Better cycling and horse riding around Wendover, Bucks

2nd April 2020

Cyclists and horse riders will be pleased to hear a new 3 year project will improve off-road cycling and horse riding opportunities around Wendover. The focus of the project is making The Ridgeway National Trail better cater for riders.

Footpath stretches of the Trail, such as the Trail footpath over Bacombe Hill near Wendover, are open only to walkers so the Ridgeway Partnership has secured a grant to enable the introduction of a riding route to run parallel to the Trail’s footpaths. The grant has been awarded by the Chilterns AONB Review Panel set up under the HS2 project.

Riding in the countryside is great for physical and mental health. Cycling appeals to people in all age groups and the Wendover area is already attractive to cyclists thanks to Wendover Woods and Aston Hill. There are also a number of horse stables in the area. Both cyclists and horse riders are looking for off-road routes to avoid roads busy with traffic and the countryside offers something different to more formal recreational settings such as Wendover Woods.

The Ridgeway Riding Route project will create a good quality off-road route that riders can follow confidently from Pulpit Hill near Princes Risborough to Wendover, and then on to Wendover Woods and further north to Chivery, near Tring. The Ridgeway Riding Route will offer more off-road riding miles, better quality surfaces and clear signage for riders. Local businesses around Wendover should benefit from visitors drawn into the area by the new riding opportunities.

This route will also link in with the cycle route network managed by Sustrans and, in future, will link to proposed riding routes extending further along The Ridgeway National Trail. It is an aspiration of the Ridgeway Partnership that riders will be able to ride off-road from Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire, just as walkers can do currently. They are inviting the public to provide information and views to shape this project through an online survey. Businesses in the area who are interested in catering for cyclists and horse riders are also invited to get in touch with the Ridgeway Officer.

The first phase, planned for early 2020 but subject to change as a result of Covid19 pandemic, is to improve the surfaces of rights of way at the bottom of Bacombe Hill, near Wendover. On these steep, chalk slopes, rain has eroded the bridleway to create a v-shaped gulley that is difficult to walk or ride along, and the chalk and clay surface becomes slippery when wet. Signs will be displayed at Bacombe Hill to keep the public informed.

Updates about the project will be posted on these News pages and on the Ridgeway’s social media – www.facebook.com/RidgewayNationalTrail and Twitter https://twitter.com/theridgeway1972

Footnote: This project is one of the Additional Mitigation Projects funded by the AONB Review Panel set up under the HS2 project.

The Ridgeway during Covid19

2nd April 2020

Covid19 has brought dramatic changes to how we can use and manage The Ridgeway

Government advice about going outdoors

At the time of writing this article, government advice requires us to stay at home to minimise the spread of the virus and help the NHS. On 27th March, the government released specific advice about how to stay safe when going outdoors to keep physically and mentally healthy www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces:

  • if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus illness or at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, then you must stay at home.
  • stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily.
  • you should only go outside alone or with members of your own household.
  • keep at least 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times (social distancing).
  • gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this.
  • if you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air.
  • take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors.
  • follow the Countryside Code. Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home. Keep dogs under effective control and leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs.
  • respect other people and protect the natural environment. Remember your actions can affect people’s lives and livelihoods.

We can expect further impacts and changes as the pandemic progresses – check government advice before going out to The Ridgeway: www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Specific information about The Ridgeway

Before going out to the Trail, please note:

