The Thames Path and Ridgeway National Trails are wonderful places to go with children as there's so much to see and do. Below are some ideas of activities or challenges for each month, some on the Thames Path and others on The Ridgeway.
NB if you're unsure how to find somewhere from the map grid reference (eg SU149763), download the attachment below.
January: Visit an Iron Age hill fort
Visit one of these Iron Age hill forts along The Ridgeway and run all the way around it to warm up! (See attached below for info about hill forts)
• Barbury Castle SU149763
• Liddington Castle SU209797 (reached via a permissive footpath from The Ridgeway).
• Uffington Castle SU299863
• Segsbury Castle SU385845
• Pulpit Hill SP832050
• Ivinghoe Beacon Hill SP960168
February: Measure the depth of a really old ditch
The Ridgeway follows a 3-mile (5 km) length of Grim’s Ditch (see attached below for info about Grim's ditch)
from south east of Wallingford to just south of the village of Nuffield (SU617879 to SU666871). Created in the late Iron Age/early Roman period (that’s at least 2,000 years ago), the ditch in places is still amazingly deep considering it would have been dug using just antler picks for tools!
Why not walk the whole length of the ditch seeing where it is the deepest. If you don’t have time to walk it all, the eastern end is probably the best.
March: Explore a Ghostly Grave!
A barrow is a prehistoric communal grave (see attached below for info about barrows). There are two main types; long barrows built during the New Stone Age which are quite rare, and round barrows built mostly in the Bronze Age which are pretty common. Why not visit one of the long barrows and measure it? The largest long barrows in the country are 107m (350 feet) long. How long is the one you visit? Measure how long your stride is on average, then pace the length of the long barrow and work out how long it is.
Long barrows on or close to The Ridgeway are at:
• West Kennet SU104677
• Wayland’s Smithy SU281854
• Whiteleaf Hill SP822040
April: See hundreds of wild snakes head fritillaries
Wild snakes head fritillaries (they’re flowers not snakes!) usually flower at the end of April. These beautiful wild flowers, most of which are purple but with some that are white, are fairly rare in England but there are two nature reserves alongside the Thames Path where they flower in large numbers – a wonderful sight. When you’re there roughly work out how many purple flowers there are to every white flower. The reserves you will find them in are:
• North Meadow, Cricklade SU094946
• Iffley Meadows, Oxford SP524038
May: Make an ash whistle
Ash is a very common tree on The Ridgeway and this time of year is the best time when the sap is flowing well. Download the instructions for making a whistle below.
June: Visit two of 44 Locks on the non-tidal River Thames
The best way to visit two locks is by walking between them along the Thames Path! When you're there, find out what they do and how they work - it's fascinating. Find out where the locks are at Visit Thames - Locks
July: Visit one of the nature reserves along The Ridgeway or Thames Path
Find out where there are nature reserves along the Trails below. With luck, particularly if it's a sunny day, you should see lots of butterflies as well as flowers. Why not count how many different flowers and butterflies you see? Take a photo of a few of the flowers and try to identify them when you get home - this wildflower website may be able to help.
August: Take a boat trip one way on the River Thames
Then walk back along the Thames Path. Find out where you can take a boat trip at Visit Thames - boat trips.
September: Visit the highest point on the western or eastern half of The Ridgeway.
On the western half the highest point is 276m above sea level at grid reference SU214793, just southeast of Liddington Castle in Wiltshire (NB there’s nothing there at the moment to tell you it’s the highest point!). It’s also on two of our circular walks, Liddington Castle Circular Walk and the Aldbourne Circular Route so why not walk one of those routes? The Aldbourne Circular Route can also be cycled if you have a mountain bike and strong legs!
On the eastern half the highest point is 257m above sea level at the monument on Coombe Hill (grid reference SP849068) where there are great views over the Vale of Aylesbury. It’s also on the Views of the Vale Circular Walk so you can visit the highest point on this walk.
October: Visit a white figure
There are several white figures (see attached below for info about chalk figures) cut into the chalk alongside The Ridgeway; these ones can easily be visited. When you're there, be inspired and design your own!
• Hackpen Hill White Horse SU128749
• Uffington White Horse SU301866
• Whiteleaf Cross SP822041
November: Make an autumn bookmark or birthday card
Visit The Ridgeway in the Chilterns where it goes through woodland and gather a whole range of different colourful fallen leaves. When you get home, get out the card and glue and turn them into lovely bookmarks or birthday cards.
Good woodland stretches of The Ridgeway can be found at:
• Along Grim’s Ditch south east of Wallingford to just south of the village of Nuffield (SU636875 to SU666871). </
• Just north of the A4130 at Nuffield (SU675878). Our Ewelme Park Circular Walk starts here too, so why not do that walk and see what you can collect as there’s other bits of woodland on that walk.
• Between Chinnor and Hempton Wainhill (SP764006 to SP777012)
• Between Whiteleaf and Lower Cadsden (SP822036 to SP827045)
• From Buckmoorend near Chequers to Coombe Hill (SP849050 to SP849068.
• Wendover Woods southeast of Wendover from SP882064 to SP900080.
• Pavis Wood southwest of Wigginton from SP905085 to SP914092.
• Aldbury Nowers north of Tring Station from SP951131 to SP950139
December: Counting Ducks!
Walk along the Thames Path in the Cotswold Water Park and count how many different types of duck you see – they look their most handsome at this time of year. Don’t forget to take some binoculars and then try to identify them. These two places have car parking and lakes close to them and there are several other places in the water park to visit too:
• Neigh Bridge Country Park at SU018947
• Waterhay at SU060933 (sometimes the Thames Path east of here can be flooded so don’t continue if it is)