The Wessex Ridgeway Trail is a magnificent ridge-top route crossing Dorset's rural heartland.
The walking, cycling and horse riding trail offers vistas across the county and breathtaking views far beyond. The majority of the route straddles a long chalk ridge but in places is broken up by small rounded hills and secluded valleys. Each section of the trail has its own unique identity and its delights to explore.
The walking route starts at Ashmore on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, whereas the cycling and riding section starts at Tollard Royal. The route meanders across the chalk downs, climbs magnificent hillforts such as Hambledon Hill and crosses over chalk streams brimming with wildlife. Along the way you will pass many attractive villages such as Cerne Abbas and take in stunning views of the Blackmore and Marshwood Vales, before sauntering down through rolling farmland to finish in the seaside town of Lyme Regis on the dramatic Dorset and East Devon World Heritage Site.
The trail forms part of the Great Ridgeway, an ancient highway that was once an important trading route between the Devon and Norfolk coasts. Today this ancient highway provides the backbone to several recreational trails in southern England.
Landscape / terrain
Chalk downland, greensand ridge and clay vale. The majority of the route follows the top of a ridge but there are some sections which are steep, particularly when dropping down into the chalk valleys and back up again. The surface of the trail varies from hard-surfaced track ways and sunken lanes to grassy or arable fields. There are also a few sections on the road. During wet weather, particularly in the clay vale and river valleys, the route, although useable, can become muddy.
Finding your way
On the ground the trail is signed using round discs (waymarks) with an image of a Wyvern, a two-legged dragon associated with the ancient kingdom of Wessex. Where the trail meets other rights of way or a road, specially designed signs continue to point you in the right direction. Along with these unique signs, symbols of a horse and rider mark the main route for all users (walkers, cyclists and horse riders). However if you are on foot, then at certain locations there is an alternative route for walking. At these locations please follow the symbol of a person. The wooden signs along the trail include the name of the nearest point of interest or village, distance from this in miles and the status of the path shown by a coloured symbol. For example a bridleway is shown as a blue horse and rider and a footpath shown as a yellow man. At times the route may change from that shown on a map. Please follow the specially designed waymark discs and signs.
Wessex Ridgeway Guide
The Offical Wessex Ridgeway Trail Guide is now available to download, please note the file size is 2Mb, because of its size it may take a while to load.