The Ridgeway : Goring to Wantage walk

A ridge walk over open downland with good views along a neolithic trail to an ancient hill fort. Very long or short option. Return by bus.

Length

Main Walk to Wantage and a hill fort: 18.6 miles ( 29.9 km) with 1,030 ft (314 meters) of ascent

Main walk to Wantage with shortcut: 16 miles / 26 km

Short walk to Harwell "Science Campus": 10.5 miles / 17 km

Shorter walk to Chilton : 8.7 miles / 14 km

Maps OS Explorer 170 (Abingdon and the Vale of the White Horse)
Toughness

5 out of 10. Mostly an easy ridge walk but long, and the path can be very rutted in dry weather and very muddy in wet weather. If you are lucky with the surface, it's an wide open flat path, navigation is simple (and its waymarked as well) and you'll make very good time, so don't be too put off by the longer options.

Features

This walk follows a section of the Ridgeway National Trail, along an open grassy ridge with good views throughout. There are short, long, and very long version of this walk which follows Britains's oldest road dating back to neolithic times. The very long version visits an ancient (pre Roman) hill fort.

More recently, the Ridgeway has been used by 4 wheel drives (now limited to Summer only in small sections), horses and mountain bikes. This means its surface can be rutted after dry weather, and muddy after wet weather.

The Ridgeway is quite remote, there are no pubs en-route, so bring a packed lunch

The walk starts by the Thames in Goring. It leaves it via a quiet lane. There is an option to avoid a little road walking at the start by detouring via Lough Hill (NT). Both routes meet up futher along the quiet lane.

After 2km, the lane becomes a track and reaches open downland with grass covered gentle hills and good views. It follows the open ridge for 8km / 5 miles to the A34 (motorway). Just before it, there is an option to cut the walk short to Chilton (nice pub, buses to Didcot). This would make a nice winter walk.

Just after the A34, there is an option to finish at Harwell "Science Campus" (regular buses, but no pub to wait in)

Alternatively, for the longer walks, continue on along the Ridgeway for 6km / 4 miles. Here there is a shortcut to Wantage, 4km to the north.

The longest walk continue on for 4km to Letcombe Castle, an ancient hill fort (free entry). Then its north 4km north to Wantage

From Wantage, a pretty town, there is a bus (via Harwell "Science Campus" mentioned earlier) to Didcot Station for regular fast trains back to London

Check the bus times! [Dec-19] Buses back to Didcot run till late Mon-Sat. On Sunday, they only serve the 2 shorter options. From Wantage, you'll have to change at Abingdon (1 hour longer!).

Walk options

With a map, you could detour south, off the Rideway for lunch in Aldworth (the famous Bell pub) or Compton (Swan Inn). But you'd have to reclimb the ridge after lunch.

The shortest walk (14 km) leaves The Ridgeway to finish in Chilton, which has a pub to await a bus to Didcot.

A slighly longer walk (17 km) continues to Harwell "Science Campus", but there is no pub to wait in.

The longer walk to Wantage (26 km) has a shotcut, missing out the hill fort.

The main walk to Wantage (29.9km) stays on the Ridgeway a little longer to visit an ancient hill fort.

Transport

Trains from London Paddington go to Goring (2 per hour, 1 hour 10 mins direct, 20 mins quicker changing at Reading). Buy a return to Didcot, 1 stop futher down the line.

From Didcot, 4 trains an hour go to London, taking 41 mins

Suggested train : nearest to 9:15 for the long walk, 10:30 for the short walk

Buses

Thames Travel (Go-Ahead Group) #X32/X33 : Wantage - (some via Harwell "Science Campus" and Chilton) - Didcot. £3.70 single. Buses are 1/2 hourly Mon-Sat until 20:45. Chilton and Harwell "Science Campus" (only) have an hourly Sunday service, with an early last bus.

On Sunday, or if you miss the last bus, take Stagecoach #S8 from Wantage to Abingdon, then change there for another bus to Didcot. Takes about 1hr 20mins. The #S8 Abingdon bus continues to Oxford (more trains, but a more expensive ticket).

Drivers : Park near Goring. Its 1 stop by train back to your car from Didcot.

Lunch and Tea

No lunch options

Finish in Chilton: The Rose and Crown is a nice place to wait for you bus.

Finish in Wantage: Several pubs to choose from. But, given the buses, Didcot's station pub, the Wethies style Prince of Wales, is probably a better bet

Points of Interest

The Ridgeway is a National Long Distance Path loosly follows and ancient (pre Roman) trade route. It starts to the west in Avebury (a world Heritage site). This walk is part of the most clearly identified section. The trade route only became an actual path after the Enclosure Acts of the 1750!

Harwell Since Campus, has formerly been an Atomic Engergy Research Centre (the nuclear area is being de-commissioned), and an RAF air base. It currently holds a Science Park, the European Space Agency, and the Science Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Letcombe Castle / Segsbury Camp is an ancient hill fort. Only a grass covered ditch and ramparts remain.

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National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Dec-19 Andrew

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