A weekend on the Ridgeway, Oxfordshire

The Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest track, is our local long distance path. We often walk it at weekends and for a couple of years the other half and I entered the Ridgeway40 challenge, a 40 mile day walk. I still remember the agony of attempting to climb stairs the following day! This weekend it was the turn of my daughter who was taking part in an 18 mile Scouts winter hike. I quite fancied doing it too so walked alongside her group as a helper.

Ridgeway winter challenge
Ridgeway winter challenge

Ridgeway winter challenge

Around 800-900 beavers, cubs and scouts from across Oxfordshire took part. The beavers and cubs had a shorter 9 mile option but I was impressed to see that a lot of them carried on for the full 18 miles. The walk itself was quite straightforward. It would be hard to get lost (particularly given how many people were taking part) and the track is gently undulating rather than hilly. However the weather was freezing and the icy ground turned to mud as the day progressed; not a pleasant combination.

All finished
All finished!

There were checkpoints every couple of miles. A bacon butty stand at checkpoint 3 was particularly popular, as were the tuck stalls at other stops. Sugar appeared to fuel most of the walkers; I did a double take at one girl we passed who was carrying a HUGE bag of pick and mix! It was too cold to hang around much. We had a couple of short breaks for lunch but as soon as we stopped walking our hands and feet froze. The upshot of this is that we made good time. As we neared the finish line the youngsters, and more reluctantly the adults, broke into a jog for the last 200 metres. I’m rather proud that my daughter’s all-girl team were the first home from their Scout group in a time of 6 hours and 55 minutes.

View from Swyncombe
View from Swyncombe

Snowdrops at Swyncombe

You’d have thought we’d seen enough of the Ridgeway on Saturday but we were back on it again on Sunday. We were visiting the 1000 year old St Botolph church at Swyncombe, near Wallingford, to see their snowdrop displays and partake in afternoon tea. We’ve visited the snowdrops here a couple of times, although one memorable year we were thwarted by the steep icy hill on the approach. Our car, and others, got stuck whilst trying to reach the church. So near yet so far!

Cake and tea in Swyncombe graveyard
Cake and tea in Swyncombe graveyard

The snowdrops and aconites are planted in drifts around the graves and provide a beautiful display, although I think we were spoilt by the huge swathes we saw at Welford Park last year. As you can see from the above picture, our refreshments were eaten in the graveyard; I wonder what its inhabitants would think of us?

Signs of spring at Swyncombe
Signs of spring at Swyncombe

After the snowdrops and cake we were ready for a short stroll. We walk the same route each year; turning left out of the church on to the Ridgeway and following a circular route which takes us up a short steep wooded section before circling back round behind Swyncombe Manor. Heading back to the church we passed through a field of pregnant ewes. No lambs yet but only another few weeks and it will be spring. About time!

More info:

  • The snowdrop weekends at Swyncombe Church are held in February each year. Check the church website for exact dates and before you travel; they may be postponed in inclement weather.

27 thoughts on “A weekend on the Ridgeway, Oxfordshire”

  1. Well done your daughter, although I’m sure the years of walking as a family has been good training. Love the idea of pit stops on route. Great way to encourage them on.

    1. Thanks Cheryl. Neither of us really trained much, but we do walk a reasonable amount in general. She didn’t ache at all the next day whereas I did! Oh to be young again.

  2. Well doesn’t he girls! That sounds like a huge trek, our boys have a similar one coming up, but they do it overnight. I do think the scouting movement is wonderful. Good on you returning the next day too, you have hardy kids which is lovely to see. I’m hoping our ewes are pregnant too, we are on lamb watch now. Thank you for sharing your ridgeway fun on Country Kids.

  3. Well done to your daughter and all the others who took part too! 18 miles in under seven hours in the cold takes some doing, but it is surprising what the smell of bacon butties can do!

    I haven’t seen snowdrops for years, but I bet they look stunning. I remember going to see bluebells as a child, I can’t remember exactly where, it was somewhere around Devon (where I grew up), but I do remember them looking stunning…I hear you rarely see proper bluebells anymore…So sad.

    1. Thanks Kate. They walked from PGL Liddington, near Swindon through to West Illsley near the A34 so mostly the early part of the track.

  4. I don’t think I’ve done any of the Ridgeway. Quite appalling effort really! Good going on the girls being the first team back. It must have made quite a sight with that number of walkers.

    1. Thanks Emma. Yes, I’m hoping no-one went for a walk expecting peace and quiet that day. We all had staggered start times though and the groups were pretty thinned out towards the end.

  5. Wow, what a great achievement for your daugher – that’s some walk! The Ridgeway looks pretty amazing – but I bet it’s more so when there aren’t 900 walkers on it. The bacon butty sounds the dream… The snowdrops are very pretty. I imagine well worth another visit!

    1. I couldn’t imagine not seeing snowdrops in spring Sara – they’re probably covered under all that snow you’ve got!

    1. Thanks Vicky. The snowdrops were lovely, although from some photos I’ve seen there are many more now than during our early visit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.