Those who read an earlier post will have noted that I took a water filter with me on my recent six day backpacking trip along The Ridgeway. The path itself is some 87 miles but I chose to start at Avebury, adding a handful of miles to my total. That, combined with a couple of short side-trails to overnight stops, meant that I covered 106 miles in total.
Most springs and rivers occur below the level of The Ridgeway and accessing them often means descending off trail
The Ridgeway is not an exclusively ridge walk. For much of its distance it traverses the hills above the villages and towns situated at the spring line on lower contours. It can be quite dry on the trail yet water intake has to be maintained by the hiker throughout.
Day two, especially, was a wet day for me on The Ridgeway. This was in contrast to the strong sun, high temperatures and lack of cover of the first day. Regardless of conditions, it is important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to lessen fatigue and maintain progress
So, did I find a water filter of use? Simply put- no. Even without finding it necessary to leave the trail specifically to seek out water, I did not need to use a filter at all. If not abundant, I certainly found that with a little planning I could carry all the water that I required and kept well hydrated throughout. This was partly achievable because almost all of my overnight halts were at recognised sites. The only night I wild-camped, I took an extra litre with me for that night. I usually drank at least a litre of water, sometimes as much as one and a half, each night. This would mostly be in liquid form, water, tea or my favoured OXO. Some water was used to rehydrate meals.
Most water taps are well-signposted from the path
All of the water points that I located on the trail were sign-posted, were working and provided good, fresh, cold water. I started out on the walk carrying 1900ml of water with me in two 850ml Smartwater bottles. This was enough to see me through my short half day to my first halt at a farm near Ogbourne St. George. There is supposed to be a water tap available at Southend (SU198734), just prior to the village, but I failed to locate it. I camped in the horse paddock of Fox Lynch, filling up for that evening and the following day from a tap in the farm yard. If stopping for water there, do ask first as not all of the taps provide potable water.
Day two saw me set off with 1900ml. I refilled one empty bottle (850ml) at a tap on the path near farm buildings at Idstone Hill (SU263835). This day was especially wet compared to my first day. When it is raining it can be difficult to drink sufficient fluids and I was careful to keep a high intake.
Water tap at Idstone Hill
Further along there is another tap near Hill Farm (SU338854). Again, I took the opportunity to not only drink a bottle of water (850ml) but fill up as well. This saw me through to my days end at Court Hill Centre (SU394844) south of Wantage where water is readily available to those staying, or for visitors on request.
Water tap near Hill Farm, it would be easy to miss some of these points amidst the growing vegetation
I set off on day three, again loaded with 1900ml of water though I could have carried less as the next ‘on path’ tap is apparently near Ilsley Barn Farm. I say apparently as I walked past the tap, or signage, or whatever there was, without seeing it. Fortunately this is a fairly short stretch and my two bottles easily saw me to Streatley where there are many town facilities, including the YHA very near to trail.
Water tap at crossing point near Grimsdyke Cottage, only shortly before reaching Nuffield
Tap in wall of Holy Trinity Church, Nuffield
Tea, coffee, soft drinks , cake and biscuits, on offer inside Holy Trinity Church Nuffield. Be sure to leave a donation
Day four, needless to say that I was well hydrated as I set off and also carrying water. A full load is not required as Nuffield is well provisioned. There is a very welcome tap (SU660871) at a Crossing Point only a little way before entering the village. However possibly the most welcome point is that at Holy Trinity Church in Nuffield (SU667873). There is a water tap in the exterior wall of the church but if you are fortunate, as I was, then you can enjoy the thoughtful provision of the local parishioners.
I stayed at a campsite that night- at White Mark Farm, two hundred metres or so from the path (SU697939). There is a water tap provided for walkers to the side of the entrance road to the site.
Water tap at the entrance to White Mark Farm, only a short distance from The Ridgeway
Keep an eye open for signage. This one pointed toward an unexpected source not far from Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve
The following day, day five, I was not expecting to pass any water taps and knew I had a wild camp to provide for, so carried an extra litre when I set off. Needlessly as I came across an unexpected water tap at (SU727976). This tap is not shown on the Harvey route map but is mentioned in the Cicerone guide.
Again, I took the opportunity to drink a full bottles worth (850ml) before filling up again and walking on. Obviously heavily laden but very necessary.
There are many opportunities to wild camp on The Ridgeway, none are officially sanctioned and the obvious rules apply- arrive late, stay discreet, set up late, leave early, leave no trace. I stayed that night at a pleasant location with a good view over the Vale of Aylesbury. A litre of water was plenty for my needs that evening but left little for the following morning.
Water tap at near Aston Rowant. On right, near building just before the first minor road after having passed beneath the M40
Crumbs in Wendover
The following day, day six (my final day on the trail) I had an early descent from height down into the nearby market town of Wendover to partake of a thoroughly unhealthy but, oh, so welcome, Full English Breakfast (and two mugs of tea) at Crumbs Sandwich Bar. While there, I asked them to fill up water bottles for me, thereby preparing me for my final day.
Does a cafe in Wendover count as a water point? Damn right it does…
This meant I was well provisioned for my remaining miles. I completed The Ridgeway a few minutes after two in the afternoon on day six and only had a two mile walk to Town Farm where I was camping that night. Water taps (SP949165) are situated some distance from the entrance to the site.
Dew ponds are situated at many points along The Ridgeway. Many are now restored and have butyl liners so no longer dry out as frequently as they used to. However water is intended for horses etc., is standing water and likely to be contaminated by animal faeces and is not recommended for human consumption,even following very necessary treatment and purification
Water on the stove for my post-hike OXO. Valuable rehydration and replacement of lost salts
Beyond a hot OXO at the end of each day (400ml), water for rehydrating meals and breakfast tea (400ml) with a home-mix breakfast, further liquid intake consisted of the odd pint or two in pubs at Ogbourne St. George, Streatley, Watlington and Ivinghoe Aston.
Cattle troughs are frequently encountered on The Ridgeway. Ballcocks are all automatic or closed from access. Only the water in the trough is accessible and definitely requires treatment. Alternative sources are recommended
Not that many public houses are actually passed on the trail itself. When they are, invariably it is at an inconvenient time and may be closed. Most easily utilised are those located not far from night stops, as here with the Carriers Arms near Watlington
The above is accurate to the month when written- May 2016. Circumstances are likely to alter over time and there is already a seasonal provision at some locations.