Walk Distance: 8 km
Walk Duration: 3 hours 40 (with picnic stop and some toddler-paced walking)
OS Map: OS Landranger 173 Swindon & Devizes; OS Explorer 157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest
Suitable for: Babies in carriers, first half to Ogbourne St.George suitable for all-terrain pushchairs (but you need to be fit for return uphill push), older children.
Walk features: Far reaching views along top of Ridgeway, Barbury Castle historic site of interest, picnic tables, public toilets, ice-cream van on sunny weekends, kite flying field, pub at Ogbourne St. George.
This is a lovely stretch of the Ridgeway National Trail and a good walk in its own right. The walking is pretty open to the elements on the outward section – we tackled it on a mild May day and yet the wind was still pretty gusty on the initial ridge section. Roo was a bit grumpy about the wind and decided to hide in the rucksack until we got into the shelter of the hill and we were pretty glad we had a windproof layer for her and hood to cover her ears. If you are planning to picnic enroute then there are two good spots – the first is in the lee of the hills toward the end of the outward half of the Ridgeway walk and the second is on the final section of the return leg as you climb back up towards the car park. We hoped to picnic on the lower return section but there were far too many horseflies to linger long and no good open spots.
The Barbury Castle to Ogbourne St. George Ridgeway Walk starts from Barbury Castle public car park. If you would like to visit Barbury Castle then leave time for a short detour at the start or end of the walk as this walk does not go past it but it is only five minutes walk the other way along the Ridgeway path from the car park and there is a perfect field for kite-flying (or sunbathing) on the way. You can read more about Barbury Castle on the Broad Hinton to Barbury Castle Ridgeway Walk description.
Head out of the car park back towards the lane you arrived on. There is a path you can follow behind the public loos or else just wander through the main car park. At the lane turn right and continue down the quiet track for a few minutes. If you are coming down the car park path you will pass through a small metal gate and then turn right down the lane. The Ridgeway is well signposted.
As the lane opens out the Ridgeway is signposted on the left hand side. Go through the wooden gate into the field. Here another Ridgeway sign clearly points out the direction of the path and in case you were in any doubt, just take a look at the long line of hills spreading out in front of you with the land sloping away to either side of it – true to its title, the Ridgeway passes right along the top!
The views along this stretch of the Ridgeway are fantastic. Unlike previous sections of the Ridgeway, here the National Trail leaves the chalky paths lined with trees that weave along the hilltop and exchange them for wide open grassy walking. It is quite exposed here but definitely worth the effort.
The Ridgeway path passes through a small metal gate with signposts for Herdswick Farm before continuing along the grassy hilltop. The path dips a little and becomes marginally more sheltered.
If like us you are carrying a sizeable toddler at this point your heart will sink a little when you see the next hill coming up. When planning the route on the map I had been fairly certain the only steep bit would be one small part at the end of the return stretch and began to wonder how I could possibly have overlooked the upcoming contours. I should have had more faith in myself. Just before the point where the path ought to start rising again, the Ridgeway actually ducks to the left following the middle of three tracks and into the lee of the hill. You can’t miss it – Herdswick Farm, who obviously must have suffered adverse consequences from previous off-route meandering Ridgeway hikers, have signposted extensively in this area, even (as we spotted halfway up the hill) providing signs for those who have somehow missed the initial signs to tell them they have gone the wrong way!
With the shelter of the hill and lovely farmland views to the left, this makes a pleasant spot to take a breather. Carry on along the path through another gate as the path descends a little. Another gate again brings you to a gravelly track before eventually going through one more gate onto a small lane beyond.
If you fancy a walk into the village of Ogbourne St. George or simply want to finish the Ridgeway stretch of the walk at the most convenient place for picking it up again next time, then carry on down the lane until it meets the main road. Here you can cross over and follow the small orchard footpath for a scenic back route into the back of Ogbourne St. George, or if following the official Ridgeway, turn right and follow the main road towards the village. Just as the road bends to the left into Ogbourne St. George, the Ridgeway path continues on ahead.
Those completing the circular walk without any larger Ridgeway ambitions needn’t worry about getting to the road. The circular route leaves the Ridgeway and begins its return stretch back to Barbury Castle from the final gate leading into the lane as described above.
Walk through the gate and to your left there is a footpath signpost leading down a narrow track. Follow this route. The path is pretty narrow here with lots of vegetation on either side. Eventually it opens up a little and passes arable farming fields on both sides. (filled with the spectacular but pungent oilseed rape when we walked this way). To the right there is a good view back up to the Ridgeway path you walked earlier – it looks pretty impressive from below!
The path bends into a gravelly track leading downhill. Walk down the track, turning left onto the small lane at the bottom by the woods following the bridleway sign. After a few meters, leave the lane again and pass back onto another track on the right hand side. It is well signed. Walk along the edge of the field as it meanders a slightly uphill. Walk through the metal gate at the end of the field.
Here the walk joins another track and you turn left following it uphill. It is not as bad as it first seems – the path soon flattens out and there is a great grassy spot with pleasant views on the brow of the first hill for a picnic. Don’t be alarmed if you here gunshots – there is a shooting club just a bit further down the hill!
Continue on the track as it opens out. You will come to two posts marking footpaths ahead of you. Bear slightly left, following the Millenium Trail bridleway. Head through the metal gate a little further on and head up onto the final uphill pull of the walk up Burderop Hill. There are lovely views from the top of the hill and the hillside itself makes pleasant picnicking in calm, warm weather. Continue until you get to a stile – go over (or through the gate if carrying a little one) and on up a little further. There is a stone memorial on the right hand side to local writers Richard Jefferies and Alfred Williams. With its beautiful views and history, it is a fitting spot to commemorate the two men who admired the Wiltshire countryside and wildlife, with Jefferies a keen walker himself.
From the memorial, walk to the end of the field and through the gate in the corner. You can turn left and follow the road back up to the car park or if you don’t mind a stile or two, hop over the one on the opposite side of the road and walk uphill through the field to the edge of Barbury Castle car park.
Map of Route:
The Barbury Castle to Ogbourne St. George Ridgeway Walk is best reached by road. There is a public car park on the Ridgeway itself by Barbury Castle, a few miles south of Wroughton. It is well signposted. Grid reference SU 157 761. Do follow the brown road signs to Barbury Castle and not Google Maps or like us you will find yourself testing out your car’s suspension by making the final approach on a very pot-holed track only accessible between March and October!
Alternatively you could start the walk from Ogbourne St. George which is accessible by no. 70 bus from Swindon and Marlborough.
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