Some of the best things to see and do Sunninghill

PUBLISHED: 14:06 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:06 09 September 2019

Sunninghill (Maureen McLean Photography)

Sunninghill (Maureen McLean Photography)

Maureen McLean

Nestled between Ascot and Great Windsor Park, Sunninghill has lots to offer, from independent shops and restaurants to festivals, spas and shows

The history books are not too kind to the village of Sunninghill - and it's not just books, it's also poetry. As far back as the 1800s there were quotes mentioning the general bleakness of the landscape and it's possible such bad press was the reason why it was so sparsely populated back then. In 1822, journalist and member of parliament William Cobbett said: "As bleak, as barren and as villainous a heath as man ever set his eyes on," when he spoke about Windsor Forest in general. Daniel Defoe referred to it as "a black forest", while Samuel Pepys described the area as "gloomy". It would appear the only kind words came from poet Alexander Pope, who lived in Binfield for part of his youth.

In his work, Windsor Forest, he depicts the tranquility of the grounds, the colours of the landscape and the history of the "New Forest land". He illustrates bird hunting in the fall, fishing in the spring and Queen Anne deer hunting in the summer.

Royal approval

Windsor Forest was popular with Royalty, particularly for hunting. It was, of course, William the Conqueror who started building Windsor Castle in 1070. The forest was divided into different areas and enclosed, with Sunninghill Park being one of them. Silwood Park, as we know it today, was once a working farm in the 14th century.

Sunninghill's fortunes began to change with the discovery and popularity of the Sunninghill Waters. The area began to compete with other spa towns such as Bath, Tunbridge Wells and Cheltenham.

Of more importance was the advent of horse racing on nearby Ascot Heath. The very first meet was held in 1711 and Queen Anne championed Ascot as a "most suitable" place for the sport. Following Anne's death, meetings were held less often, but were started up again by the Duke of Cumberland until it grew into the major event it is today.

Luxury lifestyles

But it's not just horseracing the area is famous for; the rich and famous have also made Sunninghill their home. Beatle John Lennon and his wide Yoko Ono lived at the house known as Tittenhurst Park in London Road from 1969 to 1971. Then another Beatle, this time Ringo Starr, took up residence here until the late 1980s.

These days, it may not be the chance sighting of a Beatle that draws people to Sunninghill but the independent shops, good pubs, the inclusive clubs and societies and its community spirit. With events happening all year round, from the Party in the Park in July, to the Victorian Street Fayre in November, there is plenty for families and visitors to get involved in.

Jason Charles Jewellery

In this on-site workshop on the high street, they repair, restore, re-model and design beautiful jewellery. Jason Charles Jewellery stock contemporary silver, gold and platinum jewellery for every budget, be it a silver pendant or a diamond engagement ring.

Dive in

The school holidays can be manic - with six weeks of entertaining the little ones you're going to need some much-needed time out. A spa day at the Macdonald Berystede Hotel could be just the thing. A whole day of pampering starts from £75 per person, which includes a 55-minute treatment. Ruby Harrigan from the hotel says: "After your treatment you could lie down in the relaxation room and sip on a cuppa from our selection of herbal teas. You also have access to the use of the other spa facilities, which includes the outdoor hydro pool, the sauna and steam room. You could also relax on loungers spread around the green lawns outside, weather permitting. We have a beautiful terrace bar and lounge area where you can grab a bite from our appetising menu or simply sip on a glass of bubbly."

A world beneath your feet

Sunninghill Carpets & Flooring on the High Street is a family-owned business that has been running for over 30 years. They take immense pride in the quality of their work and they must be doing something right - their clients keep returning! They offer a wide choice of options to help transform your interiors. They supply and fit a wide range of quality carpets, and they are one of Amtico and Kährs' appointed retailers and installers.

Drinking spot

Ribs and Beer Wednesdays, Fish and Chips Tuesdays, a new gin bar and plenty of vegan menu options - owners Tomasz and Grace at The Dog and Partridge Pub on Upper Village Road have lots on offer any time of the year.

With summer here, diners will be able to experience the pub's newest addition, as Tomasz explains: "Our garden is now possibly one of the best dining and drinking spots in the area. The courtyard-style garden gives our guests the choice of dining in either the sun or shade so they can sit back and relax while enjoying a bite to eat from our gastropub menu. We're very proud of our garden and come summer it gets really busy, so booking a table is a must."

Picture perfect

The Circle Gallery has had its home on Sunninghill High Street for 28 years. "It was originally started by our dad," says owner Jane Stuart. "It's now run by my brother, Rob, and I. When Dad was looking to expand his garage-based picture framing business, he searched our local area looking for the right premises and Sunninghill felt like the ideal place, full of fabulous independent shops."

The gallery is a feast for the eyes, with a beautiful collection of contemporary art, from the best of established and up-and-coming artists. Those always on display include Jean Picton, Paul Oz, Allan Morgan and Nigel Cooke.

"We also offer a bespoke picture- framing service," says Jane. "We're regularly framing sports shirts, medals and other 3D items, along with a range of different artwork and photographs."

Rob and Jane are always evolving their business, with grand plans in 2020 to host more exhibitions.

Designer style

A Chanel handbag for £605, Holly Fulton dresses for £121, Jimmy Choo sandals for £160… if you're looking for designer clothes, then The Stock Exchange on Queens Road may have just what you're looking for. These days, with 'fast fashion' in the spotlight for being environmentally unfriendly, what better way to do our bit than to buy top-quality second-hand clothes? The idea isn't a new one, as they've had their shop since 1976, responsibly recycling for the past 40 years. If you have any designer items you no longer wear or use, you can sell them through the shop and online and earn a commission.

Why I love Sunninghill

Andrew Darling is Chairman of the local amateur dramatic society the Quince players. here's what he lovesabout living in the village

Keeping calm

I was introduced to the Quince Players over 30 years ago, working with a colleague who was already a member of the society, and it was his belief that me joining might calm me down. It was a pantomime, it was great fun and I was hooked from then on. Nineteen plays, 15 pantomimes and director of seven productions later, I still very much enjoy being part of the group.

Many hats

Today I am the chairman and permanent box office located at my business premises in the village. We've staged so many great productions, with a number of them having received awards and accolades. There are about 120 members, but we're always looking for new people to come along and join. There are so many aspects to get involved with as well as the acting, such as front of house, bartenders, stage builders, backstage, musicians, lighting and sound; something for everyone. It takes a large, dedicated team to put on a show and the satisfaction from receiving an audience's reaction is worth it all.

Part of the community

As well as an active amateur dramatics group, the village holds many cards for those thinking of moving or visiting here. It still retains a village community with a bi-annual street fair, wheelbarrow race on New Year's Day, it has great gastropubs, award-winning restaurants, bread baked from our bakery, a good library, a doctors surgery, cinema club, and fresh fish that arrives on a Wednesday.

Close by you can enjoy Windsor Great Park, open-air cinema and Party in the Park in the summer. It's been great to be able to watch my kids grow up in a safe and pleasant environment.


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