The Info List - Icknield Way

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Coordinates: 51°50′40″N 0°36′12″W / 51.8445°N 0.6034°W / 51.8445; -0.6034

Icknield Way
Icknield Way
near Lewknor
in Oxfordshire

The Icknield Way
Icknield Way
is an ancient trackway in southern and eastern England that goes from Norfolk
to Wiltshire. It follows the chalk escarpment that includes the Berkshire Downs
Berkshire Downs
and Chiltern Hills.


1 Background 2 Early documentary evidence 3 The "Four Highways" of medieval England

3.1 Icknield Street

4 Route 5 Modern paths 6 Artists and writers on the Way 7 See also 8 References

Background[edit] It is generally said to be, within Great Britain, one of the oldest roads of which the route can still be traced, being one of the few long-distance trackways to have existed before the Romans occupied the country. However, this has been disputed, and the evidence for its being a prehistoric route has been questioned.[1][2][3][4] The name is Celto-British in derivation, and may be named after the Iceni tribe. They may have established this route to permit trade with other parts of the country from their base in East Anglia. It has also been suggested that the road has older prehistoric origins. The name is also said to have been initially used for the part to the west and south (i.e. south of the River Thames) but now refers usually to the track or traces north of the Thames. From ancient times, at least as early as the Iron Age
Iron Age
period (before the Roman invasion of 43 AD) and through Anglo-Saxon times, it stretched from Berkshire
through Oxfordshire
and crossed the River Thames at Cholsey, near Wallingford. Early documentary evidence[edit] The earliest mentions of the Icknield Way
Icknield Way
are in Anglo-Saxon charters from the year 903 onwards. The oldest surviving copies were made in the 12th and 13th centuries, and these use the spellings Ic(c)enhilde weg, Icenhylte, Icenilde weg, Ycenilde weg and Icenhilde weg. The charters refer to locations at Wanborough, Hardwell in Uffington, Lockinge, Harwell, Blewbury
and Risborough, which span a distance of 40 miles from Wiltshire
to Buckinghamshire.[5][6] The "Four Highways" of medieval England[edit] The Icknield Way
Icknield Way
was one of four highways that appear in the literature of the 1130s. Henry of Huntingdon wrote that the Ermine Street, Fosse Way, Watling Street
Watling Street
and Icknield Way
Icknield Way
had been constructed by royal authority. The Leges Edwardi Confessoris gave royal protection to travellers on these roads, and the Icknield Way was said to extend across the width of the kingdom. Geoffrey of Monmouth elaborated the story by saying that Belinus had improved the four roads so that it was clear that they were the protected highways.[1] Around 1250, the Four Highways were shown by Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris
on a diagramatic map of Britain called Scema Britannie. The Icknield Way
Icknield Way
is depicted by a straight line from Salisbury
(i.e., Old Sarum) to Bury St Edmunds which intersects the other three roads near Dunstable.[7] Icknield Street[edit] In the 14th century, Ranulf Higdon
Ranulf Higdon
described a different route for the Icknield Way: from Winchester
to Tynemouth
by way of Birmingham, Lichfield, Derby, Chesterfield
and York.[1] This route includes the Roman road running from Bourton-on-the-Water
to Templeborough
near Rotherham, which is now called Icknield Street
Icknield Street
(or Ryknild Street) to distinguish it from the Icknield Way. Route[edit]

Spencer Gore: Icknield Way, 1912. Used as the cover picture of "The Icknield Way Path
Icknield Way Path
- A Walkers' Guide" published by the Icknield Way Association in 2012

