4th November 2021
It was a summer of more flowers, insects and research at Bury Down, near the A34 in Berkshire. Survey results from Oxford University’s experimental plots set up in the Ridgeway’s verges in 2018 continue to show that changing the management of the vegetation along the Trail would boost biodiversity.
The highlight has been the double impact of kidney vetch – not only has it brought a splash of yellow but it has also attracted the small blue butterfly! The most biodiverse plots are those where vegetation has been cut and taken away, particularly in combination with initial topsoil removal. This is because this form of management creates a lower fertility environment favouring native plants.
Impressed by the rapid results of the plots, a group of local farmers have joined in to create a larger trial area nearby to the east of Scutchamer Knob. The involvement of farmers is a great step forward since they play a critical role in managing and creating wildlife habitat in the countryside. The farmers’ trial area in the verge measures 0.3ha, scaling up the university plots measuring 5m by 10m and utilising farm machinery rather than brushcutters and rakes. Vegetation was cut and baled in September, and the ground scarified to reduce the dominance of vigorous grasses and weeds. Advice was sought from Oxfordshire County Council’s archaeology team to ensure above-ground and buried archaeology was not disturbed by the work.
Cotswold Seeds, based in Moreton-in-Marsh, have provided native wildflower seeds for the farmers’ trial area which include Lesser Knapweed, native Sainfoin, Salad Burnet, wild Carrot and White Campion. Over the next few years, the Ridgeway farmer group will watch and care for the trial area in collaboration with Oxford University and the National Trail Team. The trials will indicate what is practically feasible for the miles and miles of Ridgeway verge and other linear features, including the challenge of disposing of large volumes of cut vegetation collected each year.
With easy access from Bury Down and Scutchamer Knob parking areas, visitors can look forward to seeing the work evolve and supporting the project by keeping themselves and their dogs to the worn track. It is important that dogs are not allowed to foul in the verges where volunteers and students are surveying and cutting grass etc – a bin is provided at the entrance to Bury Down west-side parking area to dispose of dog waste.
29th September 2021
Following years of erosion, surface improvements have been completed this month at Bacombe Hill near Wendover in Buckinghamshire to make the National Trail footpath and parallel bridleway safer and more enjoyable to use. The bridleway will form part of the proposed Ridgeway Riding Route that will in future guide people through the Chiltern Hills from Goring-on-Thames in Oxfordshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire.
The bridleway and footpath link Wendover to a Wildlife Trust nature reserve and the National Trust’s iconic landmark and viewpoint of the Coombe Hill monument. Numerous walkers, horse riders and cyclists have already been enjoying the wider limestone surfaces that have replaced slippery chalk and v-shaped gulleys on the lower part of Bacombe Hill.
As with all popular routes, the project also involves educating users around showing consideration to others and this is particularly relevant to cyclists moving downhill who will need to watch their speed and take care on bends. By law, cyclists have to give way to horse riders and a useful video has been produced jointly by the British Horse Society and Cycling UK to illustrate how to avoid spooking a horse into rearing up or bolting.
A disabled rambler has also checked the route as part of a Buckinghamshire Local Access Forum visit to confirm it is accessible in a motorised scooter. These improvements to accessibility were carried out by the contractor, Livewire Utilities Limited, in careful balance with the need to avoid disturbing chalk grassland plants adjacent to the footpath and to retain the bridleway’s historic character as a sunken way. Part of the history of the bridleway was revealed when old bottles were exposed whilst reinstating old soakaways, including a glass bottle labelled ‘Golden Seal Milk’ and a Ginger Beer bottle from ‘North & Randall, Aylesbury’. Drainage features are critical to reducing erosion – they catch the majority of rainwater that would otherwise scour downhill over the new surface.
Whilst the work has been a success overall, future maintenance work will be needed as wear and tear through use is inevitable, particularly on hillside routes, and the extreme storm events associated with climate change will test the work to its limits. The public are encouraged to use the routes with care and report major damage to the Ridgeway Officer.
Footnote: This project is one of the Additional Mitigation Projects funded by the AONB Review Panel set up under the HS2 project. More information is available in a previous news article below dated 2nd April 2020.
1st July 2021
The feel-good factor of events is even more valued after a year of struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far this year, three events have taken place safely and successfully on The Ridgeway and a further 16 are scheduled to go ahead between now and November. The year started well with the first event on The Ridgeway in April. The Aylesbury-based charity PACE, which provides innovative education for children with sensory motor disorders, raised over £30,000 through it’s BIG Walk event.
Two running events followed in May which turned out to be the UK’s wettest May on record, but runners’ spirits weren’t dampened (too much!). First was the Chiltern Ridge Ultra and one runner from ‘Farnham Runners’ has posted a frank but inspiring story online about her experience, including the highs and lows of training during a pandemic: https://www.farnham-runners.org.uk/press-releases/2021/chiltern-ridge-trail-ultra/. She says, ‘Join a running club, you will make life-long friends and do things you never thought you’d be able to do’. Later in the month, it was a new event called the Goring Gap Run which saw 550 runners doing a loop using The Ridgeway alongside the River Thames.
Having had a promising start to the year, the Ridgeway 2021 events calendar has now been published and is advertising thirteen walking and running events, two cycling events and one motorcycle event between now and November. This bodes well for charities since many participants are fundraising and it is also helpful for The Ridgeway itself as most event organisers donate £1 per participant towards maintenance work on the Trail.
Every year, a network of event organisers work with the Ridgeway Trail Officer to produce an annual Ridgeway events calendar and to share best practice and local knowledge so that Trail events are well-managed. Organisers have been working hard to get to grips with the government’s Covid-secure guidance and fortunately the 2021 events have the advantage of learning from last year, including staggered starts, social distancing ‘starting pens’, one-way systems at checkpoints etc. There is a greater focus on liaison with Safety Advisory Groups, local residents, landowners and others to provide reassurance around safety measures.
Whilst the pandemic situation remains fluid, details are subject to change but the Ridgeway Officer hopes events will go ahead and local communities will greet participants with a warm welcome (from a safe distance!). With a relaxing of restrictions, events could prove useful in the ‘recovery’ of local bed and breakfasts and inns. At the very least, the ‘sweepers’ checking the event routes after the last participant have passed will leave The Ridgeway with less litter than before the event!
Download the Ridgeway 2021 events calendar to find out more.
22nd June 2021
Specialist work is underway on The Ridgeway near Avebury this summer as part of an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) introduced by Wiltshire Council on 1st May 2021.
Whilst restrictions on 4 wheeled vehicles remain in place, the Trail between Hackpen Hill and Overton Hill in Wiltshire is now open to the public on motorcycles as well as on foot, bicycle, horseback and horse-drawn carriage. Over the summer months, information will be gathered by Wiltshire Council and the Ridgeway Officer to improve understanding around the impact of this traffic on the Trail surface. Various factors affect impact, including ground conditions, weight and riding ‘style’. This work is part of a project to improve conservation of archaeology in the World Heritage Site around Avebury and to repair the byway surface to meet National Trail quality standards.
