The Wansdyke & the Ridgeway Downs
The Wansdyke network extends across the chalk ridge country around Marlborough and Savernake Forest in Wiltshire. You ride along escarpments with wonderful views and across the Vale of Pewsey and the lovely Kennet valley. The downs are littered with ancient earthworks, sarsen stones and Bronze Age barrows and, in the west of the network, you can ride through Avebury stone circle, which is 5,000 years old. The going is generally good with long, grassy canters over the downs, which contrast with gentle farmland and hidden valleys. Although there are some hills, the going is not too challenging, and there aren't many gates.
2-day, 3-day, 4-day and 5-day place to place rides back-to-start plus a one-centre holiday with 3 "petal" or day rides. All but one host have stables, and the area is good for mountain biking. The Wansdyke and Ridgeway Downs networks are sub-divided by the M4. You can combine them to make a linear ride of up to 7 days, but you can't ride back to start.
We opened a brand new one-centre holiday in the Wansdyke in April 2005. The photo on the left shows Bobbie and Herbie from Bridle Rides on Sugar Hill, an all-time great canter of nearly two and a half miles, while the one below was taken near Ramsbury. Both of these locations are on the new petal rides as well as some of the place to place ones.
The Ridgeway Downs is further north and east, extending from the open chalk downs around Lambourn eastwards across Berkshire and south Oxfordshire towards Didcot and the A34. There's a lot of open downland dotted with racehorse gallops, and there are wonderful views from the Ridgeway, which runs along the northern edge of the network, northwards across the Vale of White Horse. To the south, the country mainly comprises of secluded valleys and gentle farming country. The countryside is fairly gentle and there are almost no gates, so it's a great starter network for first-time bridle riders - although the long canters will suit experienced ones too!
2-day or 3-day rides back-to-start plus a one-centre holiday with 3 petal or day-rides. 2 of the 3 hosts have stables, and the third has a field shelter. Can be combined with the Wansdyke for longer rides.