The morning of the 21st of February was here and the weather was exceptional for this time of year, warm air streaming in on the gulf stream, the UK after the chaos of 1 inch of snow a couple of weeks before was suddenly in a spring heatwave perfect timing for my attempt to walk and wild camp on the 87 miles of the Ridgeway Trail.
The Ridgeway is a 87 mile National Trail that starts at Overton Hill in Wiltshire and finishes at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire.
For at least 5,000 years travellers have used the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway provided a reliable trading route to the Dorset coast and to the Wash in Norfolk. The high dry ground made travel easy and provided a measure of protection by giving traders a commanding view, warning against potential attacks.
The Bronze Age saw the development of Uffington White Horse and the stone circle at Avebury. During the Iron Age, inhabitants took advantage of the high ground by building hillforts along the Ridgeway to help defend the trading route. Following the collapse of Roman authority in Western Europe, invading Saxon and Viking armies used it.
After being dropped off at Overton Hill by my good friend Lel Kelson, off i went on my spring stroll, the plan for the first day was to cover at least 20 miles.
The going was good the by-ways are closed to cars over the winter , walking along the chalk ridgeway you get a commanding view, looking down the first place of interest was RAF Wroughton which was a Royal Air Force airfield , about 4 miles (6 km) south of Swindon. Ministry of Defence aviation activity ceased in 1972. The airfield now belongs to the Science Museum Group and is home to the Science Museum at Wroughton, which houses the large-object storage and library of the Science Museum. The site is also the home of The Grand Tour motoring series’ test track.
Then into view came the battlements of Barbury Castle the track heads downhill then crosses a country road and then climbs to the Castle earthworks , passing through the centre. After the short climb to the top time for a coffee break.
Coffee break over off i set again, feeling good, next checkpoint Ogbourne St George which would be my 9 mile point and a lunch break.
Passing under the Midland and South Western Junction Railway at Ogbourne St George next stop was Liddington Castle with views of Swindon in the distances, the hum of the M4 broke the peaceful scene crossing this major road was the next checkpoint and resting point.
Leaving the M4 behind me it was Mid afternoon this would be the last few miles before setting up camp for the night.
With the sun setting i had made it to Waylands Smithy Long Barrow.
Waiting by the side of the track for the darkness to come so i could set camp in a wooded area without anyone seeing, the temperature dropped off and with fog predicted for the morning it was going to be a cold damp night.
With the tent pitched and dinner cooking i had time to reflect on the day , all had gone well my only worry was the weight of my burgen having to pack winter equipment the weight had soon added up.
Day Two to follow -Waylands Smithy Long Barrow to South Stoke near Goring