Jun 022012

Gentlemen in cream linen jackets and white hats, ladies in floral dresses fluttered by the solitary zephyr to stir a baking hot summer morning in the southern end of Windsor Great Park.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Lord, what a beautiful day! The Royal Landscape (Savill Gardens, Valley Gardens and Virginia Water) looked absolutely at its peak, the Savill Gardens especially. Their many decades of scrupulous landscaping, planting and pruning were bursting out in this Diamond Jubilee weather in a carefully crafted ‘sweet disorder’ of rhododendrons – purple, pink, orange, peach, white, mauve. The gardens, created in the 1930s, only occupy 35 acres of ground, but I could happily have lost myself all day following the trails to the Hidden Gardens and the intensely scented Rose Garden, through Spring Wood and Summer Wood, past the coot sailing in the Obelisk Pond and the flood of psychedelic colour from the senetti magenta in the Queen Elizabeth Temperate House.

At last I tore myself away, paused in the Savill Building for a glass of lemonade that hardly touched the sides going down, and set out through the glades and lawns of Windsor’s wider Great Park. This is one of England’s oldest parks, founded by William the Conqueror and embellished over a thousand years by his successors. After the beautifully sculpted formality and simmering heat of the Savill Gardens, it was like throwing off a heavy cloak to wander in the shade of the oaks and sweet chestnuts, past Cow Pond (a unique Baroque water feature, recently restored from dereliction), and to see what artless nature had scattered in the grass – bluebells, milkmaids, red campion, buttercups.

Up at Snow Hill, King George III in green bronze looked out from his seat on a pawing horse over the Great Park, where the Long Walk ran arrow-straight between newly mown verges towards the distant towers and battlements of Windsor Castle nearly three miles away. Back south through the woods and down beside the wide empty polo field, and a final saunter through hilly Valley Gardens and along the tree-lined banks of Virginia Water, that vast man-made lake, in a blue simmering haze of heat so arcadian I might just have dreamed the whole walk up.

Start & finish: Savill Gardens car park, Englefield Green, Berks TW20 0XD (OS ref SU 977707)
Getting there: Train (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Egham (2½ miles). Road: Savill Gardens (car park: about £5 cash) signposted from A30 (M25 Jct 13)
Walk (7½ miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 160): Start with circuit of Savill Gardens (adult £8.50, senior £7.95, child 6-16 £3.75, family of 4 £21; includes leaflet map). Return to car park; leaving Savill Building, left (north) along tarmac track. In 300m, ahead past ‘No Cycling’ notice (977710). In 400 m, left past end of Cow Pond. Left on track from pond’s left (west) edge; in 300 m, right (972715) up tarmac drive. In half a mile pass pink lodge (976722); through gates (press button); over Spring Hill to equestrian statue on Snow Hill (967727). Left (south) on grassy ride for ½ mile into trees. In 250 m, 7 tracks meet (967717); left on gravel path bisecting 2 tarmac drives. In 400 m, at 5-way junction (971715), right on gravel path; on beside Smith’s Lawn for 1 mile. Just before bridge over Virginia Water, bear left (966695; ‘Lakeside Walk’). Follow along shore for 1½ miles; left past Totem Pole (980696); follow ‘Savill Gardens’ to car park.

Lunch: Savill Building restaurant (01784-485402)
More info: theroyallandscape.co.uk; thecrownestate.co.uk/windsor

Breast Cancer Care’s Pink Ribbon Walk:
0870-145-0101; www.pinkribbonwalk.org.uk: Marble Hill Park, London, 16 June
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 02:45

  3 Responses to “Diamond Jubilee Walk – The Royal Landscape, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire”

  1. Dear Christopher – I have just discovered you, sorry it took so much
    time. Going through my files of papers long forgotten I came across a
    print out of an article you wrote for the Telegraph in Walk of the
    Month. 19 Sept. 2004. through Windsor Great Park. I am very familiar
    with this park as my daughter and family live a stone’s throw away and
    I much enjoyed the piece, much of which I and my grandchildren have
    walked many a time over the years they were at the Royal School. And
    at last I come to my main reason for writing. The Royal School. An
    important diminutive edifice in this great park, reminiscent of Little
    House on the Prairie!
    The school was founded by Queen Victoria for the schooling of her
    Windsor castle and Park staff’s children. It has Royal funding and
    became one of the the late Queen Mum’s pet supportive project. She
    often visited the children and never forgot to send them a giant I
    mean giant, Easter egg every year. When the Queen Mum died it was not
    long before Easter and the Queen was still in mourning. Nevertheless
    as she took on the role of support from her mother she still had time
    to remember to send the Easter Egg. She too, often visited informally
    and my grandson had the privilege of speaking to her twice and the age
    of 5 and 6. She was a familiar person to all the 80 children of that
    school, especially in the small chapel near to the pink Royal Lodge
    which the children attended once a week. She was often their without
    formality. My grandchildren were pupils for four years each and will
    never forget the experience that taught them manners, compassion, and
    love for other people, as well as the three Rs. Sorry for rambling,
    but my reason for all this is that I was disappointed that you were
    not shown the school on your walk, you passed very close by almost
    opposite the Royal Lodge but hidden by the trees. Forgive my rambling!
    This was a spontaneous morsel.
    I shall read more of your work.
    Regards Karen (Steele)

    • Dear Karen,

      That’s fascinating, thank you! Just shows how, when you go for a walk, you miss 100 times more than you notice.

      With good wishes,


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