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The Ridgeway / 4½ days / 92 miles (148km)

Outline Map → Map Route file →

Date: 07 Oct 2002
Start / Finish: Tring.
Maps: Ridgeway Trail Guide, Aurum Press. The map sections were scanned and printed to A4 - total weight 35g.

Website: The Chilterns Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty

RidgeWay website
Day 1Avebury, Overton Hill & Barbury Castle10 miles (16.1km)
Day 2Fox Hill & White Horse Hill23 miles (37.0km)
Day 3Bury Down, Goring & Grims Ditch22 miles (35.4km)
Day 4Lodge Hill & Princes Risborough19 miles (30.6km)
Day 5Coombe Hill, Wendover & Ivinghoe Beacon18 miles (29.0km)

We backpacked the Ridgeway as a complete contrast to the hills on a forecast of mainly dry but very cloudy weather.

We parked in Tring as the rail station is close by, although it would mean an out-and-back to Ivinghoe Beacon at the end but without the packs. We travelled to the other end of the trail right away and walked back S to N, getting the transport behind us. The journey was by train from Tring to Euston / tube to Paddington / inter-city to Swindon / bus to Avebury - all painless and punctual, arriving in Avebury at 14:35. From Avebury we followed the White Horse Trail to Overton Hill and the start of the Ridgeway National Trail

We had heard that the Ridgeway was constantly in use not only by walkers but motorcycles, 4x4s, horses and so on. In the whole 5 days we saw no motorised vehicles at all and, incredibly, only one other walker on the trail itself. Our only other encounter was a trio of cyclists who passed our tent one evening with their headlamps wavering eerily in the dark.

This report was written long after the walk, but we have collected some notes that may be useful to backpackers. The taps provided on the first half of the route are a godsend, avoiding the need for detours to shops. There are several places on the route in the second half to buy water.

Day 1 - Avebury, Overton Hill & Barbury Castle

We carried water from the start on this half-day. Barbury Castle has a toilet block. We pitched on Smeathes Ridge with a lovely sunset to round off the first day.

The Red Lion at Avebury
The Red Lion at Avebury (07 Oct 2002__14:36:40)
Silbury Hill
Silbury Hill (07 Oct 2002__14:54:17)
View W from Overton Hill section
View W from Overton Hill section (07 Oct 2002__16:08:12)
Evening sky from Smeathes Ridge pitch
Evening sky from Smeathes Ridge pitch (07 Oct 2002__17:53:31)

Day 2 - Fox Hill & White Horse Hill

Tap 1 is at 198734. Just after crossing the A346 a short way up the track, the tap is on the outside wall of a house.

Tap 2 is at 264835, we can't remember it now but it must have been obvious.

Update 31 Dec 05:-

Tap 3 is at 338855 as stated in the guide book. We previously thought that this tap was further along around 342853, but a reader who lives in Wantage and walks this section regularly has determined that the guide book is correct, so our original assessment (made from memory long after the walk) must have been in error.

We pitched on Ridgeway Down.

Lammy Down
Lammy Down (08 Oct 2002__11:32:07)
Waylands Smithy
Waylands Smithy (08 Oct 2002__12:35:41)
Waylands Smithy
Waylands Smithy (08 Oct 2002__12:41:33)
Whitehorse Hill
Whitehorse Hill (08 Oct 2002__13:14:13)
View NW from Uffington Castle
View NW from Uffington Castle (08 Oct 2002__13:21:57)
Collet Bush area
Collet Bush area (08 Oct 2002__14:27:16)
Collet Bush area
Collet Bush area (08 Oct 2002__14:39:35)
View from the Letcombe ridge
View from the Letcombe ridge (08 Oct 2002__15:20:13)
Tent pitch on Ridgeway Down
Tent pitch on Ridgeway Down (08 Oct 2002__18:28:29)

Day 3 - Bury Down, Goring & Grims Ditch

Tap 4 a little E of the plantation at 430845 is for animal use only, according to the guide.

Streatley is residential, the first shops on the route are in Goring.

Tap 5 is at 668873 on the wall of Nuffield parish church, where a sign on the road welcomes Ridgeway walkers.

The Thames at Goring
The Thames at Goring (09 Oct 2002__11:53:26)
Moulsford church and the Thames [South Stoke section]
Moulsford church and the Thames [South Stoke section] (09 Oct 2002__13:32:00)

Day 4 - Lodge Hill & Princes Risborough

The Chilterns area is notable for the release of Red Kites some years ago and we were rewarded with two very clear sightings, the first was N of Shirburn Hill approaching the M40 where a farmer was tractoring his field. It was gliding over the field and in a spellbinding display came very close to us, showing its deep russet colour and grey head. The area also has very fine beech woods.

We restocked in Princes Risborough and made a good pitch between Whorley Wood and Maple Wood. Chequers may seem uncomfortably close but we were not disturbed by smart heavies with guns!.

E of Thickthorne Wood
E of Thickthorne Wood (10 Oct 2002__12:49:38)
View from Lodge Hill
View from Lodge Hill (10 Oct 2002__13:46:18)

Day 5 - Coombe Hill, Wendover & Ivinghoe Beacon

Passing the watchful security cameras at Chequers, we climbed Coombe Hill and Bacombe Hill and descended to Wendover and Tring, then we dumped our packs and walked to Ivinghoe Beacon and back.

A very different kind of walk for us and a pleasant change.

Incombe Hole from Steps Hill
Incombe Hole from Steps Hill (11 Oct 2002__13:45:41)
Ivinghoe Beacon
Ivinghoe Beacon (11 Oct 2002__14:15:03)