Although I said this a year ago and nothing is official at the time of writing, I’m aiming to walk The Ridgeway National Trail this year, with a preference for the end of May.
A year ago, I wrote a short series of posts on my plans and intentions for backpacking the long-distance trail (you’ll find links to those posts further down). Now, I’m looking ahead to this challenge for 2018, with perhaps the only outstanding issues to consider.
This remains to be the biggest obstacle for me, as there is a distinct lack of (affordable – and legal) accommodation options towards the western end of the trail, from which I aim to begin my walk.
Within the first twenty-miles, the only campsite (near Marlborough) would require a five-mile diversion from the trail and that’s after walking barely ten-miles… Also, bearing in mind that I would then have to retrace the same five-miles to return to the trail before walking a good fifteen or so to reach the next camp site near Bishopstone.
As suggested a year ago; my current best option, to complete the trail with authenticity, would involves a whopping twenty-six mile walk from Avebury to the Uffington White Horse.
On the very first day! Which not only means I’d be depleting a lot of energy with the highest portion of weight on my back but, it’s going to involve an early start: catching buses in the Bristol, a train to Swindon and then another bus to Avebury… To be followed by somewhere between eight and ten hours of walking in weather conditions we cannot yet predict.
In no way am I prepared to spend £70 for a single night’s stay above the pub in Ogbourne St. George… Which is only around ten miles from the start of the trail. I’m hoping to average between eighteen and twenty miles per day.
Cutting CornersA more recent idea that’s come to mind is to complete the initial fifteen or so miles in a dedicated circular route ahead of time and to then, at the end of May, begin my walk from Swindon’s train station (no bus journey to Avebury) and joining The Ridgeway near Liddington Castle. As part of the walking group’s challenge to complete the White Horse Trail around Wiltshire last year, I’ve already effectively completed the initial four-miles from Overton Hill to Hackpen Hill. Technically speaking, I would not ‘need’ to walk over them again… Plus, I could bypass the “travellers” who’ve made the Overton Hill car park their home.
If I was to leave the bus at Broad Hinton instead of Avebury, I would only need to walk two miles to join the Ridgeway at Hackpen Hill… Leaving me with about nineteen miles to reach the campsite at Britchcombe Farm, in addition to the two miles prior to the trail. It may not be the greatest of savings but five miles could equate to two hours of walking.
I currently like the idea of a minor shortcut from Broad Hinton and Hackpen Hill. But then, four miles from a day of twenty-six miles may not account for an awful lot… I’m going to have to think this over.
I do wonder what other people do? It’s a popular trail and I cannot be the only person facing this situation with concern. I’m not experienced or confident enough to attempt wild camping (Smeathe’s Ridge is a common suggestion). Any attempt to bring that first night’s camping forward would only push Day Two beyond the twenty-mile mark.
In terms of kit and ideas for food, I’m pretty much sorted, now.