In many places the track consists or consisted of several routes, particularly as it passes along the line of the escarpment of the Chilterns, probably because of the seasonal usage, and possibly the amount of traffic especially of herds or flocks of livestock. To the west the track can be detected below the escarpments of the Berkshire
Downs. Near Wantage, the route along the ridge of the Downs is known as The Ridgeway, and the name Icknield Way
Icknield Way
is applied to a parallel lowland route above the spring-line at the northern edge of the chalk.[8] Between Lewknor
and Ivinghoe
there are two parallel courses known as the Lower Icknield Way
Icknield Way
and the Upper Icknield Way.[9] In Cambridgeshire, Street Way (Ashwell Street), Ditch Way and others have been put forward as variant routes, possibly for use in summer or winter.[1] Many modern roads follow the Icknield Way, for example the B489 from Aston Clinton
Aston Clinton
to Dunstable
and the A505 from Baldock
to Royston. In some places, especially from the east of Luton
in Bedfordshire to Ickleford
(so named from the Way crossing a stream) near Hitchin
in Hertfordshire, the route is followed by minor roads, and is not distinguishable at all in many places, except by landscape features such as barrows and mounds which line the route, and indentation presumably from ancient and frequent use. It could be described as a belt studded with archaeological sites found at irregular intervals. The Icknield Way
Icknield Way
used to form part of the boundary between Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and at one time Royston was cut in two by this boundary. Royston is where the Icknield Way
Icknield Way
crosses Ermine Street. In the south-west some writers take the Way to Exeter, while others only take it as far as Salisbury. To the north-east, Icklingham, Suffolk, and Caistor-by-Norwich, Yarmouth and Hunstanton, Norfolk
have all been proposed as the destination.[1] In support of the western route, a road at Dersingham
near Hunstanton
was named Ykenildestrethe and Ikelynge Street in the 13th century.[10] Modern paths[edit] Main articles: Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway, Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Path, and Peddars Way Modern long-distance footpaths have been created from Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
on the Dorset
coast to Holme-next-the-Sea
on the Norfolk
coast, following the general line of the Icknield Way. The Hobhouse Committee report of 1947 suggested the creation of a path between Seaton Bay
Seaton Bay
and the Chiltern ridge, and in 1956 Tom Stephenson proposed a longer route to Cambridge. A route through Norfolk
was discussed in the 1960s.[11][12] The first section to be officially designated as a Long-Distance Footpath (as National Trails were then known) was that from Overton Hill to Ivinghoe
Beacon, and it was declared open as the Ridgeway in 1973. The Peddars Way, from Knettishall Heath
Knettishall Heath
to Holme-next-the-Sea, forms part of the Peddars Way
Peddars Way
and Norfolk
Coast Path National Trail, which was opened as a Long Distance Route in 1986. Between the Ridgeway and Peddars Way, parts of the original line of the Icknield Way had been covered in tarmac or built over, so a route was devised that avoids walking on roads. In 1992 this was designated by the Countryside Commission
Countryside Commission
as a Regional Route called the Icknield Way Path. The Wessex Ridgeway
Wessex Ridgeway
from Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
to Marlborough was declared open by Dorset
County Council in 1994.[11][12] Charles Thurstan Shaw, archaeologist and long-distance walker, founded the Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Association which campaigned to reopen the entire Icknield Way
Icknield Way
as a long-distance path in 1984, the same year he produced the first walker’s guide to the route.[13][14] The author Ray Quinlan has combined most of the Wessex Ridgeway, the Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Path, the Peddars Way, and a small part of the Norfolk
Coast Path to form a path that he calls the Greater Ridgeway, with a length of approximately 584 km (363 miles) from Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
to Hunstanton.[15] Parts of the Ridgeway National Trail and the Icknield Way Path
Icknield Way Path
are only usable as a footpath, so the Icknield Way Path
Icknield Way Path
Riders Route or Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Trail have been created for horseriders and cyclists. The route runs from Bledlow
to Roudham
Heath, where it joins the Peddars Way Riders Route.[16][17] Artists and writers on the Way[edit] The Icknield Way
Icknield Way
has inspired a number of writers and artists. Spencer Gore, the founder of the Camden Town Group
Camden Town Group
of artists, painted the route in 1912 while staying with his friend Harold Gilman
Harold Gilman
at Letchworth. His work, influenced by Cezanne, van Gogh and Gauguin, is acknowledged as one of the pioneering works of British Modernism.[18][19] One of the best known literary travellers of the Icknield Way
Icknield Way
is the poet Edward Thomas, who walked the path in 1911 and published his account in 1913. Thomas was interested in ancient roads and inspired by Hilaire Belloc’s Old Road and other travel memoirs published by Constable written by R. Hippisley Cox, Harold J.E. Peake and others. Although the book takes the form of a single 10-day journey, Thomas wrote the book in stages over the course of a year. He was often joined by his brother Julian, both rising at 5am or 6am to walk 30 or 40 miles a day. Although more interested in poetic description, his publisher directed him to give more concrete details of his route, thus the book is closer to being a guidebook than Thomas’ earlier, more poetic, travel books.[20] Inspired by Thomas's journey, contemporary British nature writer, Robert MacFarlane, begins his book of walking ancient paths, The Old Ways, by walking the Icknield Way, “hoping to summon him [Thomas] by walking where he had walked.”[21] George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin
used the ‘Four Highways’ as the model for the Kingsway in his Songs of Ice and Fire
Songs of Ice and Fire
novels.[22] See also[edit]

