Sunday, 15 February 2009

Ascot to Windsor (Berkshire Way 14)

Queen Victoria's statue, near the end of the walk

At last, the final seven mile leg of the BBC's Berkshire Way! The walk starts at the east side of Ascot race course. A path behind a row of large houses emerges at Golden Gates Lodge. The eponymous gates, with their royal crest, were formerly used by the Queen's procession at the Royal Ascot meeting in June.

After a short stretch of road and a pleasant stroll through a piece of Crown Land, you enter Windsor Great Park through the Ascot Gate. Soon, passing through Prince Consort's gate, you enter the Great Park proper, to be greeted by this view which encapsulates the rest of the walk: tarmac road, trees, grass.

From here, a winding route brings you to Snow Hill and the splendid statue of king George III, known as the Copper Horse. the statue is by Sir Richard Westmacott, and was made in 1824-30. The statue was erected by his son, George IV, who apparently wanted it to resemble the statue of Peter the Great in St Petersburg, hence the massive base. The base, of granite, is 25 feet high.

There is a fantastic view looking towards the castle, along the Long Walk.

From here it is straight ahead, two miles or so, along the Long Walk to the edge of the castle precincts. The deer park is on the left.

Finally, the castle is in close view.

You skirt around its sides to reach the end of the walk at the statue of Queen Victoria by the entrance to the castle, first noting the Guildhall (or Town Hall), designed in about 1687 by Sir Thomas Fitch, and completed after his death by Sir Christopher Wren.

Next door is the delightful Crooked House. You would have to come early in the morning to take a picture without spectators outside.

To celebrate the completion of the Berkshire Way, we had a glass of champagne and some seafood at the Cafe de la Mer, just further along the High Street.

Rating: three and a half stars. Interesting to walk in the Great Park, and some fine sights, but curiously monotonous as well.

Map: Explorer 160 (Windsor, Weybridge and Bracknell).

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