Berkshire walk around Windsor Great Park
PUBLISHED: 15:22 18 May 2018
Follow Steve Davison as he heads to East Berkshire for a visit to Windsor Great Park with views which would delight any Royal Wedding guest
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.
• Start/finish: Virginia Water South Car Park (pay and display) SU960686 off the A329 (London Road)
• Map: OS Explorer 160
• Distance: 6 miles (9.7km) or 7.5 miles (12km)
• Terrain: fairly level, tracks and tarred drives, no stiles
• Time: 2.5 or 3.5 hours without stops
1 (SU960686) – Exit the back of the car park to a three-way track junction and go straight on to reach a tarred track beside Virginia Water. Turn left and follow the track as it swings right to cross a small bridge. Fork right to follow the waterside path before shortly rejoining the tarred track. Turn right over the five-arched bridge, once across, take the wide path on the right side of the drive, keeping parallel with the drive and crossing a tarred track on the way (houses over to right). Rejoin the drive and continue between Virginia Water on the right and Johnson’s Pond on the left. Keep to the drive as it heads gently uphill; on the right-hand side is the Valley Gardens.
2 (SU968699) – At the junction beside the polo pitch, keep ahead past the grassy expanse of Smith’s Lawn; soon over to the left, beside the trees, is the equestrian statue of Prince Albert and some seats. Follow the drive straight on through Cumberland Gate and pass some houses (right). Keep ahead, later ignore a drive to left and continue for a further 150m to another junction; here there is a choice. Shorter walk: take the second drive on the left (signposted for the village shop and Royal School). Keep ahead at the junction, following the drive just right of Chaplain’s Lodge, signposted for the village shop, to reach a forked junction and rejoin the longer walk from Point 4. Longer walk: keep ahead and follow the drive as it swings right to a junction (some way to the right is Bishops Gate and the Fox & Hounds pub).
3 (SU975722) – We keep ahead and shortly go through a gate to enter the deer park. Follow the drive for three quarters of a mile to reach a junction with the Long Walk. Turn left up the grassy slope to the Copper Horse and admire the views. Continue southwards for 200m, go through a gate and follow the wide hedge-lined path for 500m. Keep to the left of Ox Pond and follow the track up to a drive. Turn right (Chaplains Lodge on the left) to reach a forked junction.
4 (SU964717) – Both routes take the left fork and follow the drive downhill and then up to a junction. Turn left and keep ahead at the cross junction to follow Duke’s Lane for 1 mile. On the way, at the dip, detour over to the right to view Leiper Pond, before continuing for 100m to a track on the left. Turn left along this through the woods for slightly under three quarters of a mile, and just before a brick bridge, turn left and then shortly bear right along the wide grassy ride through the trees for half a mile. Rejoin the road passed earlier and turn right across the five-arched bridge, then turn left along the waterside path (straight on along the drive through Blacknest Gate is the Belvedere Arms pub). Bear left along the tarred track crossing the small bridge used earlier and then fork right along the gravel track for 200m to a junction beside the car park which is on the right.
• The ultimate Berkshire walking guide - With the North Wessex Downs, Windsor’s Long Walk and a whole host of beautiful towns and villages, Berkshire is an amazing place for a stroll