  • Pay more attention to your safety when out on the Trail and in countryside generally. Less maintenance work and inspections are being carried out because staff, volunteers and contractors are staying at home as much as possible in line with government advice.
  • To reinforce government advice, car parks along the Trail have been closed, including Barbury Castle (Wilts), Uffington White Horse Hill (Oxon) and Ivinghoe Beacon (Bucks). We will post updates about closures on www.facebook.com/RidgewayNationalTrail and Twitter @TheRidgeway1972.
  • Events along The Ridgeway have been cancelled and postponed. Seek details from event organisers rather than Ridgeway Officer.
  • Water taps along The Ridgeway should not be used. Note that gates and mapboards are surfaces that people often touch and could therefore be harbouring the virus.
  • The Ridgeway is wide in places, allowing passing space, but there are narrow sections which will prove problematic to social distancing.
  • Unfortunately, there is a greater chance this year that you will find nettles and brambles across your way and long grass catching your bike pedals because we can’t do our usual maintenance work. Until government advice relaxes regarding staying at home, staff are dealing with public safety issues only.
  • If you see a problem whilst visiting The Ridgeway, please report it to us. We need your help to keep an eye on what is going on whilst many of us are stuck indoors.
  • Avoid creating problems on the Trail, e.g. take your litter home.

In these circumstances, many people’s routine visits to The Ridgeway are curtailed, whilst day trippers and holidaymakers are seeking to cancel their visits. Events along The Ridgeway have been cancelled or postponed, much to the disappointment of event participants raising money for charity and investing time and effort into training for their event. Some regular visitors who would usually drive to the Trail can no longer visit because non-essential travel is not permitted. Some dogs and their owners are missing their twice-a-day walks.

Positive outcomes for The Ridgeway

This situation is difficult and, unfortunately, sad. But there could be a silver lining; it may be that some of the changes forced upon us will prove positive in the longterm.

Having to minimise how much driving we do is making us reduce our carbon footprint and find what we need in the local area. People who might otherwise drive to The Ridgeway are walking or riding to The Ridgeway and benefiting from the exercise. People living locally to the Trail may be using the Trail more often or even be visiting The Ridgeway for the first time, including young people and families. With the closure of gyms, runners are discovering what the Trail has to offer and everyone is more generally linking The Ridgeway to keeping fit and feeling calmed. The onset of the restrictions coincided with spring, bringing nature into focus with blossom, spring flowers and birdsong along the Trail. The quietness of a society stuck indoors will enhance tranquillity too, perhaps making it easier to see and hear wildlife and worry less about traffic on the road crossings. This situation also makes us appreciate how we are one large community and understand the positive difference a friendly greeting on the Trail can make to someone feeling low. All this enhances our connection with nature and each other, and creates memories on the Trail. It makes us all realise we need to look after our environment and The Ridgeway specifically because it looks after us.

If this situation inspires you to help us care for The Ridgeway, it is simple to do so. Join the charity Friends of the Ridgeway for only £8 a year www.ridgewayfriends.org.uk/join-us/ and/or donate to one of our current projects such as a new bench: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway/news/show-you-care-ridgeway

Keep well and enjoy your next visit to The Ridgeway, whenever that might be.

Your ideas for cycling and horse riding along The Ridgeway

18th November 2019

To help us develop our Ridgeway Riding Route project, the Ridgeway Officer has opened an online survey inviting people to share their ideas.

Click here to go to the survey.

There are 14 questions to gather information about what sorts of improvements could encourage people to enjoy more cycling and horse riding in the Ridgeway area and about people’s current use of the Trail. Views from landowners are also important since some may be able to offer to create connecting routes or upgrade footpaths to bridleways. Businesses may be interested in proposing new services for cyclists and horse riders, such as accommodation, cycle repair, refreshments, etc.

Particularly welcome are ideas as to how we can cater for riders where the Trail follows footpaths through the Chilterns, and this is addressed by the last question in the survey. Do you know any great riding routes in the following areas?

1. Stretch of Ridgeway along Grim’s Ditch and through Ewelme Park and Swyncombe Park (near Wallingford, Oxfordshire).

2. Lodge Hill stretch near Bledlow and Saunderton (near Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire).

3. Whiteleaf to Wendover stretch (near Princes Risborough and Wendover, Buckinghamshire).

4. Short footpath stretch past Chivery (near St Leonards, Buckinghamshire).

5. Stretch from Tring Park to Ivinghoe Beacon / Ashridge estate (near Tring, Hertfordshire).

The more people who take part in the survey, the more information we will have to help us shape a project that has lots of benefits for lots of people. Please spread the word about the survey! Thank you.