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London, England, United Kingdom
June 12, 2013
From journal Windsor & Eton
by Bear in Britain
Windsor, United Kingdom
October 17, 2002
The park began as the private hunting grounds of the kings of England, stretching out from the castle at Windsor. Today it's open to the public, though it's still very "royal": members of the royal family and staff live inside, the royally sponsored guards polo club is here, and you'll see fields of wheat and herds of deer that may eventually find their way into the Queen's farm shop nearby.
Most tourists, and even many residents, are only familiar with the Great Park in two ways. First, they see it when they stand at Windsor Castle and look down the mile-long "Great Walk" to the giant equestrian statue of George III. Second, they drive through it on the A332 road to Ascot. Both give great views, but there's nothing to compare to a good ramble deep inside the park.
A favorite walk of mine begins at Bishops Gate, behind the village of Englefield Green (bookshops in Windsor can sell you detailed maps of the park). You enter the gate into a quarter-mile stretch of old, lightly-planted woodland. Turn right through the gates to the deer park, and you're now on the crest of hills above windsor lightly dotted with copses of trees. Follow the road for a bit, then cut up a path to your left and you end up at the foot of the George III statue, marvelling at the outline of the castle below you.
Another great walk is the four-mile track around Virginia Water, a large lake known for its bird life. In the spring, it's also surrounded by impressive banks of azaleas and rhodedendrons. At one point you'll break from the trees of this classic English landscape to stumble upon Roman ruins. No, not quite authentic. This is part of the Forum of Leptis Magna, in North Africa, brought here by an earlier king to decorate his garden when ruins were the rage.
You could wander for days here and always see something new. The landscape is fairly gentle throughout, alternating between hills, farmland, and forest. Once you're away from the main entry points, you'll rarely see other people (except on very sunny weekend days).
And if you get really lucky, you might see members of the royal family walking their dogs. Don't get too close, however! Princess Anne is currently in court defending herself against a local who claims he was attacked by her dogs whilst jogging in the park!
From journal Beyond Windsor Castle