Home Ridgeway 2

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Sometime in the autumn of 2004, when we were out for a walk, Martyn said he fancied walking The Ridgeway, as a personal challenge. I laughed and said he must be joking, but he seemed serious. I was as surprised as he was when I realised I'd rather like the challenge too, so we set about getting in some serious practice at weekends, and equipped ourselves with the right gear. We did toy with the idea of arranging it ourselves and even with carrying our luggage on our backs, but we decided we would be pushing our luck to try that. After some research, I found a company who were flexible enough to offer us exactly what we wanted - accommodation close to the Ridgeway National Trail, for the number of nights we wanted, and who would arrange for our luggage to be moved from place to place. Thus we booked the trip through Freedom Walking Holidays, who proved to be well up to the task, also sending us a detailed map and guidebook to the walk (although there isn't a guidebook explaining the east-west route.) But it's extremely well signposted so that wasn't a problem. The Ridgeway runs between Overton Hill near Avebury, in Wiltshire and Ivinghoe Beacon, near Tring in Hertfordshire, and is reputed to be Europe's oldest 'road', around 5000 years old! The entire route is designated as being in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and it did live up to that claim. We decided it would be nicer to walk towards home than away from it, so arranged to do the walk from east to west, rather less common than the other way around. Gordon, from Freedom Walking checks out all the accommodation on the route and also asks for honest feedback from his clients. He checked up on our progress too, so we felt like VIPs. We took our walk in May 2005.

This is our story...........

Day 1: Ivinghoe to Wigginton - 8 miles

We got a lift to our first night's accommodation, Ranger's Cottage in Wigginton, where we dropped our luggage and then on to starting point, about a mile and a half from Ivinghoe Beacon. We proceeded to walk up to the Beacon for our official start, and then back down again and on to Wigginton, a total of around 8 miles. It was very windy up at the beacon but the views were spectacular. Ranger's Cottage is the perfect B&B. Pretty house in a very quiet setting and kind hosts. Our room was comfortable and well-equipped with an en-suite bathroom with bath and power shower and big fluffy towels. There was also a fridge with fresh milk and a welcome drink of wine and beer, and some snacks. Very welcome. That evening we walked down the road to the Greyhound pub where we had a superb dinner. A very good start to our walk.

  Day 2: Wigginton to Askett - 11 miles

We had an excellent breakfast, including homemade fish cakes which were delicious. Breakfast was taken with other guests - including a man who was testing out the area in preparation for a 100 mile long distance walk - which he does in 24 hours. And we thought we were crazy! The weather was perfect and our walk was a very pretty one, through the village of Hastoe and into Pavis Wood, Wendover woods and into Wendover where we had lunch at Crumbs Café (no loo, though, had to use those in the car park). The woods were lovely beechwoods carpeted with bluebells much of the time. Why is it always uphill after lunch? We crossed National trust land at Coombe Hill, with the most spectacular views and lots of people out enjoying the weekend sun. We also walked past Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence, but much of it was covered in scaffolding. Then past Pulpit Hill and on to the village of Cadsden with its lovely houses and gardens. There were some very steep descents and finally we arrived at our B&B, Solis Ortu, in Askett near Princes Risborough. We were greeted with tea and cake and rested our weary feet whilst admiring the lovely garden. Our hosts were very kind and offered to drive us to a pub as those nearby weren't serving food on Sunday night. But we decided to eat at the Raj Mahal, an Indian restaurant just up the road, and very good it was too. 

Day 3: Askett to Watlington - 14.2 miles

We probably ate too much breakfast because the first few miles felt tough - lots of hills, not enough flat! But we were rewarded with spectacular views, especially across to Princes Risborough. At one point, as we entered a wood, Martyn saw a deer - but all I could manage was a grey squirrel! At one point we were chased by cows - uphill too. We had lunch at the Crown in Chinnor after 8 miles, really needing a good rest. The rest of the walk was comparatively easy as it was flat, but the ground was very dry and hard which isn't so good for the feet. We had some fairly heavy rain as well as plenty of sunshine, but that was during a fairly boring stretch of the walk. We arrived in Watlington at 5pm having walked just over 14 miles, more than we'd ever walked in one day before. Our B&B was several miles away in Chalgrove (Cornerstones) but we were collected by our hostess and were brought back to the Ridgeway the following morning. We walked to the local gourmet pub, the Red Lion, to find they weren't doing food - just bar snacks. Well, the bar snacks were better than many restaurant meals so not a problem. 

  Day 4: Watlington to Goring on Thames - 14 miles

The weather was beautiful although it cooled down later on. There were a lot of hills, both up and down, for the first third of the walk, but it was very pretty with great views (Didcot Power Station excepted). The only convenient place to stop for  a pub lunch was in Nuffield, at the Crown, a little earlier into our walk than we'd have liked and we arrived at 11-40 but the wait was worth it. There was a lovely 11th Century church, St Botolph's, just before Nuffield, and the villages of North and South Stoke were very pretty, as was much of the stretch known as Grimm's Ditch. The final stretch of the walk took us alongside the Thames into Goring. We prefer to walk more than half the walk before lunch and that may be why we suffered more on this day than the others. The last few miles were very tough. The ground was so hard and my feet were extremely sore (partly caused by blisters, I found out later). But we made it, arriving at Melrose at 5.15. We had arranged an evening meal, for which we were very grateful as we hadn't the energy to go out looking for a pub. Mrs Howarth fed us on roast pork with all the trimmings and apple pie and custard. Superb value at just £5 each, and we enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn't a good night - my feet were so sore and Martyn's knee, on which he'd had surgery a couple of years ago, was swollen and painful. Would we be OK next morning?


Home Ridgeway 2


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