Prehistory: Ancient Paths

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The Ridge Way ...

...., Britain's oldest road, is a high ground route that follows the ridge of the chalk downs; was  clear of the dangers of the densely wooded lowland areas.

It was a Stone Age route when Britain was still part of the continent and the Thames was  a tributary of the Rhine. The first Neolithic farmers came by this route about 4500 BC.

 

Icknield Way
The Icknield Way

The Icknield Way ...

..., from which The Side takes its name, is a lowland route less ancient than the Ridge Way and running parallel to it in Oxfordshire. This ancient track runs along the northern edge of the chalk uplands from The Wash to the edge of Salisbury Plain and passes through Wantage, home of The Side. It was first used in prehistoric times as it is on drained ground above the bogs of the clay vales but being on the spring line has an ample water supply not available on the exposed tracks of the ridge crests. Starting on the coast around Hunstanton its course is traceable for 190 miles along present day roads, byways and tracks (a number of the roads and villages are named with variants of Icknield) to Wanborough, a village above Swindon.

RidgewayThe Ridgeway Path

 

 

The local section of the Icknield Way

The Icknield Way enters The Side's territory at Streatley and heads west along the A417 and its parallel byroads passing Blewbury, Upton, The Hendreds, Ardington and Lockinge to come into Wantage along Springfield Rd where it forms the boundary of what use to be called Icknield School. After going down Icknield Lane the Way passes north of the town centre along Ormond Rd and The Portway to exit Wantage along Ickleton Rd (B4507). The road hugs the steep face of the Downs to avoid the deep cut spring valleys and so passes above the villages between Challow and Compton Beauchump on its way to Ashbury. From there the Way goes through Bishopston and Hinton Parva to reach its traceable end at Wanborough where the current road plunges down to Swindon while old tracks swing south into Wiltshire.

Route of Icknield Way

Hunstanton
Swaffam
Newmarket
Letchworth
Wendover
Streatley
Wantage
Wanborough

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