Much of the Trail in the World Heritage Site has a natural, non-engineered surface which is extensively damaged by wheel ruts created by vehicles in the past. Members of the public have complained that these ruts make the Trail difficult to pass along and archaeologists have identified features in the byway, such as prehistoric field boundaries, which have been impacted.
Prior to this experiment, five short sections of the Trail were repaired by infilling the ruts using two different techniques and the ‘experiment’ this summer is to see how these trial repairs, as well as the wider Trail surface, stand up to traffic. The experiment involves observations of areas that are open to the public at all times, as well as areas that are subject to traffic only at times when Wiltshire Council opens them up for controlled observations.
It is important that the public respect the barriers around trial areas and there should be no need to move the barriers since space is available to pass around cordoned-off areas. If there are any problems, the public are invited to contact the Ridgeway Officer or Wiltshire Council as soon as possible.
Following the ETRO, the permanent seasonal TRO which protects the surface of the byway from motorised traffic during the winter will come into force as usual from 1st October. This means the access that motorcyclists enjoyed under the ETRO over the summer will end and their return to the Trail when the permanent TRO ends on 30th April 2022 is subject to review by Wiltshire Council as part of Traffic Regulation Order procedures.
A map showing the stretch of The Ridgeway affected and a legal notice are both on display on the Trail and can be downloaded here: map, notice. More details about this ETRO and other closure orders along the Trail in the World Heritage Site can be obtained from Wiltshire Council. The formal ETRO paperwork for this summer is available to view on the council’s website here: https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/tro-consultation-experimental-order-various-byways. Background information and details of earlier work can be found in news articles below dated 1st May 2020, 9th September 2019, 26th April 2019 and 18th April 2019.
As pandemic restrictions ease, we are welcoming our volunteers back to help us repair and maintain the Trail
It is great to see volunteers doing practical work on The Ridgeway after so long, for so many reasons. Many have been itching to get back out on the Trail and see each other, which is fortunate as we have lots of work for them to help us catch up on!
Volunteers carry out a vital role in carrying out essential work to keep the Trail in good condition. Their first tasks this year involve mowing and brushcutting to keep the route clear of long grass, nettles etc. Later in the year, there will be a concerted effort to address major signage issues and cut back encroaching scrub. All tasks are carried out in a Covid-secure way and passers-by are asked to follow social distancing guidelines.
The group tasks are led by our Volunteer Co-ordinator Lucy Duerdoth, who started in April after our previous team member Andy Mawer left to a new job. Lucy’s time is divided between leading volunteers on The Ridgeway and on the Thames Path National Trail. Her base is a workshop near Oxford, provided by Oxfordshire County Council, where she and volunteers make Trail signs and store equipment and materials.
Last year, the volunteers looking after The Ridgeway and Thames Path were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is popularly known as the MBE for volunteer groups! We are also proud of several of our volunteers who have been helping us for over 10 years. The stories of several of our volunteers are being celebrated as part of National Volunteer Week 2021 which takes place from 1st to 7th June. On 6th June, which is International Trails Day, there will be a campaign on social media by all the National Trails in England and Wales to thank volunteers for the positive difference they make for our Trails: #TrailTribute.
If you see our volunteers working on The Ridgeway, please say ‘Thank you’ – it makes their day to know their work is appreciated.
This spring, all are welcome to visit The Ridgeway but everyone should note that they have a responsibility to follow the government’s Covid-19 guidance, to follow the Countryside Code and to be considerate towards others visiting, working or living around the Trail.
The pandemic has brought changes to the Trail, with many locations being much busier than usual. Many people who didn’t visit the countryside much or at all are now out exploring and the outdoors has become an important place to spend time with family and friends. Across the country, there have been problems such as increased littering and inconsiderate parking, so there has been a national effort to promote the Countryside Code.
The latest government guidance relating to National Trails
Planning ahead is a vital first step, especially under these circumstances where there is a lot of change and during the winter when conditions outdoors can be harsh.
Travelling to the Trail and parking considerately
To minimise travel, only visit The Ridgeway if you haven’t got suitable places to enjoy closer to home. Car parks along The Ridgeway, including National Trust car parks, are staying open during the second lockdown starting 5th November 2020. Car parks can be busy and fill up so plan ahead by having several parking options in mind when you head out. Locations of car parks, including those in nearby towns, can be found on our interactive map – tick ‘Transport’ in the menu to left of map.
Having seen people parking inconsiderately during the first lockdown, we need to make it clear it is not acceptable to park in field entrances or drive along The Ridgeway to park on the verges. It is a road traffic offence to drive on the Trail unless you have landowner permission or where it is a Byway Open to All Traffic without a Traffic Regulation Order imposing restrictions – for details, see our news article below dated 18th April 2019. We work with the police to manage illegal activity on The Ridgeway.
Care for the Trail
It has been more difficult this year to maintain the Trail, with our volunteer practical tasks being curtailed and reduced site visits. We therefore ask visitors to take extra care and help us by reporting problems they see on the Trail to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Stay apart – Act responsibly – Save lives
Crowding is possible around ‘pinchpoints’ such as gates and in busy areas at popular landmarks such as White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire or Coombe Hill in Buckinghamshire. Visitors need to be prepared to stand back to wait until others pass. To reduce the number of people you are likely to meet, take the opportunity to discover quiet places along the Trail and avoid visiting at weekends.
Locations where 2m social distancing may not be possible have been posted on the interactive map on this website so that visitors can plan alternative routes – look for the yellow exclamation marks (!) on the map. These pinchpoints, listed in order from Hertfordshire to Wiltshire, include:
Events on the Trail
Sport, challenge and charity fundraising events involving groups on The Ridgeway have all ended for 2020. Guided group walks are also subject to change due to Covid-19 restrictions. Plans for events in 2021 have yet to be confirmed but event organisers are working with the Ridgeway Officer to launch a new calendar of great, safe events as soon as possible!
Enjoy your visit to The Ridgeway and thank you for your co-operation.
18th December 2020
Thanks to 1,679 people who took part in our Ridgeway Riding Route online survey which was open for nearly a year and closed in October. We now have some great feedback and support to create a popular, high quality off-road route for cyclists and horse riders between Goring-on-Thames in Oxfordshire and Dunstable in Bedfordshire.
Just over 98% of respondents supported our proposal to cater for cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers in the Chilterns. This level of support to create a Ridgeway Riding Route through the Chilterns is a real strength because it will help us attract funding to create the route and ensure the route is well-used when it is launched.
A signposted off-road riding route will help address the difficulties and frustration that many people expressed about using The Ridgeway in the Chilterns currently. One person wrote ‘[It’s] confusing as it constantly changes from footpath to bridleway’ and another wrote ‘As a regular cyclist user of the western part of the Ridgeway, I’ve always been put off heading east due to having to link rideable sections together’. Some made comparisons with opportunities elsewhere, such as ‘I walked [The Ridgeway] 40 years ago, I cycled the South Downs Way this year and would love to do the same with The Ridgeway’.
