Head to East Berkshire and blow the cobwebs away on a fairly long, but mostly level walk through Windsor Great Park. Once part of a vast Norman hunting forest, the park is a great place for a walk with its wonderful mix of ancient oak trees and wildlife, including a large herd of red deer.
Soon after leaving the car park we cross Virginia Water – a picturesque 18th century man-made lake – via the elegant five-arched bridge designed by Sir Jeffry Wyatville in the 1820’s, before heading north past the Valley Gardens to reach Smith’s Lawn.
The gardens (free entry), which were created by Deputy Ranger, Sir Eric Savill and his head gardener, Hope Findlay, have several trails including the Azalea Walk which offers an abundance of colour in May. Smith’s Lawn is home to the Guard’s Polo Club which was founded in 1955; between March and September there are a number of polo events.
We continue northwards past Cumberland Gate; on the way, over to the left, is a statue of Prince Albert on horseback, erected to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Soon the walk splits with the longer walk heading into the deer park to reach Snow Hill. Crowned by the Copper Horse, a mighty equestrian statue of George III erected in 1831, the hill affords some impressive views including Windsor Castle which lies at the end of the tree-lined Long Walk. The castle – the largest occupied castle in the world – dates back to Norman times.
After admiring the views we follow part of the Three Castles Path (a 60-mile route between Windsor Castle and the Great Hall at Winchester via Odiham Castle) before rejoining the shorter walk near Chaplain’s Lodge.
We then continue along Duke’s Lane, later passing the picturesque Leiper Pond, before following a delightfully secluded stretch through woods.
Finally we re-cross the five-arched bridge over Virginia Water to arrive back at the car park; published in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life, May 2018.