From Aldbury we needed to take a narrow road.. and climbed it steadily, upwards in the cloudy sunshine.
Eventually we saw our first black Ridgeway sign, and followed it, entering the field opposite the car park.
Peeling off our rucksacks, we crashed out on the grass. ‘Better eat something ‘ It was already 2 o’clock. People drifted past us sporadically on their route up to the start of the National Trail.
My fine new rucksack was full of surprises…two flanking stretchy gauze pockets, one to take my blue water bottle and the other I filled with apples and clementines.
‘That’s a good idea’ Emma said ‘a fruit pouch’. I pulled out the insulated fabric lunch box and tossed her a picnic bar…It was crammed. ‘And a snack pack’
1st top tip for the Ridgeway path… keep your fruit pouch and snack pack well stocked.
It had occurred to me, four years after my last walk… to travel to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire and then walk home to South Wiltshire.
My daughter Emma had agreed to accompany me but Kate, my other daughter, and our fellow companion on the Cotswold Way, had flown out to Italy with her new husband.
Before leaving, she had presented me with a new rucksack and boots. ‘At least give yourself a fighting chance’. My steel toe-capped work boots and vintage 1979 rucksack had not done me any favours on the Cotswold Way.
So, I met Emma at Euston, took the train to Tring and walked via Aldbury to Ivinghoe Beacon and we started the Ridgeway.
At the top, there is a hollowed mound and a toposcope. Someone had torn out the information board there.
We had walked across what looked like ramparts.. and off the path we could see other barrow-like mounds.
I was in National Trust London and South East Region… so knew nothing much about the archaeology here …but the views out across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire were spectacular.
Time for the start of walk selfie….the picture shows us looking fit, healthy, confident, hopeful and with no trace of a scar. Just another 125 miles to go.
According to National Trust Heritage Records Online (courtesy of our old NT colleague Gary)… the Ivinghoe Beacon barrow had been used for lighting beacons since at least the early 18th century and the iron beacon frame was kept in Ivinghoe church… the tower of which we could make out in the village far below us.
It looked like this Bronze Age barrow had been robbed out at some unrecorded time by treasure hunters or antiquarians.
It lay within a 2 hectare hillfort excavated in the 1960s and was thought to have been one of the earliest in the country.. originating in the Late Bronze Age, though finds suggested that it had continued to be used into the Iron Age (….so 3000-2500 years ago).
On the way down we spotted another barrow mound. This one had a smooth rounded profile, perhaps a pristine survival, with the Early Bronze Age tomb (created c.4000-3500 years ago) still intact.
We retraced our steps to the car park and found our first Ridgeway map information board. These were great. Easy markers which would show our progress across Southern England and back into the West Country.
A late afternoon stroll along the ridge top of the wooded Chiltern Hills, Red Kites gliding over our heads as we completed our circuit back to Aldbury. The skies, the leaves, the wildflowers all looked their best and Aldbury seemed a perfect English village of brick and timber framed houses. Church, school, post-office and pub clustered round a green and village pond.
We sat on a seat under an oak tree with ice creams, feeling that we were in a good place and well set for our journey.