeducational special school located in Kempston, Bedfordshire, England. The school accepts pupils between the ages of 5 and 16 years with Moderate Learning Difficulties from all over the Borough of Bedford.
The school is currently organised into two departments:
The Primary Department covering Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 (ages 5 – 11)
The Secondary Department covering Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 (ages 11 – 16)In October 2009, Bedford Borough Council launched a consultation on the future of special education provision in the borough. The consultation included options to merge Grange School with the nearby Ridgeway School on the Ridgeway site. Another proposal involved merging the two schools with St John's School to create one special school for the whole of the Borough of Bedford. In January 2010, Bedford Borough Council confirmed its intention to merge Grange School and Ridgeway School on the Ridgeway site in the next few years. A new combined school would be rebuilt to accommodate the broader range of pupils that are planned to attend.However, in May 2012, Grange School submitted an application to become an academy. The application was successful, and the school converted to academy status in March 2013 and was renamed Grange Academy. The school is now independent of Bedford Borough Council control, which will affect the plans for the merger.Greater Ridgeway
The Greater Ridgeway, also known as the Greater Icknield Way, is a 362-mile (583 kilometre) long-distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Hunstanton in Norfolk. It is a combined route which is made by joining four long-distance footpaths: the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.Icknield Way Path
The Icknield Way Path or Icknield Way Trail is a long distance footpath in East Anglia, England. The ancient Icknield Way itself is unique among long-distance trails because it can claim to be ‘the oldest road in Britain’. It consists of prehistoric pathways, ancient when the Romans came; the route is dotted with archaeological remains. It survives today in splendid tracks and green lanes along the ‘chalk spine’ of southern England.
The Icknield Way Path runs for 110 miles (177 km) from the end of the Ridgeway at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, to the start of the Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath in Suffolk. The Icknield Way Association has aimed to find the most pleasant route for walking, as close as possible to the general line of the ancient Icknield Way.
The Path connects with: Angles Way, Bunyan Trail, Chiltern Way, Harcamlow Way, Hertfordshire Chain Walk, Hertfordshire Way, Peddars Way, Ridgeway, Stour Valley Path and Swan's Way.
The path was devised by the Icknield Way Association and supported by the Ramblers Association. It was part of a plan to achieve National Trail status for the whole length of the ancient trackways linking the South Coast and The Wash. The path was recognised by local authorities in 1992. The association was founded by Charles Thurstan Shaw, archaeologist and long-distance walker, in 1984, the same year he produced the first walker’s guide to the route.In 2004 the Icknield Way was further developed into a multi-use route so that most of the route is also available for horse riders and off-road cyclists providing a complete walking and riding link between the two National Trails. Crossing six counties, the Icknield Way Trail is a 170-mile (274 km) route linking the Peddars Way National Trail in Suffolk with the Ridgeway National Trail in Buckinghamshire, which in turn links with the Wessex Ridgeway. Wherever possible the Icknield Way Trail follows the walkers' route, the Icknield Way Path, but diverges at several locations to ensure the Icknield Way Trail follows bridleways, byways and where necessary roads. Walkers can pass over footpaths and therefore can access more direct and/or scenic routes.Commencing at Ivinghoe Beacon with places en route: Dagnall, Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Dunstable Downs, Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Wingfield, Chalgrave, Toddington, M1 motorway, Upper Sundon, Streatley, Warden Hills, Galley and Warden Hills, Pirton, Ickleford, Letchworth, Baldock, Wallington, Sandon, Therfield, Royston, Heydon, Elmdon, Great Chesterford, Linton, Balsham, Burrough Green, Stetchworth, Cheveley, Ashley, Dalham, Gazeley, Tuddenham, Icklingham, Euston and finishing at Knettishall Heath Country Park.Ivanhoe Grammar School
Ivanhoe Grammar School is an independent, co-educational, day school, located in Ivanhoe (Buckley House and The Ridgeway Campus) and Doreen (Plenty Campus), both located in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Founded in 1915 as St James' Grammar School for boys, Ivanhoe Grammar is a school of the Anglican Church of Australia, and currently caters for approximately 1,700 students from the Early Learning Centre to Year 12, over three campuses.The school is affiliated with the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA), and is a founding member of the Associated Grammar Schools of Victoria (AGSV). The school is also a member of the G20 Schools Group. Ivanhoe Grammar School is also one of only four Round Square schools in the state of Victoria, and has been an International Baccalaureate World School since December 1994.Liddington Castle
Liddington Castle, locally called Liddington Camp, is a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age hill fort in the English county of Wiltshire.
