The Trail passes through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the North Wessex Downs to the west of the River Thames and the Chilterns to the east. There are also several nature reserves adjacent to The Ridgeway and a couple through which it travels, as well as other wildlife rich areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
There are two very distinctive habitats along The Ridgeway; chalk grassland and woodland. The areas of unimproved chalk grassland are rich in the number of wildflower species and butterflies that feed on specific plants. They are also a valuable breeding ground for declining farmland birds such as skylarks and stone curlews. Historically this habitat was very widespread along The Ridgeway but it has been reduced significantly by modern farming methods and so itís really worthwhile visiting one of the reserves, particularly during late spring or summer.
Elsewhere in the Chilterns, remains of a clay layer on top of the chalk, together with how the land has been managed historically, have created more wooded countryside. This supports spring flowering plants that thrive in dappled shade and provides shelter for woodland birds and mammals. There are several wildlife reserves within walking distance of the Trail which include woodland areas.
In either of these habitats youíll see many birds and you may encounter mammals, some at any time of year but others only in particular seasons.