Monday, 11 February 2019

The Ridgeway

The Ridgeway is a prehistoric trackway, perhaps Britain’s oldest road, which ran from the River Thames to East Anglia. A great deal of it runs along the chalk ridge of the Berkshire Downs, close to the ancient sites of Uffington, Avebury and Wayland’s Smithy, before crossing Salisbury Plain. It’s linked to Grimes Graves in Norfolk, a Neolithic flint mine of national importance.

Dating is difficult and relies on nearby prehistoric sites which seem to have been built in association with it. It’s believed to date from the Neolithic period, c3000BC.

It was used as a secure and passable all-year-round trade route, especially so in the Iron Age period, and forts were built nearby to control the route. Later armies took advantage of it, as did drovers taking livestock to distant markets.

The sarsen fields of the Marlborough Downs

Today it forms part of a long-distance footpath which runs for 87 miles across the downs, where people can walk in the footsteps of five thousand years of history. It’s a beautiful route. It offers views of Avebury and other ancient sites, the sarsen fields where stone was gathered for these ancient monuments and woodlands with unusual trees and plants. With little in the way of modern buildings or roads, it’s possible to imagine it’s a literal walk in history.

Bronze Age burial mounds alongside the Ridgeway

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