The Ridgeway and Ancient Pathways


The Wessex Ridgeway, a conduit for shepherds, farmers and travellers across the downs from Avebury to the River Thames and beyond, is often called Europe’s oldest road. But is this so? The downlands of southern England dominated early archaeological research. Thanks to surveys, excavations and scientific advances, we now know that local and long-distance communications were more complex and field systems and settlements more extensive than previously thought. This new research somewhat changes our view of how the Ridgeway may have been used.

This day school will examine recent research into prehistoric and early medieval routeways, and local and long-distance communications.  Detailed field and aerial surveys of the Wessex downland also allow us to consider the evolution of the Ridgeway, from prehistory through the Roman and Medieval periods. The rich evidence of Anglo-Saxon charters shows its relationship to other trackways, notably the herepaths.

The Ridgeway has inspired artists of the ‘cold pastoral’, writers and naturalists. Today the long-distance path provides a valued lung for urban dwellers and yet remains a contested landscape.

Programme details

Registration (in-person attendees only)

David Miles

Prehistoric tracks and routeways
Martin Bell

Tea/coffee break

The Ridgeway: England’s oldest road?
David Miles

The Ridgeway at White Horse Hill
Gary Lock

Chaired by David Miles


Herepaths and early medieval routeways
Alex Langlands

Images of the Ridgeway and the role of drones
Hedley Thorne

Tea/coffee break

Managing the modern Ridgeway
Sarah Wright

Chaired by David Miles

Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £75.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (3 courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr David Miles

Speaker and Course Director

Retired, formerly chief Archaeologist, English Heritage and Director of Oxford Archaeology

Prof Martin Bell


Emeritus Professor, University of Reading

Prof Gary Lock


Emeritus Professor, University of Oxford

Dr Alex Langlands


Alex Langlands is a Senior Lecturer at Swansea University. He gained his BA and MA in Archaeology from University College London and completed a Doctorate at the University of Winchester on the subject of Travel and Communication in the Early Medieval Landscape of Wessex. He has worked in commercial archaeology for over seven years and in broadcast media for fifteen. His recent book The Ancient Ways of Wessex: Travel and Communication in an Early Medieval Landscape highlights his expertise in the field of landscape archaeology and history of the early middle ages.

Mr Hedley Thorne


Hedley Thorne currently serves as the IT Operations Manager for London Heathrow Airport and has an avid interest in aerial landscape photography using camera drones. He has run art/photo exhibitions alongside Landscape Artist Anna Dillon, who uses Hedley's aerial photos as reference for her paintings. Their main series of exhibitions is called "Wessex Airscapes" and will next feature at the Wiltshire Museum throughout late summer 2023.

Miss Sarah Wright


Ridgeway National Trail Officer


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.