Windsor Great Park comprises 5,000 acres of the Surrey and Berkshire countryside stretching from Windsor Castle in the north to Ascot in the south. Once a mighty Norman hunting forest, Windsor Park used to stretch for another 20 miles Southwest. The now much smaller Park, is managed by the Crown Estate and comprises formal avenues, gardens, woodland, open grassland and a Deer Park.
With the lake at Virginia Water, a great deer park, Roman ruins a chinese pagoda, ancient Oak trees, Polo Fields, Royal Lodges, A secret village and even a North American Totem pole, the remaining park provides much for 2 million visitors to enjoy each year for free.
Wildlife and Habitat
The Park includes many areas of natural and managed habitats which are home to a wide range of wildlife and plants.
Trees and Woodland
Trees are a naturally important part of Windsor Great Park. The park belongs to the Royal Family and many of the gifts of trees that they have received over the centuries have ended up here in Windsor. These days botanists come from all over the world especially to see the National Dwarf Conifer Collection at Windsor Great Park.
One of the most recognised features of the The Great Park are its magnificent ancient oak trees. Many of which started their life back in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I who issued a command for establishing oak plantations in the Park through acorn sowing. This was to replenish the stock of great oaks which had been felled for use in ship building. Some of the trees dating back to Tudor times have a girth of over ten metres.
Myths and Legends
Where to go in Windsor Great Park
The Park comprises many popular areas open to the public including:
- Savill Garden
- Valley Gardens (seasonal highlights – spring blooms, daffodil valley)
- The Heather Garden
- Virginia Water
- The Deer Park
- The Long Walk
- The Copper Horse
- Snow Hill
- Smiths’ Lawn, Guards Polo Club
- The Totem Pole
- The Village
What to do in Windsor Great Park
- Walking and running (Windsor Half Marathon, She Runs and other organised runs)
- Dog walking
- Cycling and rollerblading
- Horse riding
- Flying model aircraft
- For families (play parks, events)
Monuments and Statutes
- The Obelisk
- The Copper Horse
- The Totem Pole
- Queen Elizabeth Statue
Visiting Windsor Great Park
- Opening times
- Eating (The Savill Building, Windsor Great Park Post Office and Village Store, Kiosks on Obelisk Lawn, Blacknest Gate, the Totem Pole (weekends) and Virginia Water car park (all year)).
Savill Garden is found on the south eastern bondary of the park and contains a beautifully maintained garden of rhododendrons, azaleas, trees, and conifers with a small lake and a hothouse. Savill garden was created in the first half of the 20th Century. This is the only part of Windsor Great Park that visitors must pay admission to enter.
Here is a photo of Windsor Deer Park with the Copper Horse statue in the distance,
taken by Chris Brown on 29th January 2007 – a cloudy morning.
On the eastern edge of the park is an earthwork feature referred to as the ‘Park Pale‘ on the Ordnance Survey map. A pale is usually a wooden stake fence, often associated with deer hunting and this is true in the case of Windsor Great Park.
The deer park sits between Windsor and the Great Park village. In the rutting season the calls of the stags echo across the local countryside. Other surprising calls you might hear include the squaking of parakeets. A resident population of several hundred green parakeets has been living in the park since the late 1990s. At dusk, the beech trees near Saville gardens are a good place to look for them.
Within the deer park at the top of snow hill sits the statue of King George III (yup, the mad one) who sits dressed up as a Roman Emperor on top of his horse and points off towards Slough. An inscription in Latin describes him as ‘Pater Optimo’ which I believe translates as ‘Big Daddy’.
The roman ruins are right at the other end of the park, closer to Virginia Water were transported from the site of Leptis Magna (near modern-day Tripoli) to the park back in 1818. They were rebuilt with more thought to asthetics than vericimilitude and so are a real curiousity to modern eyes.
The Totem Pole in Windsor Park
This was a gift from native peoples from the northern part of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It was carved from Western Red Cedar and erected in 1958. As you can see from the closeup the totem pole is weathering nicely.
In the very centre of the park is a huge flat expanse of beautifully manicured lawn where the Guards Polo team have their headquarters. During the summer there is a regular programme of fixtures leading up to The Cartier Queen’s Cup Final which has been a regular event for over 60 years.
The Valley Gardens are a real treasure. A series of steep sided valleys and ridges splayed out like the fingers on a hand lead down toward Virginia Water from the edge of Smith’s Lawn. The planting is bold with Dogwoods, Witch-hazels, Azaleas, and huge Magnolias as well as a world class display of Narcissus bulbs that erupt into flower each spring creating a yellow carpet flowing down the hillside.
The Great Park Village is definitely worth a visit. It was built in the centre of the Great Park in the 1930s, to provide homes for people who work on the Royal estate. It is a beautiful place, best appreciated on foot or bicycle.