Ridgeway turns 50 on Coombe Hill

Ridgeway turns 50 on Coombe Hill

Over 70 people gathered on Coombe Hill, Buckinghamshire, on Friday, 29 September, to celebrate 50 years  since The Ridgeway National Trail officially opened.

Reflecting the diverse ways that The Ridgeway is enjoyed by the public today, the celebrations included the casting of a Bronze Age sword found along the Trail at Ivinghoe Beacon, Disabled Rambler volunteers demonstrating how they are filming the Trail for Google Streetview, and a display of mountain bikes built by Aylesbury resident Geoff Apps, who wanted to make it easier to ride in muddy conditions.

Coombe Hill, the highest viewpoint in the Chilterns, is a popular scenic spot along the 87 mile Ridgeway which stretches from Ivinghoe Beacon, in Hertfordshire, to Overton Hill in Wiltshire, and where the official opening of the trail took place 50 years to the day on September 29, 1973.

National Trails were introduced after World War II to conserve the countryside and enable public access. Today there are 15 National Trails in England and Wales, with the King Charles III England Coast Path being the newest.

“We feel very blessed to have The Ridgeway” said Cath Campbell, Walks Advisor for Buckinghamshire Girl Guides, “Access to countryside is so important for wellbeing and an appreciation and respect for wildlife.”

Sarah Wright, the current Ridgeway National Trail Officer, joined Jo Burgon, the first Trail Officer (1981-83), and representatives of local and national organisations on the steps of the Coombe Hill monument for a commemorative photograph. They were joined by the Chair of the Ridgeway Partnership Simon Kearey, Dame Fiona Reynolds, Navroza Ladha of Natural England and both the Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, Councillor Martin Tett, and Chair of Buckinghamshire Council, Councillor Patricia Birchley.

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Walkers and representatives of local and national organisations stand on the steps of the Coombe Hill monument to celebrate 50 Years of The Ridgeway National Trail. [Photo courtesy of Mary Tebje]

To ensure The Ridgeway continues to be a much loved route, the National Trail Officer is encouraging everyone to share ideas for the future and support work to realise these ideas including the Ridgeway Riding Route, Ridgeway 50 Photos and Historic Ridgeway Project.

“Borrowing from the Camino ways, which take walkers to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, I would love to see people from around the world proudly displaying their Ridgeway badges and visiting towns and villages to collect stamps to support local businesses and meet local people” said Subash Ludhra, walks leader for Dadima’s Walks.

Anna Dillon, a landscape artist, added, “I’m especially impressed with the work taking place right now that is increasing wildflowers and insects in the Trail’s verges at Bury Down in West Berkshire. I hope there will be funding and community engagement to extend this work along The Ridgeway so that it becomes a thriving wildlife corridor.”

Anniversary celebrations will continue until the end of the year, with an open invitation to everyone to visit and care for The Ridgeway.

If you’d like to share your ideas for the next 50 years of The Ridgeway National Trail, email ridgeway@oxfordshire.gov.uk

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