Up On The Top

A ride on the Ridgeway with Charli – the first time we’ve been up there this year. It’s one of those areas – you need good weather and that’s been in short supply. For some of the parts of it we ride at least, there are lengthy sections that are clay on chalk. It’s fine in dry weather but if it’s wet it can get evil – incredibly slippery and it makes a horrible mess of a bike too – drying on very hard.

The Ridgeway

A small section of The Ridgeway


It’s always good to be up there; there are never many people around and the ones you see are, by and large, friendly. The views are often broad, the air feels cleaner and overall it’s a big – welcome – contrast to closed-in urban life. I know it’s as man-made an environment as the fields of Berkshire or South Oxfordshire, but there’s a very different feel that comes with being out of the Thames Valley.

I don’t know what it says about me that I feel absolutely no affinity or empathy or anything else with the ancient people who – we’re told – trod the same paths. I can’t pretend otherwise. I can look out across to Wittenham Clumps and I can see why Iron Age man would pick them to fortify, I can imagine that I’d do the same. I can see how walking a high ridge might be safer and I suspect probably easier than making a way through what would have been densely wooded lower terrain and I can imagine that I’d pick the same route. But that’s it.

Being up on the Ridgeway, there’s no ‘vibe’ or ‘buzz’ or any kind of deep-seated stirring in me that says I’m in any way ‘connecting’ with my ancestors. I don’t even see why there should be – their world was wholly and utterly different from mine in almost every single way.

Maybe that makes me a crass and insensitive fool. Maybe I’m the realistic one and people who wax lyrical about feeling they’re getting in touch with ancient man are just deluding themselves and anyone who listens to them. There are worse fantasies.

Wittenham Clumps, seen from The Ridgeway

Wittenham Clumps, seen from The Ridgeway