Back in June, to celebrate my 41st birthday, I set off with a friend to walk the Ridgeway. This is one of Britain’s oldest paths, going from Avebury to Aylesbury – or you can walk it the other way round, which is what we did. This meant we ended in the amazing landscape of Avebury, although the scenery on that last stage was less exciting than (what was for us) the opening stages.
The Ridgeway was adopted as a national trail in 1972, and the route is 87 miles. Adding in the journeys to and from the accommodation, this worked out as pretty much 100 miles over 5 days. As well as the Avebury complex, the route takes in amazing locations including the Uffington White Horse, the grave at Wayland Smithy and several hill forts, supposedly built to protect this ancient trading route.
Unlike the South Downs Way, there’s a real feeling of following a path, with the trail unwinding relentlessly in front of you.
On the first day, the track crossed the driveway of Chequers,the Prime Minister’s country house. We were walking a few weeks after the election, when Teresa May had admitted the naughtiest thing she had done as a child: running cornfields. The cornfields around Chequers contained imposing warning signs, but I’m not sure if they were there to warn walkers, or to warn off the Prime Minster.
The month I picked to walk with Dan turned out to be the hottest June since the year I was born – a year sometimes referred to as the ladybird summer, since the hot conditions caused a plagues of them. I found my thoughts straying a lot to politics – the new Queen’s Speech was voted on while we were hiking. Out here, in the English countryside, I felt the presence of the upheavals ahead for the country.
The other great thing about the Ridgeway is that it is a chalk path. Most of my walking has been done around the South Downs, so I feel at home on chalk.