It is sited on a commanding high points close to The Ridgeway and covers an area of 3ha. Liddington Castle was one of the earliest hill forts in Britain, with first occupation dating to the seventh century BC. The earthworks consist of a relatively simple oval bank of timber and earth fronted by a ditch, with opposing causewayed entrances on the east and west sides. The western entrance was later blocked off and the eastern one may have been lined with sarsen stones. A palisade of wooden posts may have lined the top of the bank. During a later phase the bank and ditch were improved and a rampart of dumped chalk, excavated from the enlarged ditch, increased the height of the bank.
Excavation within the hill fort revealed a large pit 1.5m in diameter and at least 2.4m deep. The bottom of the feature was not reached and it was interpreted by the archaeologists who dug it as a ritual shaft. Similar shafts have been recorded at Wapley Hill in Herefordshire and Cadbury Castle in Devon. Finds of pottery suggest Liddington Castle was abandoned during the fifth century BC, with perhaps some later re-occupation during the Roman period.
Liddington Castle is sometimes suggested as a possible site of Mount Badon and thus the location of the late fifth century AD Battle of Mount Badon from Gildas. There is, however, no archaeological evidence to indicate activity during this later period.
Liddington Castle was the favourite haunt of local writer of natural history and rural life, Richard Jefferies, who spent much of his spare time walking through the wide chalk expanses of the Marlborough Downs. It was on this summit that he relates in The Story of My Heart that his unusual sensitivity to nature began to induce in him a powerful inner awakening - a desire for a larger existence or reality.
Unlike the neighbouring castles of Uffington and Barbury, Liddington Castle is relatively unvisited in spite of being a clearly visible landmark to the millions who pass along the M4 motorway south of Swindon. While accessible by a permissive footpath and less than a mile from The Ridgeway it is not served by a car park, hence any visitor will usually find themselves quite alone to enjoy its secluded atmosphere.
Liddington Castle, at 277 metres (909 ft), is the highest point in the Borough of SwindonMill Hill
Mill Hill is a suburb in the London Borough of Barnet, England. It is situated around 9 miles (14 km) northwest of Charing Cross. Mill Hill was in the historic county of Middlesex until 1965, when it became part of Greater London.
Mill Hill consists of several distinct parts: the original Mill Hill Village; the later-developed Mill Hill Broadway (now the main hub of the area); and Mill Hill East. A further area at the western edge of the suburb, The Hale, is on the borders of Mill Hill and Edgware, and is partly in each.National Cycle Route 544
The National Cycle Route 544 is a Sustrans regional route in the North Wessex Downs of southern Oxfordshire, linking Wantage and Didcot. The route is 12 miles (19 km) long, and overlaps with part of the ancient Icknield Way and frequently links to The Ridgeway National Trail.Pitstone Hill
Pitstone Hill is a 22.9 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Importance east of Pitstone in Buckinghamshire. It is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is crossed by the Ridgeway National Trail.The site is chalk grassland on a steeply sloping hill, with small areas of woodland and scrub. The richest areas botanically are the lower and steeper slopes, with plants including the nationally scarce pasque flower and field fleawort. Twenty-six species of butterfly have been recorded, and breeding birds include skylarks, meadow pipits and willow warblers.There is access from Stocks Road.Ridgeway, New Jersey
Ridgeway is an unincorporated community located within Manchester Township, in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States.Ridgeway is located approximately 2 mi (3.2 km) northeast of Lakehurst, on the north bank of the Ridgeway Branch.
A station of the New Jersey Southern Railroad was located in Ridgeway as early as 1876.Ridgeway (road)
Ridgeways are a particular type of ancient road that exploits the hard surface of hilltop ridges for use as unpaved, zero-maintenance roads, though they often have the disadvantage of steeper gradients along their courses, and sometimes quite narrow widths. Before the advent of turnpikes or toll roads, ridgeway trails continued to provide the firmest and safest cart tracks. They are generally an opposite to level, valley-bottom, paved roads, which require engineering work to shore up and maintain. Unmaintained valley routes may require greater travelling distances than ridgeways.
Prehistoric roads in Europe often variously comprised stretches of ridgeway above the line of springs, sections of causeway through bog and marsh, and other trackways of neither sort which crossed flat country.
