An ancient complex of tracks runs along the steep northern scarps of the broad band of chalk down-land underlying the Chiltern Hills and the North Wessex and Dorset Downs. This ancient trade route may date back to the Neolithic period when the Stonehenge and Avebury monuments were built at the centre of a flourishing civilisation in Wessex, and link these settlements to harbours on the Norfolk and Dorset coasts, and to resources such as the Grimes Graves flint mines near Thetford.
The 87-mile central portion of this route, between the Ivinghoe Beacon hill-fort near Tring and Avebury in Wiltshire, was designated in 1972 as the Ridgeway National Trail.
But the rest of the 400-mile route, incorporating the Icknield Way path to the north, and the Wessex Ridgeway in Dorset, is less well defined.
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The Friends of The Ridgeway is a registered charity (No 1107926). We rely on the support of our members and from donations. We are committed to preserving the spirit of the Ridgeway.
We are always looking for new members to join us to help preserve the spirit of The Ridgeway. Our annual membership rates and further information on joining can be found by clicking on the button below. You will receive regular e-Newsletters with campaign updates, articles of general interest about The Ridgeway and news on recent publications.
The Friends of the Ridgeway
The Friends of the Ridgeway is a registered charity (No 1107926). We are a voluntary organisation set up in 1982 to preserve and maintain the special nature of the Ridgeway National Trail, mainly in response to its abuse west of the Thames by off-road vehicles. Although we have had a lot of success in this respect, vehicles on the Ridgeway are a recurring problem and remain a focus of our attention. We collaborate with other organisations, such as the Wiltshire and Oxfordshire Councils’ departments that deal with rights of way, the police and the British Horse Society to maintain safe places for us all to enjoy. We work with the Ridgeway Partnership and others to promote its value to the whole community as an essential part of everyone’s life and heritage. We represent any concerns about the Ridgeway to those responsible for its maintenance. We also raise funds for maintenance of the Trail by the Ridgeway Partnership.
The Ridgeway is more than a walking trail – it is a historic monument, an artistic inspiration, a natural environment and more. We seek to engage people living near to and using the Ridgeway in activities that spread knowledge and appreciation of its wealth of historic, artistic and environmental features.
Our other main objective is to work with other associations, councils and well-wishers to create a coast-to-coast path from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Hunstanton in north Norfolk. We have called this path the Great Chalk Way, as it faithfully follows the chalk ridge that spans the entire width of southern England. It is also thought to be England’s oldest path, having been used as a link between places of historic occupation for thousands of years, and is sometimes referred to as the Ancient Ridgeway.
We consider the Great Chalk Way to be a family of long-distance paths, which link the Ridgeway National Trail (87 miles long) to the east coast in Norfolk by way of the Icknield Way (110 miles long) and Peddars Way (49 miles long); and to the south coast in Dorset by way of the Sarsen Way via Salisbury and the Cranborne Droves Way (51 miles long) and 66 miles of the Wessex Ridgeway. Like the Ridgeway, the Peddars Way is a National Trail.
We established the Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize, an annual competition, in order to bring the Ridgeway to life as an artistic inspiration, and to show the Ridgeway, its history and environs, in all their aspects throughout all seasons.
As a registered Charity the Friends have raised significant amounts of funding for projects, mainly those undertaken by the Ridgeway Partnership, to improve its facilities, but also including the Oxford Plant Sciences Department Project.
Our Information Leaflet is available to download and print here.
Our Latest News
The Friends of the Ridgeway are delighted to announce that the Ridgeway Friends Day and Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize Exhibition will be held next year on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April 2022. Full details can be seen on the Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize 2022 Webpage
Anna Dillon, who designed our Friends of the Ridgeway logo, is a passionate lover of the Ridgeway and adjacent countryside, which she captures with her distinctive style of painting. Anna has teamed up with aerial landscape photographer Hedley Thorne to produce an...
A new-look newsletter coinciding with the Ridgeway getting back to normal, with articles on Trail events and maintenance that resumed at the start of summer. Anthony Burdall describes the outcomes of this year’s Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize, with the winning works for...