The Ridgeway: Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon

NEAREST LOCATION

Wendover

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

10.6 miles (17.1kms)

ASCENT
1115ft (340m)
TIME
4hrs 10min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Hard
STARTING POINT
SP868078

About the walk

The route of The Ridgeway initially follows the northern edge of the North Wessex Downs and finishes on paths through the rolling and wooded Chiltern AONB. These two contrasting landscapes are divided by the River Thames, which cuts through the chalk hills at Goring, and the differences are further emphasized by the route following the banks of the river for some miles before climbing back into the hills. This final section of the trail takes walkers from the market town of Wendover to finish in spectacular fashion on the summit of Ivinghoe Beacon.

Walk directions

Turn right out of the car park in Wendover, then turn right again by the clock-tower to follow Heron Path alongside the stream and out of the town, passing the 14th-century flint Church of St Mary the Virgin.

The Ridgeway then climbs by means of Hogtrough Lane into Barn Wood and runs more or less level along the side of Cock’s Hill.

The Ridgeway plunges back into the woods and makes progress beside a typical Chiltern holloway, sunken 6ft (2m) below the level of the surrounding ground and muddy in the driest of weather.

There is a brief interlude over fields towards a radio mast and then more woodland before a minor road is followed to Hastoe Cross.

Turn left here and follow the signs through Tring Park, a wooded area, soon passing to the north of Wigginton. After crossing two roads, which lead into Wigginton, drop down to the A41. From the outskirts of Wigginton you can see Ivinghoe Beacon clearly and, although it still seems a long way off, there is a feeling as you descend the path towards the valley – where the road, canal and railway rub shoulders as they squeeze through the gap to Berkhamsted – that the end of the walk is fast approaching.

The busy A41 is crossed by a footbridge and then the A4251 is crossed, which follows the line of the Roman Akeman Street.

With Akeman Street behind you, it is not far to the Grand Union Canal and shortly after Tring Station. The Ridgeway intends to finish in style and begins the climb away from the narrow Bulbourne valley, back into the hills.

After 0.5 miles (800m) the path enters a nature reserve on Aldbury Nowers. The reserve protects an important area of chalk downland, rich in wild flowers and butterflies. It then goes on to meet an earthwork with the by-now-familiar name of Grim’s Ditch, although it is unlikely that this ditch is linked in any way other than by name to the ones followed earlier in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The ditch lies to the south of the rampart, often on the uphill side, which suggests that it marks a boundary rather than having a directly defensive purpose. The structure is generally accepted to be of Iron Age date.

The path emerges from woodland on Pitstone Hill and enjoys magnificent views to the west and north for almost all the remainder of the walk. Ivinghoe is clearly visible, with Pitstone windmill standing in isolation in a nearby field, while to the east the Whipsnade White Lion, cut into the hillside in 1933 as an advertisement for the nearby zoo, stands out well on a clear day. It is not long before you reach Ivinghoe Beacon. Arrival at the cairn indicates the end of your journey. While contemplating the 87 miles (140km) of the ancient Ridgeway path, spare a thought for those who raised the barrows visible on the hilltop and for their Iron Age descendants, who fortified the hill in 700BC. Much of the route just followed would have been familiar to them, and it is the remains of their temples, graves and fortresses that help to make the walk so memorable for modern-day long-distance walkers.

Additional information

Forest paths, some road, tracks, field paths

Market town, woods, dramatic hills

On lead on roads

OS Explorer 181

Car park (pay and display) adjacent to library in Wendover

In car park at start of walk

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