This is something I’ve not written about for a while but I do still hold on to an interest in walking the entire eighty-seven mile length of The Ridgeway long-distance footpath.
September has always seemed to be an ideal time of year – not too hot and hopefully, we’ve already received enough rain in August to have earned a dry month… If I’ve been procrastinating on one thing, it’s been the planning. But, I’m pleased to say I have been looking at my options for accommodation along the trail.
So, I spent a good two-hours yesterday (longer than I’d imagined it would take) to do all of my current research on camp sites and other convenient stops along the way. Remember, I plan on walking from west to east; beginning near Avebury and finished at Ivinghoe Beacon:
Britchcombe Farm, Uffington – £8 per night
26 miles from Overton Hill
Streatley YHA – £15 per night
20 miles from Britchcombe
White Mark Farm, Watlington – £7 per night
15.5 miles from Streatley
Corner Farm Campsite – £5 per night
19 miles from Watlington
(Total cost over four nights: £35)
Straight away, you can see this currently sets me up for two intense days of truly long-distance walking, bearing in mind that I’ll also be carrying a pack weight of approximately 12-15kg.
My Cicerone guide book recommends walking nine-to-ten miles as far as Ogbourne St. George, where you can stay overnight at one of the pubs (…at a cost of around £70). There used to be a camp site nearby called Foxlynch but, as I’ve read on another website; they are no longer open, as of May 2016.
I did find another camp site in the woods near Marlborough but, in my opinion, that requires too much of a southerly diversion from the National Trail.
So, as I’m reluctant to spend like Paris Saint-Germain, I’m going to have to walk that little bit further. I’m prepared for an early start but I fear I may not get to spend as much time at Wayland’s Smithy or the Uffington White Horse, even though they’re both relatively close to my first camp site.
Another suggested I found online is to wild camp on Smeathe Ridge, shortly before arriving at Ogbourne St. George (where there is, apparently, a functioning water tap). I’d like to walk at least fifteen miles on my first day; averaging somewhere between that and twenty miles on each of the following days.
My second stop currently looks like it’s going to be at a Youth Hostel (YHA) in Streatley; approximately twenty-miles on from my first night of camping.
I’ve never stayed in a Youth Hostel, Bunkhouse or anything quite like it. Being a socially anxious person, I have concerns about this. Sharing a living space with other people is one thing but I’m not at all comfortable with the idea of sharing a room at night. But then, having looked around so far, I’m short of other options in terms of camping nearby.
This particular YHA has good reviews and it looks to be in a prime location for people walking both The Ridgeway and the Thames Path.
At least, I should be able to camp on each of my final two nights following this trail. I am surprised there aren’t more camp sites available along the way – I couldn’t even find anything close to Avebury, would you believe.
When I first had the idea to walk The Ridgeway and bought the guide book and Harvey’s map, I looked at it rationally and decided that six-days would be a good time in which to complete the trek… But now, it seems I have no other choice but to complete it in five-days, which is actually a bonus.
From my final overnight stop at Corner Farm camp site, there are just 10.5 miles to go until I arrive at the 200m heights of Ivinghoe Beacon, at the eastern end of the trail. Following which, I can backtrack to Tring (3.5 miles) and begin the journey home from the train station.
Currently, I stand to walk about 94.5 miles in order to complete this 87 mile challenge… While I’ve heard that there aren’t many camp site options on The Ridgeway, I’m pleased with this ‘minimal’ quantity of deviation.
I’m still keen on the idea of doing as much of this ‘off my own back’, where I would normally look to the assistance of other people with lifts to and from various points. I want this to be an adventure, as much as a personal challenge.
I live in a village called Wrington in North Somerset and, from all I’ve read, the best way to get to Overton Hill involves taking a train from Bristol Temple Meads to Swindon and, from there, jumping on a bus down to Avebury, where I’ll have to walk a couple of miles to The Ridgeway’s official start.
This will also involve me having to get a bus (or, at least two of them) from home and in to Bristol. According to Google, this could cost me £16 (?!?), while a direct option via taxi might only cost £2 extra.
Train-wise; a weekend morning ticket from Bristol Temple Meads to Swindon’s station costs about £15 and may take forty-minutes, which is fine.
But, heading west on my eventual return, it looks like a one-way journey from Tring to Bristol (with two changes along the way) would cost me £111.50 during peak hours and take around three hours! If I can hang around until the off-peak hours, this may be reduced to £65 but still, with the same time frame. I don’t think it would be any cheaper to go direct to Swindon and then, on to Bristol.
Potentially, I could be spending around £144 on transport alone.
Another option is to walk beyond Ivinghoe Beacon and on to Luton station but, I’ve not yet looked in to that!
Planning and researching, at this stage, seems okay. However, I would say I use the bus once a year on average (if, even that) and it’s been a long, long time since I hopped on to anything other than a steam train. Every time I step on to a bus, even in a remote place like Cornwall, I seem to meet a less-than-welcoming driver, with no sympathy for the fact I have no idea what I’m doing.
But I have heard since that you can now make a Contactless payment on most bus services today, which at least saves the hassle of having to carry and count out the coins.
My own mind may yet be the biggest obstacle in completing The Ridgeway.
I’m going to leave you with a few external links that I’ve found useful: