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Comedian Bill Bailey and other comedians including Jo Brand and Lee Mack are walking along The Ridgeway to raise money for the fight against Cancer. Bill started on Monday and will arrive in Avebury on Saturday. He’s walking Westwards, against the prevailing wind because, he says “if I’m walking into the wind, my hair does that thing like a dog hanging out of the car window – I look better, much cooler.”



He also commented that the Ridgeway was stunning – “a beautiful bit of old England which is surprisingly remote.”

To offer support, text BILL5 to donate £5 to 70404, BILL10 to donate £10 to 70404, or donate online at


Recently the Friends of the Ridgeway gave a presentation to an open meeting of the Avebury Parish Council about the proposed Great Stones Way. Originally concerns had been raised about the impact on the village as it was intended the route would pass close by. This has now been resolved but it seems the Council is still rather NIMBY about it and according to the minutes of the meeting it expressed four main concerns: 1. The World Heritage Site Management Plan states that the village is at maximum tourist capacity now. There is also a tacit agreement that Avebury should not be actively advertised 2. Damage to Avebury’s economy 3. The fragile balance between visitor numbers and the village’s capacity to cope and 4. Limited parking in the village.

We can’t quite see how a walking route that is now well away from the village presents a parking problem for the village or could damage its economy. (The National Trust opening another food outlet is another matter altogether though!). But the really interesting bit is this: “There is also a tacit agreement that Avebury should not be actively advertised”! Consistent with this the Chairman requested that Friends of the Ridgeway avoid promoting Avebury as a tourist destination by dropping the title ‘Great Stones Way’ and also suggested a good alternative would be “The Great Wiltshire Ridgeway” (although Mr Ritchie of the Friends of the Ridgeway made it clear that a name-change at this late stage was unlikely).                     

It seems a bit surprising that the “tacit agreement” made in the eighties about not actively advertising Avebury is still being talked of, what with the village being in the middle of the world’s largest stone circle and having two museums etc. and everyone now being on the net. If there’s a problem it’s not going to be solved by trying to keep quiet about the existence of Avebury – and particularly in connection with the walking route. (This is not to say there aren’t issues to be resolved about the limited capacity of the carparking alongside the route, that does seem to be a real problem).

In any case, it seems that a change to the name of the walking route is not going to happen. Which leaves only one alternative: changing the name of the village!  

Stoneless on Avon, Gloucestershire

Laura Barton, writing in the Guardian yesterday, reports on the route of the high-speed rail link that –

“At stake, too, is the preservation of the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road — a pathway followed since prehistoric times by herdsmen, travellers and soldiers, running from Wiltshire, along the chalk ridge of the Berkshire Downs and on to the River Thames at the Goring Gap. It passes the stone circle at Avebury and the White Horse at Uffington, as well as Grim’s Ditch, Wayland’s Smithy and Barbury castle. It runs, too, right down Wendover high street, past the clock tower, built in 1842 and now repurposed as the visitor centre, then out towards Wendover woods. There is an ancient feel to this land, something rich and deep and solemn.”

More here –

Richard Jefferies (1848-1887)
Richard Jefferies was a novelist, naturalist and a mystic; he grew up in a house (now the Richard Jefferies Museum) close to Coate Water on the outskirts of Swindon. In his book, Wildlife in a Southern County, published in 1879, Jefferies writes of the Ridgeway –

A broad green track runs for many a long, long mile across the downs, now following the ridges, now winding past at the foot of a grassy slope, then stretching away through a cornfield and fallow. It is distinct from the wagon-tracks which cross it here and there, for these are local only, and, if traced up, land the wayfarer presently in a maze of fields, or end abruptly in the rickyard of a lone farmhouse. It is distinct from the hard roads of modern construction which also at wide intervals cross its course, dusty and glaringly white in the sunshine… With varying width, from twenty to fifty yards, it runs like a green ribbon… a width that allows a flock of sheep to travel easily side by side.

Richard Jefferies (1848-1887)

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Section of the Ridgeway near Wayland’s Smithy. Image credit Moss

“BARRIERS installed along Britain’s oldest road have helped cut poaching and hare-coursing, according to police.

Oxfordshire County Council installed the temporary barriers between Hill Road, Lewknor and Hill Road, Watlington, on the Ridegway National Trail. And they have already seen results with a drop in crime. The blocks were fitted in April to stop poachers, harecoursers and deer stalkers in cars accessing the track, known as the Icknield Way, and to stop thieves driving to isolated farm buildings.

“The pre-historic Ridgeway track runs from Avebury, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe near Dunstable, across South Oxfordshire.”

More here –

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September 2022

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