Interesting findings include a growing interest in e-bikes and a high demand from horse riders for routes that avoid roads. Cyclists were also more likely than walkers to leave their car at home rather than drive to the Trail, flagging the opportunity to reduce visitor car use and carbon footprint by providing good cycle links between settlements and the Ridgeway Riding Route. A small proportion of 16% or 261 people wanted to see improved links between the Trail and public transport.
Local businesses around the area will have opportunities to attract Ridgeway Riding Route visitors, from providing refreshments to stabling to events. Hitching rails, stabling and parking for horse boxes were requested by most horse riders. Numerous people mentioned water taps/troughs as being welcome or even essential. The importance of well-maintained, user-appropriate surfaces was argued by many and several people cautioned against creating a route with a formal or urban ‘character’. Bike hire was of interest to 124 people and e-bike hire to 104.
Over 500 respondents showed an interest in organised horse riding events with entry fees over £5 and nearly 500 were interested in organised off-road cycling events costing over £5. There was also interest from nearly 300 people in guided bike rides costing up to £5.
There was an even spread in terms of people who need signage and those who feel confident using a map without signage. Feedback also pointed out the importance of signage to horse riders since it is ‘difficult to consult a leaflet when on a horse, especially if it is a bit lively!’ Just over half of respondents make use of GPS route downloads whilst 74% use Ordnance Survey maps. Several people mentioned that friends or family often show them good routes, suggesting guided rides and personal recommendations will be useful in spreading the word when the Ridgeway Riding Route initially opens.
Circular routes were popular with over 90% of respondents. The most popular routes were those which avoided roads/traffic, passed landmarks/viewpoints/beauty spots, passed refreshment stops and had ‘great wildlife/nature’ interest. More people (790) expressed an interest in routes which present a physical challenge (distance and/or terrain) than those who wanted to avoid steep climbs (206). However, 683 people wanted routes which were ‘great for novice cyclists and horse riders’ and 377 wanted routes ‘great for families’. This feedback suggests we need to develop a set of circular routes which cater for a range of abilities and fitness.
A detailed report describing the survey findings will be made available in early 2021. Local businesses and donors interested in supporting the project and/or providing services to Ridgeway Riding Route visitors are asked to contact the Ridgeway Officer.
14th August 2020
Following the hard work of event organisers over the past few months, we can look forward to 9 events on the Trail, starting with the running challenge Chiltern Wonderland 50 on Sat 12th September. An updated Ridgeway events calendar has been published to raise awareness and attract support. Three events are dedicated to raising money for local charities – PACE, St Francis Hospice and Rennie Grove – and all events promise an opportunity for people to enjoy exercise and soak up attractive scenery in a Covid-secure way. All 2020 events will be different to previous years as a result of Covid-secure measures being introduced and there will also be lower participant numbers.
Adaptation is vital in recovering from Covid-19 and local charity Rennie Grove is setting an example for the charity sector. Breaking from the norm of the past 11 years, Rennie Grove has re-invented their Chiltern 3 Peaks fundraising event to create a special Covid-secure event which they are calling the Chiltern 2 Peaks Challenge! Rather than the usual Ridgeway linear routes, two circular routes of 8 miles and 12 miles have been designed to take in the two Ridgeway ‘peaks’ of Whiteleaf Hill and Coombe Hill. A special medal and T-shirt have been designed to commemorate the event. Money raised will support the charity’s work to provide specialist care and support for adults and children with life-limiting illness in Buckinghamshire and west Hertfordshire. Care is provided at no cost to patients and families thanks to generous donations.
The sports sector is also adapting – staggered starts, additional marshals, hand sanitizers and so on will be a feature of events for the foreseeable future. Governing bodies such as the Trail Running Association have started to issue permits for events, with the first TRA-permitted event held successfully by Centurion Running along the North Downs Way National Trail in early August. Event videos have since been posted on You Tube demonstrating the ways in which the participants and public were kept safe, including taking runners temperatures upon arrival. Centurion is behind two popular Ridgeway running events planned for this year – Autumn 100 and Chiltern Wonderland 50.
Sarah Wright, the Ridgeway Officer, has been working with several event organisers over the past few months and recently created Covid-secure guidance for Ridgeway events. She says: ‘Responsible event organisers want to ensure their Ridgeway events are safe as well as enjoyable. Participants will be fully briefed and equipped to be Covid-secure. If Trail visitors or local residents see something unsafe taking place, event organisers want to hear from them so that they can address problems.’
This year and next, Ridgeway event organisers will be working with the Ridgeway Officer to share experiences and respond to feedback from participants and local communities in order to adapt to Covid-19. By 2021, it is hoped government guidance will become clearer and everyone will feel more confident about how to keep safe. Whilst Covid-19 persists, it is likely that there will be constraints on the larger scale events that used to take place on The Ridgeway and all events will be subject to change.
Whatever the future holds, the Ridgeway events calendar is a positive sign that people are finding ways to enjoy the Trail and are determined to face up to challenges, including Covid-19.
12th May 2020
Following the Prime Minister’s Covid19 announcement on 10th May, we are developing plans to help the public enjoy The Ridgeway in line with the latest government guidance: www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces.
Watch these two videos for clear advice from the government before you go out:
Stay apart – Act responsibly – Save lives
Only travel to The Ridgeway if you haven’t got suitable places to enjoy closer to home. In usual circumstances we would welcome lots of visitors from near and far but social distancing reduces the numbers of visitors that car parks and the Trail can accommodate. Whilst there are wide parts of the Trail allowing a 2m passing space, there may not be adequate car parking nearby and it is inconsiderate to park on verges and in field entrances. Consider waiting to visit popular beauty spots until after restrictions have eased and always show consideration towards local residents and farmers.
To support people visiting the Trail, we aim to provide information on our website and on social media about locations on The Ridgeway which may be too confined to allow a 2m passing distance; car parks open to visitors and how to take care of yourself and others when out on the Trail. We also need to ask the public to take extra care on the Trail whilst we catch up with maintenance work that has built up during lockdown, including mowing.
Several parking areas along The Ridgeway were never closed during the ‘lockdown’ so they remain open but most are small. The National Trust closed their car parks at several beauty spots along The Ridgeway, including White Horse Hill near Uffington and Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring, and their re-opening plan states most car parks will be open by 21st May, starting a phased opening from 13th May. Barbury Castle’s large car park is managed by Swindon Borough Council and should be open from 13th May. Locations of car parks, including those in nearby towns, can be found on our interactive map – tick ‘Transport’ in the menu to left of map.
There are wide stretches of Trail across the Downs between Avebury and Streatley-on-Thames but there are pinchpoints in the Chilterns. Locations where social distancing may not be possible have been posted on the interactive map on this website so that visitors can plan alternative routes – look for the yellow warning triangles on the map. These pinchpoints include:
Thank you for your patience and co-operation. Stay apart – Act responsibly – Save lives.
