Saturday 1st May 2010
12 miles approx
This was something I’d been wanting to do for ages: a multi-day walk along one of the major National Trails. I’d never walked for more than one day before and I wanted to find out if I was capable of walking such distances on several consecutive days.
The official starting point of the Ridgeway is at Overton Hill, however many people start at Avebury because it’s a beautiful and interesting place, and a bus goes there from Swindon. I explored the stones where there were many people about, meditating and taking part in various ceremonies.
I assumed these things happened every day at Avebury, but I later found out that it was the Pagan festival of Beltane. I then continued down the stone avenue. It isn’t clear from the map, but there is a permissive path through the fields so that anyone can walk down the avenue and touch the stones.
There was a short walk down the main road to Overton Hill, where the Ridgeway officially begins.
The path itself was mainly between fences, so the navigation was very easy. I barely even needed the map at all, although I do like to follow it anyway so I can see how far I’ve walked. The path mainly goes through open downland. Here’s some typical scenery:
I know this must be an awful thing to say, but after a while I found myself getting bored. I was on my own, and the scenery didn’t seem to change much – just endless fields, although I did pass one field full of sheep with their lambs. It was quite a hot day and I had to be careful to drink enough water.
When I arrived at the car park at Hackpen Hill, I stopped for a little rest but was greatly looking forward to reaching the next car park at Barbury Castle, because there was a public toilet there. An elderly gentleman struck up a conversation; he was a local and knew the area very well, and told me many interesting things. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he walked rather slowly. All I could think about was the fact that I needed to get to the toilets fairly urgently, but I didn’t want to be rude and didn’t have the heart to tell him. So when he finally reached his destination point and we said our goodbyes and he turned back, I became a woman on a mission. I walked at double speed over Barbury Castle and didn’t have time to appreciate it properly, and finally arrived at the toilets. This was the only public toilet along the western section of the Ridgeway; not only that, but most of the walk on the first three days goes across very open land and I found very few suitable places for ladies to pee out of doors.
At this point I met up with a walking group who were going the same way as me, so they kept me company all the way to Ogbourne St George, a pretty little place where many of the buildings have thatched roofs. The Ridgeway does a little loop around the village and I was planning to walk all the way around it so I could eventually say I’d done the whole path, but it suddenly started pouring with rain (as the skies had been threatening all day) so the plan was quickly abandoned in favour of walking straight through the village to my stopping point for the night, the Parklands Hotel, where I had booked a nice comfortable room.
You’d think I would sleep really well after a day of walking over ten miles, but I woke up around 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep for ages because my legs were tingling. I don’t think I’d wound down properly from the walk.