Berkshire walk around Windsor Great Park
PUBLISHED: 16:42 26 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:42 26 May 2016
Steve Davison heads to the Great Park for a walk in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday, stopping off at Snow Hill for a spectacular view
From Ranger’s Gate car park the route heads through part of Cranbourne Chase with a quick view of the red-brick Cranbourne Tower – former residence of the Keeper of Cranbourne Chase – before heading into Windsor Great Park. Once part of a vast Norman hunting forest, the park is home to a number of ancient oak trees and a range of wildlife, including a large herd of red deer. The present herd, descended from deer introduced from the Balmoral Estate, was established in 1979 by the current Park Ranger, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
Take a quick look at the Isle of Wight Pond, before reaching The Village and passing the shop and tearoom; The Village was built in the early 20th century to house estate workers. From here is a short walk to the southern end of Queen Anne’s Ride – which dates from 1708 – to visit a statue of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The equestrian statue was presented by The Crown Estate Commissioners to commemorate her Golden Jubilee in 2002.
Next, we follow part of the Three Castles Path (a 60-mile route between Windsor Castle, Odiham Castle and the Great Hall at Winchester) to arrive at Snow Hill. Crowned by the Copper Horse, a mighty equestrian statue of George III erected in 1831, the hill affords some impressive views: to the east, beyond Heathrow Airport, are the high-rise buildings in the City of London, whilst to the north is the tree-lined Long Walk and Windsor Castle. The castle – the largest occupied castle in the world – dates back to Norman times and is well worth a visit.
After admiring the views from this high vantage point, the walk rejoins Queen Anne’s Ride for a while; a short way to the south is a millstone that was carved at Stanage Edge, Derbyshire. This commemorates the replanting of 1,000 trees along the avenue in 1992 to mark 1,000 years of the Office of High Sheriff. The final leg of the walk passes Russel’s Pond before heading over Beehive Hill to arrive back at the start.
• Start/finish: Ranger’s Gate car park (SU953734) on the A332 between Windsor and Bracknell
• Map: OS Explorer 160
• Distance: 5 miles (8km)
• Terrain: gates, no stiles (dog friendly), ups and downs, tracks that can be muddy and park drives
• Time: 2.5 hours
• Refreshments: shop and tearoom (01753 960222) at The Village; the Fox and Hounds (01784 433098) off route near Bishop’s Gate
1 (SU953734) – From the car park turn left (north-west) along the tarred drive, heading away from the A332 for 350m and just before the gate (private), turn left. Follow the track for three quarters of a mile (fence on left) through woods to reach a tarred drive and turn left; to the right is Cranbourne Tower (private). With care, cross straight over the A332 and go through Cranbourne Gate. Follow the tarred drive as it gently curves right, passing some oak trees with plaques, to a cross-junction with Prince Consort’s Drive (for a shorter walk turn right at the start crossing the A322, enter the park and follow the tarred drive to Point 2).
2 (SU952726) – Turn right (signposted Cumberland Lodge and village shop) to another cross-junction; ahead on the right is the Isle of Wight Pond. We turn left and follow the drive past a smaller pond, ignoring a drive to the left to reach the shop on the left, at The Village. Keep ahead along the drive, passing a large green (left) and ignoring two side drives. After a house (left) there is a wide grassy ride which crosses the drive – this is Queen Anne’s Ride. Turn right along this to reach the statue of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Turn left along the tarred drive and fork left at the split. Keep ahead at the cross-junction for half a mile, ignoring a drive that joins from the left; the walk is now following the Three Castles Path.
3 (SU967729) – Just after the entrance to Chaplain’s Lodge (right) and before the next junction, turn left down the track. Keep ahead past the pond, follow the wide hedge-lined path. Keep ahead at the cross-junction (look right for a view of the Royal Lodge (private), the official residence of Prince Andrew, Duke of York) to a gate and enter the deer park. Go straight on, crossing a horse gallop, to reach the Copper Horse. After admiring the views keep ahead down the grassy slope to the tarred drive and turn left; ahead is The Long Walk and Windsor Castle (anyone wanting a pub visit should detour right along the drive, exit the deer park and turn left at the cross-junction to leave the park through Bishop’s Gate, ahead on the right is The Fox and Hounds pub; retrace steps (adds 1.75 miles)).
4 (SU967728) – Having turned left, follow the tarred drive westwards for a third of a mile to a gate and leave the deer park. Keep to the right-hand drive (straight on) to reach a crossing ride – Queen Anne’s Ride (100m to left is the millstone). Turn right (north) along the ride for 300m and then turn left past Russel’s Pond. Follow the track up Beehive Hill, then down towards Ranger’s Gate. Keep ahead across the tarred drive, then cross the A332 (traffic lights) back to the car park.
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