1st May 2020
Continuing on from earlier work, the stretch of The Ridgeway in the World Heritage Site near Avebury in Wiltshire will be closed to motor vehicles over the spring and summer months to enable repair works to be completed.
Trial repairs were carried out in four test areas along the Trail in summer 2019 and exceptionally wet weather over the winter means further time is needed for the materials to bed in and grass to establish. In addition to the closure, the test areas have been cordoned off to ensure walkers, cyclists, horse riders and carriage drivers skirt around the repair work. The public using the Trail must also ensure they are following the latest government guidance relating to Covid19.
The closure in force is a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) prohibiting motorised vehicles and applies from 1 May to 30 September 2020. It will be in place during the summer solstice celebrations should they take place, but the first stretch of The Ridgeway and byway Avebury 5 will be open for public access as usual.
Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council Cabinet member for highways, has said: “It’s important we do all we can to protect this area with its archaeological heritage. We are pleased with the results of last year’s repairs, but a few more months are needed to allow the grass to establish properly. Once we’re satisfied the repairs have ‘taken’ properly we will then be able to test them properly to see how robust they are.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause but the repairs required are essential. The subsequent testing will help us and our partners decide how we best protect in the future this part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the National Trail and the internationally protected archaeological features that it contains.”
Following the TTRO, the permanent seasonal TRO which protects the surface of the byway from motorised traffic during the winter will come into force as usual from 1st October.
More details about this TTRO and other closure orders along the Trail in the World Heritage Site can be obtained from Wiltshire Council. The council’s press release is here: www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/ridgeway-closure-extended
Background information and details of earlier work can be found in news articles below dated 9th September 2019, 26th April 2019 and 18th April 2019.
2nd April 2020
Cyclists and horse riders will be pleased to hear a new 3 year project will improve off-road cycling and horse riding opportunities around Wendover. The focus of the project is making The Ridgeway National Trail better cater for riders.
Footpath stretches of the Trail, such as the Trail footpath over Bacombe Hill near Wendover, are open only to walkers so the Ridgeway Partnership has secured a grant to enable the introduction of a riding route to run parallel to the Trail’s footpaths. The grant has been awarded by the Chilterns AONB Review Panel set up under the HS2 project.
Riding in the countryside is great for physical and mental health. Cycling appeals to people in all age groups and the Wendover area is already attractive to cyclists thanks to Wendover Woods and Aston Hill. There are also a number of horse stables in the area. Both cyclists and horse riders are looking for off-road routes to avoid roads busy with traffic and the countryside offers something different to more formal recreational settings such as Wendover Woods.
The Ridgeway Riding Route project will create a good quality off-road route that riders can follow confidently from Pulpit Hill near Princes Risborough to Wendover, and then on to Wendover Woods and further north to Chivery, near Tring. The Ridgeway Riding Route will offer more off-road riding miles, better quality surfaces and clear signage for riders. Local businesses around Wendover should benefit from visitors drawn into the area by the new riding opportunities.
This route will also link in with the cycle route network managed by Sustrans and, in future, will link to proposed riding routes extending further along The Ridgeway National Trail. It is an aspiration of the Ridgeway Partnership that riders will be able to ride off-road from Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire, just as walkers can do currently. They are inviting the public to provide information and views to shape this project through an online survey. Businesses in the area who are interested in catering for cyclists and horse riders are also invited to get in touch with the Ridgeway Officer.
The first phase, planned for early 2020 but subject to change as a result of Covid19 pandemic, is to improve the surfaces of rights of way at the bottom of Bacombe Hill, near Wendover. On these steep, chalk slopes, rain has eroded the bridleway to create a v-shaped gulley that is difficult to walk or ride along, and the chalk and clay surface becomes slippery when wet. Signs will be displayed at Bacombe Hill to keep the public informed.
Footnote: This project is one of the Additional Mitigation Projects funded by the AONB Review Panel set up under the HS2 project.
2nd April 2020
Covid19 has brought dramatic changes to how we can use and manage The Ridgeway
Government advice about going outdoors
At the time of writing this article, government advice requires us to stay at home to minimise the spread of the virus and help the NHS. On 27th March, the government released specific advice about how to stay safe when going outdoors to keep physically and mentally healthy www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces:
We can expect further impacts and changes as the pandemic progresses – check government advice before going out to The Ridgeway: www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Specific information about The Ridgeway
Before going out to the Trail, please note:
In these circumstances, many people’s routine visits to The Ridgeway are curtailed, whilst day trippers and holidaymakers are seeking to cancel their visits. Events along The Ridgeway have been cancelled or postponed, much to the disappointment of event participants raising money for charity and investing time and effort into training for their event. Some regular visitors who would usually drive to the Trail can no longer visit because non-essential travel is not permitted. Some dogs and their owners are missing their twice-a-day walks.
Positive outcomes for The Ridgeway
This situation is difficult and, unfortunately, sad. But there could be a silver lining; it may be that some of the changes forced upon us will prove positive in the longterm.
Having to minimise how much driving we do is making us reduce our carbon footprint and find what we need in the local area. People who might otherwise drive to The Ridgeway are walking or riding to The Ridgeway and benefiting from the exercise. People living locally to the Trail may be using the Trail more often or even be visiting The Ridgeway for the first time, including young people and families. With the closure of gyms, runners are discovering what the Trail has to offer and everyone is more generally linking The Ridgeway to keeping fit and feeling calmed. The onset of the restrictions coincided with spring, bringing nature into focus with blossom, spring flowers and birdsong along the Trail. The quietness of a society stuck indoors will enhance tranquillity too, perhaps making it easier to see and hear wildlife and worry less about traffic on the road crossings. This situation also makes us appreciate how we are one large community and understand the positive difference a friendly greeting on the Trail can make to someone feeling low. All this enhances our connection with nature and each other, and creates memories on the Trail. It makes us all realise we need to look after our environment and The Ridgeway specifically because it looks after us.
If this situation inspires you to help us care for The Ridgeway, it is simple to do so. Join the charity Friends of the Ridgeway for only £8 a year www.ridgewayfriends.org.uk/join-us/ and/or donate to one of our current projects such as a new bench: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/news/show-you-care-ridgeway
Keep well and enjoy your next visit to The Ridgeway, whenever that might be.
18th November 2019
To help us develop our Ridgeway Riding Route project, the Ridgeway Officer has opened an online survey inviting people to share their ideas.
There are 14 questions to gather information about what sorts of improvements could encourage people to enjoy more cycling and horse riding in the Ridgeway area and about people’s current use of the Trail. Views from landowners are also important since some may be able to offer to create connecting routes or upgrade footpaths to bridleways. Businesses may be interested in proposing new services for cyclists and horse riders, such as accommodation, cycle repair, refreshments, etc.
Particularly welcome are ideas as to how we can cater for riders where the Trail follows footpaths through the Chilterns, and this is addressed by the last question in the survey. Do you know any great riding routes in the following areas?
