Put your best foot forward and step back in time
Runners, walkers and cyclists will have several opportunities this summer to follow a 5,000 year old path through Oxfordshire and raise money for local charities.
There’s very few places where you can literally take a step back in time and tread a path that has remained vibrant and important for five millennia.
But the Ridgeway National Trail, which winds its way through Oxfordshire, the North Wessex Downs and the Chilterns, allows you to do just that.
Following a route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers, the 87 mile long Ridgeway passes through ancient landscapes which were once home to hillforts, through downland, secluded valleys and woodland. As well as being steeped in history the route will take you to numerous attractive villages and vibrant market towns.
Oxfordshire County Council is the host authority for the Ridgeway National Trail team and provides an excellent base to manage the trail from as well as other support service and opportunities for partnership working.
Amazing things right on your doorstep
As Ridgeway Trail officer Sarah Wright explains: “We are lucky to have a National Trail nearby – there are only 15 in England and Wales. As a signposted and accessible trail, it is a way to explore the countryside with confidence.
“Of course once they’ve walked a bit of it and seen the historic monuments, wildlife and amazing views across the vales, people get hooked and come back time and time again.
“Although the trail’s origins go back 5,000 years it’s as relevant to life today as it was to the very first people to travel along it.
“And if you haven’t tried the trail for yourself – maybe you didn’t know about it or thought it wasn’t for you – there’s a whole list of reasons to give it a try.
“A long-distance trail might seem overwhelming, but you don’t need to do it all. You can do short sections and the changing seasons and variety along the Trail means you can look forward to something different.”
Visitors to the trail will see far-reaching views across the hills and vales, and find many archaeological monuments including Stone Age long barrows, Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age forts and the famous Uffington white horse cut into the chalk hillside.
East of the Thames, The Ridgeway travels through the more-wooded and intimate hills and valleys of the Chilterns AONB where, as well as further archaeological treasures, there are several nature reserves rich with special flowers and insects. The Chilterns section also passes close to or through several villages and towns where walkers can stop off for a refreshments or a place to stay overnight.
Places to visit, eat and sleep are detailed on an interactive map on the Trail’s website: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/plan. This map also shows car parking locations, train stations and other practical information for visitors.
Chances to get out and about, enjoy yourself and help others
Whilst being steeped in history, the Trail is very much in use by people of today. There is a year-round calendar of activities and events, with something to interest everyone.
The next event in Oxfordshire is the 21st Flexicare Community Walk – a fundraising event aimed at families. Two routes of five and ten miles are available. More information can be found here - https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/calendar/2018-05/15
And on Saturday 19 May there’s a chance to “Walk the Chalk” – a specially organised Nordic Walking event for everyone from experienced walkers to those who want to give it a go for the first time. There’s more information here - https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/calendar/2018-05/15
For those who like to get around on two wheels perhaps the MTB Wantage Marathon would get you in the saddle. The marathon takes on fast, flowing chalky trails on and off the historic Ridgeway with 30, 60 and 80km options. Find out more here - https://www.mtb-marathon.co.uk/events/27th-may-2018-wantage-oxfordshire.html
As well as providing a chance to get out and about the trail also plays host to many fundraising events.
On July 7 women from across Oxfordshire are invited to help fight cancer by taking part in the Ridgeway Hike 2018. Participants can take on 20 to 26 miles of stunning countryside. Walk alongside hundreds of other strong women and raise valuable funds for research. More information can be found here - https://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/find-an-event/rutland-farm-hiking-2018-07-07-0000
About National Trails
The Ridgeway is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales. National Trails are designated by the Secretary of State and are administered by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and managed by the local authorities and National Park Authorities whose area they pass through.
Oxfordshire County Council is the host authority for the Ridgeway National Trail and provides an excellent base to manage the trail from as well as other support services and further opportunities for partnership working.
Natural England sets quality standards for National Trails and their management. You can find out more on the Natural England website.