It was a cold and frosty morn when Hoover and I went for a wintry dog walk in wonderful Windsor Great Park. Windsor Great Park comprises 4,800 acres of parkland, gardens, ancient woodlands, and forest trails, which includes The Savill Garden, Virginia Water, The Valley Gardens and the Long Walk and Deer Park. Today Hoover and I visited the Deer Park during a 5 mile circular walk, which started at the Cranbourne Gate car park (map) located on Sheet Street (A332). It is free to park here, although opening is limited to weekends and bank holidays.
The first leg of the walk takes you from Cranbourne Gate to Queen Anne’s Ride. Leave the car park, and cross over the A332. As you do so you will reach the Cranbourne Gate entrance to Windsor Great Park. (streetview) Walk through the gate and follow the wide tarmac drive. The landscape is fairly flat and open, and is peppered with the most beautiful ancient oak trees. On a clear day (not today!) you should have your first glimpse of Windsor Castle over to the left. Follow the tarmac drive for a little way until you come to the first crossroads…turn right here (signposted to Cumberland Lodge). Continue along here for a little way until you reach the next junction by the ponds. Take the left hand turn…the village is now on your left. As you follow this path, bending right and then left you will soon pass the pretty little post office and general store: an ideal place for a pit stop. Continue on after the post office, passing the play area on your right. Immediately after the play area you will come to a long, wide, grass path that stretches off to the right. This is Queen Anne’s Ride and it actually runs to the left and the right, but you need to turn right here.
As you turn right into Queen Anne’s Ride you will be able to see the silhouette of the Jubilee Statue way up ahead on the highest point of the hill. The equestrian statue of HM Queen Elizabeth II stands 12ft 6in tall on a 10ft high plinth, and I believe it is reputed to be the only equestrian statue of The Queen to be commissioned (but don’t quote me on that!). Created by sculptor was Philip Jackson it was a Golden Jubilee gift from the Crown Estate. You need to turn left onto the tarmac drive but before you do you can go on through the pedestrian gate for a closer look at the statue if you like. When you do carry on down the tarmac drive you will pass between two wooded areas. The one on your left is known as Dark Wood.
Keep left at the next fork and then you will reach a crossroads after a few short yards. Turn left at the crossroads: you will have the large fenced field known as Poets Lawn on your left. Keep walking, past the fabulous old trees. At the next junction continue straight ahead along a tarmac path – this is fenced on both sides. After a few hundred yards, turn right down a wide, hedge-lined grass path. Continue until you reach the next grass path on the left. When you reach this turning you may well glimpse The Royal Lodge up ahead through the trees.
Turn left up the grass path: you will see The Copper Horse up ahead. There is a large gate ahead and a sign notifying you that you are entering The Deer Park. Dogs should go back on the lead in this area, but they’ll be able to run free again afterwards. Go through the gate and cross over a sandy bridleway walking towards the Copper Horse. This enormous statue of King George III on his horse, was erected in 1829, and sits on top of Snow Hill. As you reach the statue you will see one of the most famous views in Britain – the view down Long Walk to Windsor Castle. On a clear day you can see Heathrow Airport. The Long Walk is a wide, straight, tree-lined avenue that stretches for over 2.6 miles from the George IV Gateway at Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse. The avenue is used for royal carriage processions including for the royal journey to Royal Ascot.
Once you have finished at The Copper Horse retrace your steps to the sandy bridleway and turn right, in the direction that George III is pointing in! It is likely you will see some deer. We saw forty or fifty during our walk. Around 500 roam freely in the Deer Park enclosure. Established by H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, the current herd are all descendants of 40 hinds and two stags that were introduced in 1979.
Follow the trail as it winds through the trees until you get to another large set of gates, with a kissing gate next to them for pedestrians. You are now leaving The Deer Park and dogs can be let off of their leads again. Pass through the kissing gate and keep right at the fork ahead. Continue straight on until you reach the cross roads with the wide, grassy pathway that is Queen Anne’s Ride again…but at a different point than before. You need to turn right down Queen Anne’s Ride, but before you do take a moment to look left: you’ll see a millstone which was unveiled to commemorate 1,000 years of the office of the High Sheriff of Windsor Great Park, and in the distance you may see The Jubilee Statue again.
As you turn right off of the tarmac drive onto the grass of Queen Anne’s Ride, you will be walking in the direction of Windsor Castle. Continue along the Ride until you reach Russel’s Pond and a wooden bench that has been carved out of a tree trunk on the left hand side. Turn left in front of the bench and follow the path across the pond. Continue straight ahead between fields and stay on the track as it climbs up into a belt of trees and then drops down back to the A332 at Rangers Gate.
Cross over the A332 using the pedestrian crossing, then turn right along the road and immediately left down the tarmac access road to the Rangers Gate car park. Follow the tarmac lane ahead until you reach the white gateway for Flemish Farm. Turn left here along the sandy track that runs alongside the field and climbs up into woodland. Stay on the sandy track for almost a mile as it winds through the woodland. This bit can get quite muddy in wet weather! The track eventually emerges through a vehicle barrier onto a tarmac lane. Turn left here and follow the tarmac lane back to the car park. And there you have it!