1. Stretch of Ridgeway along Grim’s Ditch and through Ewelme Park and Swyncombe Park (near Wallingford, Oxfordshire).
2. Lodge Hill stretch near Bledlow and Saunderton (near Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire).
3. Whiteleaf to Wendover stretch (near Princes Risborough and Wendover, Buckinghamshire).
4. Short footpath stretch past Chivery (near St Leonards, Buckinghamshire).
5. Stretch from Tring Park to Ivinghoe Beacon / Ashridge estate (near Tring, Hertfordshire).
The more people who take part in the survey, the more information we will have to help us shape a project that has lots of benefits for lots of people. Please spread the word about the survey! Thank you.
18th September 2019
Cyclists can enjoy riding the Trail from Avebury to Goring-on-Thames but, from Goring to Ivinghoe through the Chilterns, there are footpath stretches which are not legally open to cyclists.
Occasional Chilterns stretches of The Ridgeway offer pleasant off-road cycling and riding events for mountain bikes and XC bikes. Cycling off-road is a great way to escape road traffic and discover more miles of the countryside. Cycling events using The Ridgeway can also give you the ideas and confidence to try different routes, learning from the pros. Considerate cyclists are very welcome to enjoy The Ridgeway and we are working with Cycling UK to promote the ‘Be Nice, Say Hi’ campaign.
Around The Ridgeway there are some great routes and mountain bike centres, as illustrated by the list below. In addition, cyclists can look forward to improved provision in future years as the Ridgeway Riding Route is rolled out in the Chilterns, offering a signed route for cyclists to follow for over 40 miles between Goring and Ivinghoe.
However, The Ridgeway is not suitable for every type of cyclist and alternative places better suited to these cyclists are listed below. Trails through the countryside are shared spaces so everyone needs to ‘Be Nice, Say Hi’ and be considerate of others including walkers, horse riders, livestock etc as per the Countryside Code and Cycling UK’s code of practice, for example. (Did you know that cyclists are legally obliged to give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways?). If you are a mountain biker after technical challenges such as fast downhills and lots of twists and turns, The Ridgeway will feel tame. Places dedicated to mountain biking are better than the Trail for racing, jumping and shouting because there is not the risk of conflict with livestock, dogs and other people using The Ridgeway. The surface of the Trail is also not suitable for road bikes and it is not appropriate to tarmac the Trail to make it so. Family groups and less fit cyclists may also find the surface difficult to manage and may be better to focus on off-road National Cycle Network routes managed by Sustrans, especially those following old railway lines like the Phoenix Trail near Princes Risborough.
Here are some tips to make the most of your outings on your bicycle:
Take part in a guided bike ride or challenge event along The Ridgeway to discover the best (and legal!) riding routes around the Trail. OTEC, TrailBreak and Evans Cycles organise events in the Chilterns, whilst other parts of the Trail outside the Chilterns are used by Swindon MTB club and Evans Cycles. There is even the Wallingford Festival of Cycling every summer! As the Ridgeway Riding Route gets rolled out, there is bound to be more bike events in the Chilterns. Check out the Trail’s event calendar and let us know of any off-road cycling events we can promote.
There are more thrills and challenges at dedicated mountain bike centres where you can race, jump and shout without worrying about upsetting walkers, livestock, landowners and other users you can come across along The Ridgeway. These centres offer trails designed for beginners (green trails), intermediate riders (blue) and advanced riders (red).
Circular bike rides in the Chilterns
There are numerous books, online blogs, leaflets and magazine articles describing great circular bike rides in the Chilterns; below is a sample for the Ridgeway area. The Ridgeway Partnership is currently working on creating a set of good quality circular rides linked to the Trail and will be promoting these soon! Riding off-road is a great way to avoid traffic – some Chilterns A and B roads and even narrow country lanes can be busy and fast with traffic, especially during weekday rush hour and weekends in good weather.
Family-friendly, easy routes linking to The Ridgeway
9th September 2019
History permeates The Ridgeway and this history is what a lot of people value most about the Trail. In some areas, The Ridgeway is an ‘archaeo-reserve’ because archaeology in adjacent fields has been damaged or lost through ploughing or development. The highlight of the Trail’s history is the World Heritage Site at the end of The Ridgeway near Avebury in Wiltshire – this landscape is internationally important for its archaeology.
As an historic routeway, work to repair or improve the surface of the Trail needs to take into account the archaeological interest. Some surfacing techniques which involve digging and levelling, for example, would damage or obscure archaeological features and artefacts at the surface and below the surface.
In the World Heritage Site, the Trail needs to be repaired because people are complaining that ruts caused by modern vehicles driving along the byway are making it difficult to walk, cycle or horse ride along The Ridgeway. A video has been made to show the damage along the Trail – click here to see the video.
Along The Ridgeway byway passing through the World Heritage Site, archaeologists have carried out surveys to confirm the locations of features such as Bronze Age field boundaries within the Trail corridor itself. A number of features cross the track and are not confined to the grass verge. This means repair work to address the ruts caused by modern vehicles driving along the Trail in the World Heritage Site must be done carefully, to ensure archaeology is conserved.
During September 2019, Wiltshire Council is managing a contractor to trial surface repair techniques in 4 trial areas along The Ridgeway in the World Heritage Site. With agreement from landowners, machinery will be taken along the edge of the fields adjacent to the Trail and a ‘long arm’ will reach over the Trail to deposit chalk precisely into the ruts created by modern vehicles. In-filling the ruts will create a surface that is easier for the public to pass along but retain the ‘lumps and bumps’ of historic field boundaries, pits, enclosures and ridge and furrow. The trial areas will be cordoned off, with notices on display to ask the public to pass around the trial areas to allow the material to settle into the ruts and grass to establish. There should also be no vehicles to damage the repair work since there is a Traffic Regulation Order in force which makes it illegal for the public to drive 4 wheel vehicles or motorbikes along The Ridgeway in this area – click here for details in a related news article.
These trials will inform future work to repair ruts created by modern vehicles in a way which does not have a detrimental impact on archaeology. This future work includes repairs to the full extent of severe ruts in the World Heritage Site. The Friends of the Ridgeway welcome donations of any amount towards this important project – click here.
13th August 2019
Now, more than ever, is the time to show your support for The Ridgeway.
Unfortunately, the annual grant from central government to England’s National Trails was reduced by 5% this year and, with the current economic climate as it is, there is a risk of cuts in future. The Ridgeway grant this year is only £64,025*, making fundraising a critical activity for the Ridgeway Partnership and particularly for the delivery of large budget projects such as surface repairs in the World Heritage Site and the Ridgeway Riding Route in the Chilterns. We need tens of thousands of pounds simply to repair the surface of the Trail but we also aspire to manage the Trail for wildlife, provide information to visitors about the Ridgeway’s history and improve provision for cyclists and horse riders.
Each Trail needs to build local support amongst the public and local businesses. This compliments the work of the ‘family’ of National Trails to strengthen support amongst Westminster politicians and government departments.
