On March 8th, we come together to celebrate wonderful women during International Women’s Day (#IWD2022 #BreakTheBias). This annual event celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women from all over the world.
How is this global event relevant to an ancient trackway through southern England?
The Ridgeway National Trail is a walking route in a surprisingly remote part of southern central England. Linking Wiltshire with Buckinghamshire, the route travels in a northeasterly direction for 87 miles (139 Km). From its start in the World Heritage Site of Avebury and ending at a dramatic Iron Age hill fort on Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chiltern Hills. As Britain’s oldest road, the Ridgeway still follows the same high route used since prehistoric times by travellers, traders, herdsmen and soldiers.
The Trail inspires artists, writers and historians, who between them, enable us to better interpret the collective story and appreciate this wonderful national asset.
Thanks to another group of remarkable women, who are breaking the bias through a passion for art, archeology, history, education and farming. They bring an important national asset into our communities and collective conscious, to enjoy, explore, respect and care for.
This is their contribution
Jo Beal is a professional artist who loves to combine walking and drawing. Based in Swindon, she loves to walk and draw along the Ridgeway National Trail. Jo takes her landscape inspiration from its flora and fauna, historic sites including Wayland’s Smithy and Avebury. Drawing from observation capturing her daily life through her art journals is forms the bases for her drawing workshops; supporting others to build confidence, learn new skills and techniques whilst encouraging a personal exploration and enjoyment of drawing.
We asked Jo what makes the Trail special to her: ‘The Ridgeway has so many incredible historic features, I feel really lucky to have it on my doorstep. Drawing in situ helps me to tune in to its many wonders. I’ve learnt so much about it through drawing – being in nature and enjoying the physical exercise is good for me, my art and wellbeing! It is also free for everyone to enjoy and there is something amazing to discover – whether you walk just one stretch or the entire route. Jo is on twitter: @jobeal4
Sarah Burns-Morwood holds the fastest record for running The Ridgeway during the UK Ultra Distance Trail Running 2018 championship. It took her just an incredible 14 hours to run 86 miles! Imagine the effort and skill. Sarah has recovered from a fractured knee and spine and believes running is a great way to manage mental health. She hopes her efforts inspire other women, including young girls, to enjoy running. Listen to Sarah’s interview with Runner’s World about recovering from injury.
Summer Courts and Seongmee Yoon
Summer Courts and Seongmee Yoon are PhD students from the University of Reading’s Classics Department. They are researching the mystery of the female skeleton found at Lowbury Hill, who is associated with a Scheduled Monument comprising an Early Medieval barrow and Roman enclosure. Their projects are supported by a supervisory team comprised of; Professor Amy Smith (Classics at University of Reading), Dr Sophie Beckett (Cranfield University), and Dr Rhi Smith (Museum Studies at University of Reading), in partnership with Ms Angie Bolton (Oxfordshire Museums Service).
We asked Summer and Seongmee what drew them to this story: “The female burial from Lowbury Hill is interesting because of the nature of her burial and the unusual ways that people have chosen to explain it: a ritual sacrifice or a Celtic priestess? Our research offers a chance to raise awareness of women’ roles in society in the past and how these historical women are perceived today.”
Tory Drewe and Georgie Carlisle
Tory Drewe and Georgie Carlisle work on their family farms along The Ridgeway. They work behind the scenes so that Trail visitors can enjoy some of the sights, sounds and smells, particularly farmland wildlife.
We asked them for their highlights: “We are very lucky to live and work in such a beautiful area. The Ridgeway and the Berkshire Downs have such an array of wildlife that make their home on the farm. As a farming family we try and give as much ‘back’ to the nature and wildlife as we can. We plant wild bird seed mix around the farm to provide habitat and over-wintering feed for vulnerable farmland birds including the Grey Partridge. On early mornings when checking stock near the Ridgeway you can glimpse the barn owl hunting. A view which never gets old!”
We salute you!
We are really pleased to acknowledge and celebrate the women who are making a contribution to the Ridgeway landscape, understanding of and making our heritage accessible and culture enjoyable. Each in their own fields of expertise, are choosing to challenge perceptions, cracking those glass ceilings and breaking the bias for those women who will follow. Thank you!
With contributions from Sarah Wright, Trail Officer Ridgeway National Trail.
This is the second year International Women’s Day has been celebrated along the Ridgeway National Trail. Read about the women who were celebrated in 2021.
Find out more about the Ridgeway National Trail and how to plan a future trip.
The Ridgeway has been portrayed by many artists, one in particular, was of great cultural importance. John Constable visited the pretty villages of Goring and Streatley to paint timeless English landscapes.