‘Ridgeway’ was a term that originated in Anglo-Saxon times, to refer to ancient tracks that run along the high ridges of hills. They are unpaved, relying simply on the hard ground to provide a suitable surface for travelling on. They provide a more direct route than the modern roads we use today; modern roads tend to be located on more level, flat ground in valleys.
The Ridgeway in England stretches 85 miles (137km) from Overton Hill near Avebury, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring, Buckinghamshire. It has been used for 5000 years by many different groups of people; travellers, farmers, and armies. During Saxon and Viking times, the Ridgeway was useful to provide a track along which to move soldiers into Wessex. In the medieval period, the route would have been utilised by drovers, moving animals to market. The Enclosure Acts of 1750 meant that the Ridgeway became more permanent and the route clearer, and it became a National Trail along with 14 others in England and Wales, in 1973. It is a public right of way.