You can make a difference by joining as a member of ‘Friends of the Ridgeway’, a charity established in 1982. It only costs £8 a year to be a member, it is easy to join online and the charity will campaign to preserve the National Trail on your behalf – see Friends of the Ridgeway website.
You may also be inspired to donate to some great Ridgeway projects listed below. There are more projects in the pipeline but these are our current projects. We rely on donations and project grants for these projects because our budget is so tight. Help make these projects happen by donating any amount to the Friends of the Ridgeway, stating your chosen project when you make the donation:
Donations do make a difference. This year’s improvements to the Trail surface near the Uffington White Horse were funded by donations raised by walking, running and cycling events held on The Ridgeway. Each year, events such as Dixons Carphone ‘Race to the Stones’ make a donation and demonstrate how people can enjoy the Trail and help the Trail at the same time.
Thank you to everyone who values and supports The Ridgeway – we need your support!
*Footnote: Much of the annual DEFRA grant covers salaries for the part-time Trail Officer, Volunteer Co-ordinator and Office Administrator. This means the tens of thousands of pounds required to repair the surface of the Trail in the World Heritage Site or to deliver the Ridgeway Riding Route project, for example, must be attracted through fundraising from various sources.
18th June 2019
This summer Bury Down is looking more colourful than previous years. There are blocks of flowers in the verges, including kidney vetch, ox-eye daisy and mignonette. Bees and other insects are visiting these flowers to enjoy their nectar.
These flower-rich blocks mark experimental plots set up last year by Chris Woodham, a PhD student from Oxford University. Chris is carrying out research into how linear routes open to the public can be managed for biodiversity. There are numerous plots in the verges and they are being managed differently to test different management scenarios. The most flower-rich plots are those where the grass and top layer of soil was removed and then sown with wildflower seeds.
Other plots were not sown with seeds but there is a greater diversity and increased number of flowering plants compared to the verge areas outside the experimental plots. Whilst it is early days, the research is suggesting that cutting and removing grass at Bury Down boosts biodiversity.
It is important that the plots are not disturbed and we hope the public (and their dogs) will not trample the plants or enter the plots. The plots are set back into the wide verges away from the wide, worn track so it is unlikely the public will disturb the experiment.
Over the next 2 years, Chris will be liaising with local farmers and landowners to explore how his findings could be applied in the wider landscape. This summer’s flowers have inspired The Ridgeway Partnership to look into how the Trail’s verges could be managed to create a buzzing, flower-rich strip extending along the length of the Trail like a colourful ribbon through the landscape.
Updates about the Oxford University research are detailed in the Ridgeway newsletter and regularly posted on Twitter under the hashtag #ConnectedRidgeway. Please contact the Ridgeway Officer or Chris Woodham if you would like to volunteer to help manage or survey the plots, donate money towards managing The Ridgeway’s verges or own/farm land along The Ridgeway.
12th June 2019
Walkers, cyclists and horse riders can now look forward to using The Ridgeway near the famous Uffington White Horse thanks to repairs carried out to the surface in March. These repairs were funded by Oxfordshire County Council and by donations from several organised events held along The Ridgeway in 2017 and 2018, including Dixons Carphone Warehouse ‘Race to the Stones’.
With years of erosion, the track was bare of grass and the exposed chalk bedrock was being washed smooth, making it very slippery when wet. The steep slope meant that water flowing downhill had cut channels into the surface. Chalk is particularly prone to water erosion because it is relatively soft and soluble and the different heights between the verge and the track in this location shows how much material can be lost over the years! A lot of people were diverting onto the verge to avoid the worn track, putting chalk grassland flowers such as common spotted orchid at risk of being trampled.
Limestone was brought in from quarries in Oxfordshire to fill in the gullied track and create a level surface. Contractors Aztec carried out the work, taking 5 days to complete and leaving the verge untouched. With kind weather and no vehicles passing over, the material is bedding down for the longterm. The before and after photos to the right show the improvements.
Thank you to the events donating towards this project – SENSE Ridgewalk, Ridgeway Rhino, Ridgeway Relay (Marlborough Running Club), CRUK Ridgeway Walk, Dixons Carphone Warehouse Race to the Stones, TRA Ridgeway Challenge 86, Wessex TREC, XNRG Druid’s Challenge, Centurion Autumn 100, Centurion Chiltern Wonderland, Cycle-tec MTB Marathon Wantage, Cycle Classics White Road Classic.
12th June 2019
It took 8 years but finally Bela Hatvany, aged 80, reached Overton Hill in April this year. Starting on Ivinghoe Beacon in October 2011, it has proven to be a test of commitment to complete the Trail’s 87 miles.
Most significantly, Bela was struck by pneumonia in 2018 and very nearly died. ‘It was a real victory to make it through to the finish line in his 80th year, with a 25km walk on the last 2 days!’, said his son, Sandor.
It was also an international effort because Bela now lives in France and his sons in the US. Why travel so far to go for a walk? Sandor replies, ‘My father was born in England so we like to come back but also the walking is much more open and unrestricted in the UK compared to the US. Years ago, as my father and I were walking in California and accidentally went astray, we were accosted by a helicopter and a loudspeaker telling us we were on private property and to get off immediately! Pretty sure nothing like that would happen on the Ridgeway… but the route is so incredibly well marked, it would be hard to stray too far.’
The Ridgeway also seemed an ideal choice for Bela because the terrain is relatively level and the hillforts and other historic features add interest. ‘You really feel the centuries connect as you walk’, said Sandor. ‘There were also stunning views stretching as far as the eye could see’.
Bela completed The Ridgeway over seven visits, with friends and family keeping him company. He explained, ‘All my life I have enjoyed walking with family and friends along the footpaths. Usually we take a train to a little station, walk, stop at a pub or eat a sandwich, walk, camp or stay at a B&B, walk etc. All the time we are enjoying each other’s company, talking and rejoicing in the extraordinary privilege of using this amazing network.’
12th June 2019
Cycling and horse riding is a great way to explore the countryside and get some exercise. However, cyclists and horse riders cannot use the full length of The Ridgeway National Trail because it follows 22 miles of footpath in the Chilterns. The Ridgeway Partnership wants to address this by creating a Ridgeway Riding Route in the Chilterns, following the example of the South Downs Way National Trail.
The public do not have a legal right to ride on public footpaths – it is trespass to do so without landowner permission. Our online map of the Trail shows the parts of the Trail where cyclists and horse riders can ride – click on the Cycling and Equestrian tabs. However, we have been aware for many years that cyclists are using the Trail’s footpaths and this is a sign there is demand for off-road cycling in the area, particularly where roads are busy.
The National Travel Survey carried out by the Department for Transport suggests that around 42% of the population owns a bicycle – that’s millions of people! British Cycling’s State of Cycling 2019 report discovered that two thirds of their 15,000 members were concerned about their safety on roads. Cycling UK and Open MTB carried out a survey in 2016 asking their supporters about off-road cycling and, of the 11,482 respondents, 52% said they ride on footpaths to avoid traffic danger. This survey also revealed 66% of rides were local (i.e. from home) and around 35% were interested in riding The Ridgeway specifically in future.
