The Ridgeway: The Oldest Footpath In The UK
Brian Mason, from Swindon’s Virtual Taxi Firm, is usually found behind the wheel of his taxi. However, as an expert on the local area, Brian also enjoys walking on his days off; here, he describes walking on the historic Ridgeway, where you can see some of the oldest prehistoric remains in Britain: Avebury Stone Circle and Silbury Hill. Stonehenge is also close by.
The Ridgeway path stretches for eighty-seven miles over four counties and was used as a trading route during the Bronze Age (2300 to 700 BC). When walking this ancient path, it’s something to realise that people have been precisely doing this for thousands of years.
The Ridgeway is the oldest footpath in Britain and is a popular place for people who not only enjoy walking in the countryside but also are interested in the ancient sites along the way. Some are situated in the county of Wiltshire, which is also where the Ridgeway begins.
Ogbourne St. George on the Ridgeway
To make the most of your time, staying somewhere reasonably close to the path would be wise. The small village of Ogbourne St. George is a good choice as the Ridgeway Path passes through. This tiny village is home to the famous Avebury Stone Circles and the official starting place for the Ridgeway. You can plan walks from here, and there’s a small family hotel which is excellent for being convenient for the trail it is also only a ten-minute bus ride to the beautiful old town of Marlborough and within easy reach of Avebury, which is a must-see for every visitor.
Things to See in the Area
Wiltshire is exceptionally rich in historic sites, and many are encountered while walking the Ridgeway. Silbury Hill is one of the most enigmatic of these; it is the largest man-made mound in Europe; it stands 39.5M (130 feet) high and remains a mystery. After more than two hundred years of investigation, nobody has produced an answer to the question, “Why was it built?” Radiocarbon dating places its beginnings around 2660 BC – the late Neolithic period. Many early investigators were looking for a burial chamber, but nothing has been found to prove this theory.
There are six white horses in Wiltshire. They are formed by removing the turf from a hillside to expose the underlying chalk. This practice reached its peak in the 19th century, but some of the horses are very ancient. The Uffington Horse is believed to be about two thousand years old and can be seen from a road below the Ridgeway.
Although famous for its prehistoric circle of giant stones, Avebury is sometimes overshadowed by the more famous stone circle at Stonehenge, which is easy to visit here. However, the advantage of Avebury is that you can wander amongst the stones, touch them, and generally tune in to their mystery and romance. They are the largest stone circles in Britain. The small village of Avebury is built inside these stone circles.
Only a ten-minute bus ride from Ogbourne St. George, the small town of Marlborough, so legend tells us, is the resting place of Merlin, King Arthur’s sorcerer. If you want to take time off from walking the Ridgeway, you can spend an enjoyable day in this attractive town. Lots of shops and restaurants, and if you take a walk on the grounds of the famous Marlborough Public School, you will see a mound where Merlin is said to be buried. However, archaeologists believe it is a neolithic monument of the same period as Silbury Hill.