Roman Britain Roman roads in Britain Neolithic Age Slíghe Chualann Esker Riada


^ a b c d e S. Harrison, "The Icknield Way: some queries", The Archaeological Journal, 160, 1–22, 2003. ^ K. Matthews, Circular Walk (Wilbury Hill, Ickleford, Cadwell, Wilbury Hill) Archived 13 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.. ^ R. Bradley, Solent Thames Research Assessment – the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, 2008. ^ Rhiannon, The Icknield Way: Miscellaneous, 2008. ^ A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, English Place-name Society 3, 1926, ISBN 0-904889-47-5, pp. 4–5. ^ Thomas, Edward Jr. (1916). The Icknield Way. London: Constable & Company Ltd. p. 51. ISBN 978-1447471929. Retrieved 22 July 2015.  ^ Cotton Nero D.i, f186v. The map is discussed on pages 62–63 of O. Roucoux, The Roman Watling Street: from London to High Cross, Dunstable
Museum Trust, 1984, ISBN 0-9508406-2-9. ^ Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Morris Men, Prehistory – Ancient Paths. ^ E. Thomas, The Icknield Way, Constable, 1916. ^ W.G. Clarke In Breckland Wilds, Heffer, Cambridge; 2nd edition, 1937; p.67. ^ a b Quinlan, The Greater Ridgeway, pp. 16, 100. ^ a b S. Jennett, The Ridgeway
The Ridgeway
Path, HMSO for Countryside Commission (Long-Distance Footpath Guide 6), 1976, ISBN 0-11-700743-9. ^ (31 Mar 2013). Professor Thurstan Shaw - Obituary. The Daily Telegraph. ^ CANTAB RAMBLER73 April 2013 - Thurstan Shaw, 1914 – 2013. cambridgeramblers.org ^ R. Quinlan, The Greater Ridgeway: A Walk along the Ancient Route from Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
to Hunstanton, Cicerone, 2003, ISBN 1-85284-346-2. ^ Long Distance Walkers Association, Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Trail. ^ Buckinghamshire
County Council, The Icknield Way
Icknield Way
Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. ^ Google Arts & Culture - The Icknield Way. From the collection of Art Gallery of New South Wales. ^ Smith, Bernard (2002). A Pavane for Another Time. ISBN 9781876832667. Macmillan Education AU. p.449 ^ Moorcroft Wilson, Jean (2015). Edward Thomas: from Adlestrop to Arras: A Biography Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781408187142. p.227-229. ^ MacFarlane, Robert (2012). The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. Penguin. ISBN 9780241143810. p.47. ^ Higgs, John (2017). Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past. Hachette UK. ISBN 9