We are also seeing an increased interest in horse riding. The British Equestrian Trade Association’s National Equestrian Survey 2019 has revealed an increase in horse riding over the past five years. Rider numbers are at 3 million and there has been an increase in those regularly riding at least once a month.
In response to these observations, The Ridgeway Partnership has been working with the British Horse Society and Cycling UK to develop a ‘Ridgeway Riding Route’. The Ridgeway Partnership has an ambition to make it possible for cyclists and horseriders to enjoy a good quality route from Overton Hill near Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring, just as walkers do.
The Ridgeway Riding Route project will involve surveying routes around the footpath stretches of the National Trail in the Chilterns and talking to landowners along these routes. We will also talk to relevant businesses along the routes about how we can provide services to cyclists and horse riders and support the local economy, including cycle shops, riding stables and B&Bs. We will ensure the route connects up with existing off-road riding routes such as the Phoenix Trail (an off-road riding route between Princes Risborough and Thame) and the Grand Union Canal at Wendover and Tring. In some cases it will be straight-forward to install signage along connecting bridleways and provide cycle stands and hitching posts at resting places, but in other areas there may be a need to repair or upgrade surfaces and explore options to create new routes or upgrade footpaths to bridleway or restricted byway status. And we will need to fundraise too of course!
This will be a project that takes years to complete and will be realised in phases. The stretches of Trail footpath dictate distinct project areas:
If you would like to indicate your support for the project, share ideas on what may or may not work, volunteer to help, donate money or sponsor all or part of the project, please contact the Ridgeway Officer. We will soon have a questionnaire online to gather useful information and feedback from the public. Updates about the project will be provided in the Ridgeway newsletter and on the Ridgeway’s news webpages.
24th May 2019
UPDATE: ONLINE BOOKINGS ARE NO LONGER BEING TAKEN. ON SATURDAY 29TH JUNE IT IS POSSIBLE TO TURN UP ON THE DAY AND LOOK ROUND THE EXHIBITION FOR FREE. IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO BUY TICKETS ON THE DOOR FOR TALKS AND WORKSHOPS, BUT THIS IS DEPENDENT ON SPACES BEING AVAILABLE.
Follow in the footsteps of famous artists, writers and photographers including Robert Macfarlane, Richard Jefferies, Eric Ravilious and Fay Godwin, by joining us for a day of talks and workshops on Saturday 29th June 2019 at St Dunstan’s church in Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire.
Anna Dillon, landscape painter, and James Crowden, published poet, will share their experiences of The Ridgeway and show us theirs and others’ work inspired by walks along the Trail and visits to related landmarks and places. Mike Pringle, from the Richard Jefferies museum, will focus on the great nature writer Jefferies who enjoyed The Ridgeway in the 19th century. After a BBQ lunch, there will be afternoon workshops at the church and on Whiteleaf Hill offering you the opportunity to explore outdoor photography, art journalling and poetry. Paul Mitchell (photographer), Jo Beal (artist and maker), James Crowden (writer) and Chris Kirkham (local historian) will be leading the workshops.
The 11th century church of St Dunstan’s makes an ideal setting for creative inspiration, with it’s deep history and artwork including painted Penn tiles on its floor. Beyond the church, there is rich material for the outdoor workshops. Monks Risborough is a historic village with thatched cottages lying at the foot of the Chiltern Hills marked by the Whiteleaf Cross (a chalk mark). Whiteleaf Hill is a nature reserve on the hills above the village, offering panoramic views across the vales and chalk grassland flowers.
A free entry exhibition of artwork inspired by The Ridgeway will be on show in the church hall throughout the day, illustrating how today’s artists respond to the Trail. Artworks, books and cards will be on sale.
Tickets must be booked in advance by completing the booking form attached below and making a payment of £10 per person via our online donation page: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/donate.
An event flyer, programme and booking form can be downloaded below.
The Ridgeway Partnership is hosting this event to raise awareness of The Ridgeway National Trail and to encourage people to visit the Trail to enjoy it and get creative too! We are thankful to the congregation and Reverend of St Dunstan’s for hosting us and hope the event will prove a great start to this year’s Princes Risborough town festival which runs from 29th June to 6th July.
26th April 2019
The Ridgeway through the World Heritage Site near Avebury will NOT open to the public driving cars and motorbikes this summer – usually people can drive on this part of the Trail from 1st May to 30th September. Wiltshire Council have organised a closure of this stretch of Byway Open to All Traffic to allow surface repair work to be carried out.
The closure affects The Ridgeway from Hackpen Hill to just north of the parking area adjacent to the A4 at Overton Hill (the Trail between the A4 northwards to the connecting byway Avebury 5 will be open for public access as usual). Wiltshire Council has produced a map showing the extent of the affected stretch and this map can be downloaded from this webpage – two green dots on the map mark the extent of The Ridgeway closed to vehicles.
Walkers, cyclists, horse riders and horse and carriage drivers are not affected by the closure at all – they can continue to use the route at all times.
Over the years, the wheels of motor vehicles have rutted the byway surface to such an extent that the Trail is difficult to use and archaeological features have suffered damage. The Trail Team regularly receive complaints about the surface in the World Heritage Site and have been working with Wiltshire Council and others over the years to monitor the condition of the surface and identify suitable repair techniques.
Notices of the Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) are out on display along the affected stretch of The Ridgeway to inform the public of the closure, including a map showing what part of The Ridgeway is closed to vehicles. Cars and motorbikes seen driving along this section of The Ridgeway this summer should be reported to the police for them to deal with – please do not confront the drivers.
For more information about this closure, see Wiltshire Council’s press release: www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/repair-works-to-ridgeway-national-trail
For more information about driving cars or motorbikes or other mechanically propelled vehicles on The Ridgeway within and beyond the World Heritage Site, please see news article dated 18th April 2019.
18th April 2019
Some people may remember the days, over ten years ago, when The Ridgeway was a popular place to drive a car or motorbike ‘off-road’ – so much so that the Trail was churned to mud across its full width in some places.
These days, a visit to The Ridgeway is very different, with far fewer vehicles and also far less mud! This article provides an overview for the general public as to how the driving of cars and other vehicles is currently managed and what to do if you think someone is driving illegally on the Trail. The history and legislation is complicated but understanding where and when you can drive a car or motorbike on The Ridgeway these days is fortunately much easier to grasp.
In summary, the public can drive a car or motorbike on The Ridgeway only if it is a Byway Open to All Traffic AND there is no Traffic Regulation Order restricting this public right. There is not a public right to drive cars or motorbikes along The Ridgeway where it follows public footpaths, bridleways or restricted byways. When out on The Ridgeway, the public can refer to signage along the full length of the Trail to check their public access rights.