A revival of interest in ancient roads and recreational walking in the 19th century brought the concept back into common use. Some ancient routes, in particular The Ridgeway National Trail of southern England, have been reprised as long-distance footpaths.The Mill Field
The Mill Field is a 3.4 hectare Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation, Grade II, in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. It is a public open space which slopes steeply down from the road called The Ridgeway. It may be the site of the windmill which gave the area its name. This was documented as early as 1321 and had disappeared by 1754.The upper part, which has good views across west London, is managed as a park and has a football pitch. The lower slopes are less managed, with grassland, hedgerows marking former field boundaries, scattered trees, and areas of creeping thistle. A small stream, probably a tributary of Burnt Oak Brook, flows from a spring fed pond, which has a rich wetland flora. Wild flowers include devil's-bit scabious and Common Tormentil, and the small copper butterfly is found there.There is access from The Ridgeway near Hammers Lane.The Ridgeway, New South Wales
The Ridgeway is a suburb just outside of Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia. People commonly mistake it for being a part of Queanbeyan, but it is part of the Queanbeyan-Palerang region, not the city of Queanbeyan. It is located on a ridge to the east of the central business district (CBD) on the Kings Highway. When it was established it was part of the Yarrowlumla Shire. At the 2016 census, it had a population of 163.The Ridgeway School and Sixth Form College
The Ridgeway School & Sixth Form College is a mixed secondary school and sixth form located in Wroughton in the English county of Wiltshire.The school was established in 1967 and was the first purpose-built comprehensive school in Wiltshire. Previously a foundation school administered by Swindon Borough Council, it converted to academy status in August 2011 and is part of the White Horse Federation, a multi-academy trust. The school continues to coordinate with Swindon Borough Council for admissions.
The school's catchment area includes Bishopstone, Hinton Parva, Wanborough, Liddington, Coate, Badbury, Chiseldon, Hodson, Bassett Down, Uffcott, Broad Hinton and Winterbourne Bassett. The school offers GCSEs and BTECs as programmes of study for pupils, while students in the sixth form have the option to study from a range of A-levels and further BTECs.Uffington Castle
Uffington Castle is an early Iron Age (with underlying Bronze Age) univallate hillfort in Oxfordshire, England. It covers about 32,000 square metres and is surrounded by two earth banks separated by a ditch with an entrance in the western end. A second entrance in the eastern end was apparently blocked up a few centuries after it was built.
The original defensive ditch was V-shaped with a small box rampart in front and a larger one behind it. Timber posts stood on the ramparts. Later the ditch was deepened and the extra material dumped on top of the ramparts to increase their size. A parapet wall of sarsen stones lined the top of the innermost rampart. It is very close to the Uffington White Horse on White Horse Hill.Vale of White Horse
The Vale of White Horse is a local government district of Oxfordshire in England. South and west of the upper Thames, on its right bank it was long a north-west projection of Berkshire. The area is commonly referred to as the 'Vale of the White Horse' and is crossed by the Ridgeway National Trail in its far south, across the North Wessex Downs AONB at the junction of four counties. The 'White Horse' as a name and emblem features in sports clubs and organisations, but is also emblematic of Kent and appears in lesser known hill figures elsewhere.Viking Apocalypse
Viking Apocalypse is a TV program on the National Geographic Channel. The show examines the Ridgeway Hill Viking burial pit in Weymouth, UK, a site of a suspected mass execution long ago. As they begin digging, archaeologists discover many male Viking skulls and search for clues that may reveal why Weymouth would have been a site for these beheadings.West Hendred
West Hendred is a village and civil parish about 3 miles (5 km) east of Wantage. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire.
West Hendred is downland village, its parish stretching from the Ridgeway in the south through the spring line and meadows to the former marshland of the Oxfordshire plain in the north. The parish is about 2,000 acres (810 ha) in area and 6 miles (10 km) long, but only being about 1⁄2 mile (800 m) wide at the widest point. This is an example of a downland linear parish encompassing a wide variety of land types – chalk downland, greensand on the spring line and clay to the north.
The Great Western Main Line crosses the northern part of the parish. The Icknield Way and The Ridgeway cross the parish in the south.
The parish includes the hamlet of East Ginge, which is immediately below the Downs which includes Ginge Manor, home of the Annabel Astor, Viscountess Astor, mother of Samantha Cameron. Neighbouring hamlet West Ginge, however, is in the parish of Lockinge. Both of the hamlets have populations less than 30, although records from the 1881 and 1901 censuses show that they were more extensive with several occupied farms up to the Downs.The parish has good examples of post-medieval drovers' roads, a Roman road, a buried Roman villa and well-preserved medieval watercress beds.
(England and Wales)
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