A few folk have asked me about biking the Wessex Ridgeway, which I rode last August.
All the details of this c60 mile route are in a great free booklet here, but to be honest, the photo above tells you all that you need to know about the quality of the riding. If you’re familiar with rides like the amazing South Downs Way or the Ridgeway National Trails, well…this is not that, not even remotely. Unlike with those rides, you simply cannot hop onto one end of the trail and ride freeflowing bridleways to the other. It took me many hours longer to cover the 60 mile Wessex Ridgeway than any of my rides on the 100 mile long South Downs Way have done. The route only intermittently follows the landscape atop ridges, sometimes seeming quite illogical for a ‘ridgeway’. It is often overgrown or marginal, crossing rough fields with no distinct rideable path. Wear arm protection; mine were shredded by the undergrowth. There is lots of pushing or even carrying. You will come to dread the approach of large farms; at several of these the signage mysteriously vanishes, as does the trail itself…in the worst instance, you are forced to cross several fields of crops which have been ploughed hedge to hedge.
All that said, the chalk downland is a wonderful backdrop, and there are certainly worse places to be. There are indeed plenty of great rideable sections and fast clear bridleways…but no sooner than you’ve got going, another dire section interjects to spoil the riding. Treat the Wessex Ridgeway as an adventurous exploratory challenge, and you’ll get the best from it…I originally set off loaded up for an overnight trip, but the first day was so heavy-going that at the end, I happily rode twenty miles of road after dark to a railway station to get away from it, vowing never to return. Two days later, having a short memory span, I’d forgotten how grim it was and returned to complete the western half. This was a similar experience, but if I had to choose…I’d go for the west.
It would make a wonderful walk.