One of the most dramatic changes to The Ridgeway took place in 2006 when a change in the law brought about the immediate reclassification of former ‘Roads Used as Public Paths’ (RUPPs) to ‘Restricted Byways’. Restricted Byways are open to walkers, cyclists, horse riders and horses with carriages but not mechanically propelled vehicles (MPVs) such as 4x4s and motorbikes. This change of status affected the many miles of RUPPs along The Ridgeway in Oxfordshire, thus removing public rights to drive cars, motorbikes and other MPVs along those stretches of Trail.
Whilst traffic has reduced, it is still possible to come across cars, tractors and other vehicles on The Ridgeway. Firstly, landowners have private rights which are separate from legislative arrangements for public rights. Farmers, for example, can drive their tractors along The Ridgeway and landowners can give permission for people to drive over their land. Disabled people using mobility scooters or trampers can also legally ‘drive’ their trampers on footpaths and other rights of way.
It is also legal for anyone to drive mechanically propelled vehicles along Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs), as long as there are no Traffic Regulation Orders in force. BOATs are open to walkers, cyclists, horse riders, horses with carriages and mechanically propelled vehicles (MPVs). In Wiltshire much of The Ridgeway follows stretches of BOATs. There are minor stretches of BOAT in West Berkshire, Swindon and Buckinghamshire too, all under 5 miles, and none in Hertfordshire or Oxfordshire. However, all of The Ridgeway’s BOATs except a short stretch in Swindon Borough are covered by Traffic Regulation Orders put in force by the councils in 2004/5. Traffic Regulation Orders restrict public rights and, for The Ridgeway TRO specifically, the order makes it an offence to drive mechanically propelled vehicles on the Trail in the winter months when the surface is prone to getting churned up. In Wiltshire, the 2004 order allows access for mechanically propelled vehicles only between 1st May and 30th September. To make the public aware of the TRO arrangements, there are signs on display along The Ridgeway’s BOATs. The police also patrol the Trail to apprehend people who are illegally driving on The Ridgeway.
Thames Valley and Wiltshire police continue to address isolated incidents – there have been vehicle confiscations linked to illegal driving of motor-vehicles on the Trail, as recently as 2019.
Members of the public witnessing illegal activity should:
In response to these restrictions and other opportunities, organisations have formed to protect and promote the interests of people who want to take their cars and other mechanically propelled vehicles onto BOATs and other rights of way. The Trail Riders Fellowship is an example and, in 2005/6, the TRF made an application under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 requiring Oxfordshire County Council to investigate whether the law allowed for the Restricted Byway stretches of The Ridgeway to be revised to the status of Byways Open to All Traffic. A BOAT is ‘a highway over which the public have a right of way for vehicular and all other kinds of traffic, but one used mainly for the purposes for which footpaths and bridleways are used…’. The council carried out consultation in 2018 to gather available evidence for their investigation. The Ridgeway Officer provided information about how the Trail has been promoted to walkers, cyclists and horse riders since it was designated by the Secretary of State in 1972. The Friends of the Ridgeway and other partners on the Ridgeway Partnership also responded to the consultation.
In January 2019, Oxfordshire County Council’s Countryside Records Team and Legal Team determined that The Ridgeway in Oxfordshire is correctly recorded as a Restricted Byway. The council concluded that any public rights of way for MPVs were extinguished by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. The council’s report rejected a key point made in the TRF applications as follows: ‘In effect, NERCA [Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006] has drawn a line under the historic use of routes by horse drawn vehicles equating to mechanically propelled vehicles of today.’ For the public, this determination means it remains illegal to drive an MPV on the Trail in Oxfordshire unless you have a private right to do so. For more information about the decision, documents are available for inspection at the Council’s office at Countryside Records, County Hall, New Road, Oxford OX1 1ND – telephone 01865 810808 to make an appointment.
For anyone wanting to drive an MPV on The Ridgeway, it is important they make themselves familiar with how to do so legally. There are organisations offering advice and events, such as the Trail Riders Fellowship www.trf.org.uk for motorcyclists and GLASS www.glass-uk.org/ for 4×4 drivers.
Always plan ahead and think ‘Where and when?’ to ensure your use of The Ridgeway is legal. We will soon publish on this website a map showing the locations of BOAT stretches along the Trail, as well as details as to what dates any Traffic Regulation Orders apply to them. It is also important to check the Ridgeway’s news pages on this website as sometimes temporary or emergency closures are put in place and sometimes at short notice, e.g. wet ground conditions in May 2018 gave rise to an urgent closure order near Avebury. When out on the Trail, also check for signage on and around the Trail so you know you are driving in the right area.
Anybody legitimately using The Ridgeway in a mechanically propelled vehicle should be considerate of other users and adapt their driving style to suit the weather and surface conditions. There are ‘codes of conduct’ promoted in various locations across the country but a few key tips for driving on The Ridgeway where it is legal to do so include:
Past articles linked to this article are dated 1st March 2019 and 15th June 2018.
15th June 2018
The consultation closed on 20 March 2018 and Oxfordshire County Council will consider all the responses received to the consultation and whether the applications meet the first legal test: If motor vehicular rights were extinguished by the NERC Act 2006.
If OCC finds the rights were extinguished – they will reject the application. The applicants could appeal to the Secretary of State and the council’s decision could be overturned.
If OCC finds the rights were not extinguished – they would need to investigate a second test: If motor vehicular rights existed before 2006.
You can check the progress of an application by looking at the ‘Pending DMMO Case List’ which is updated monthly.
Note: Original article posted March 1st.
2nd May 2018
A byway section of The Ridgeway near Avebury is closed to cars and motorbikes until 21st May due to wet weather making the surface vulnerable to damage. Usually at this time of year, the public would be allowed to drive on The Ridgeway between Overton Hill and Hackpen Hill. The first day of May is when this stretch usually re-opens after being closed over the winter (1st October to 30th April) under a seasonal Traffic Regulation Order.
However, in the last week of April this year, there was mud and standing water still on the Trail. Along this stretch, the Trail is already difficult for walkers, cyclists and horse riders to use due to extensive wheel ruts, so the closure to vehicles protects against further damage. Protection of this stretch is also important for the earthworks and below-ground archaeology associated with the Trail where it passes through a World Heritage Site.
With the Trail in poor condition, Wiltshire Council have made it illegal for the public to drive cars or motorbikes along the stretch from Green Street to Hackpen Hill for the next three weeks. This initial closure may be extended by another 21 days if the council considers it necessary.
Notices and maps have been put up on The Ridgeway to inform the public about the closure and about an alternative route. Connecting byways have also been closed to vehicles so that drivers do not reach a dead-end at The Ridgeway. Emergency vehicles and landowners are allowed ‘essential’ access. Further details can be sought from Wiltshire Council: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/byway-closed-to-aid-ridgeway-recovery
Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and would like to thank the public for their understanding and co-operation.”
Walkers, horse riders, cyclists and carriage drivers are not affected by this closure order and so can continue to use the Trail.