The Ridgeway Partnership
National Trails were introduced after World War II by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. Starting with the Pennine Way in 1965, The Ridgeway was officially opened in 1973 and the England Coast Path is the latest addition to the ‘family’ of National Trails.
National Trails have always benefited from central government funding, enabling higher standards than those applied to the ordinary rights of way looked after by highway authorities (usually local authorities). Over the years, annual grants have been disbursed through the series of countryside quangos reporting to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), currently Natural England (NE). With its budget under pressure, NE called in 2013 for a New Deal for National Trails, whereby management responsibility was delegated to new Trail Partnerships. The Friends of the Ridgeway’s Chairman at the time, Ian Ritchie, and charity Secretary Jeff Goddard played a significant role in setting up the new Partnership for The Ridgeway.
Responsibility for the management, improvement, promotion and fundraising for The Ridgeway National Trail was assumed, from 1st April 2015, by a new Ridgeway Partnership, which continues to manage the Trail to this day. The Partners include all the local authorities along the route, the Friends of the Ridgeway, The North Wessex Downs AONB and the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Chiltern Society, the Ramblers, the British Horse Society, the Disabled Ramblers, the Country Landowners Association, and more. The Partnership’s Chair from 2015 to 2018 was Ian Ritchie, previously Chair of Friends of the Ridgeway, and has since been followed by Simon Kearey, Chair of the Chiltern Society. Oxfordshire Council is the Lead Partner, holding funds and accounts, hosting staff and leading a team of volunteers. A Ridgeway Officer co-ordinates operations, and provides a constant point of contact for the Partnership and public.
Natural England, reporting to DEFRA, retains an overview of the National Trails network as a whole, and provides a base level of grant funding for maintenance of all Trails. The Ridgeway’s six highway authorities contribute funding annually, with other partners including the Friends of the Ridgeway providing grants for specific projects.
The Partnership has identified five themes for the promotion and enhancement of The Ridgeway, building on aspects of its unique appeal. These themes are Natural, Living, Ancient, Sporting and Creative & Spiritual. Under these themes, the work of the Partnership addresses the Trail’s biodiversity, landscape character and scenery; country pubs and services; myths and legends; sporting events and family recreation; cultural heritage; archaeology and significant pre-history; and tranquillity.
The Partnership aims to engage all communities in celebrating, enjoying and conserving The Ridgeway.
The Ridgeway Partnership officers may be contacted below: