The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Walking In The Queen’s Back Garden

When I said to Vic, on Christmas Eve, that I would pop down to London see her this week, she suggested a walk along the North Downs Way. An excellent suggestion, it being somewhere that I’d expressed an interest in walking.

I duly chose a section of route, but it wasn’t until I came to print a map on Monday that I realised that the train times to get to the start point, combined with the length of the walk, meant that we would be pushing it to fit it into the available hours of daylight. Not wanting to have to rush along, nor to be finishing in the dark (nor hitting rush-hour on the trains, really), we had a late change of plan.

The revised plan was a nice and short train ride to Windsor for a stroll around Windsor Great Park. By some great omission in my life, I had not visited Windsor since I was two years old, and I confess that I have no recollection of that visit.

Yesterday morning was somewhat on the bracing side, and the streets of Windsor were deserted save for various people in uniform, as we made our way past the more attractive sides of the castle so as to place ourselves at the end of the Long Walk.

 P1070017 We’ll gloss over why there’s still a big Christmas tree blocking the street…

The Long Walk is appropriately named, being a two-and-a-quarter mile long, dead straight driveway, leading from the castle to the George III statue.

If you don’t know that the statue is a statue then from a distance of two miles away it does look somewhat like a strangely shaped tree. Getting closer, it becomes rather more obvious what it is:P1070006Hundreds of people must have sat at its base to picnic, but there were few people brave enough to be out on this morning, so we didn’t have to fight for a rock to sit on for our elevenses.

P1070008It was a pity about the haziness; I’m sure that on a clear day there’s a good view back to the castle. As it goes, you’ll have to just believe that the structure at the end of the Long Walk is indeed a big castle.

P1070007It took us a few minutes sitting at there to realise that we were exceptionally close to a large herd of deer, but the photo I took was so poor that I’ll not reproduce it, so you’ll just have to believe me on that score too.

Apparently on a sunny day the Long Walk is packed full of families who just walk to the statue and back. Our route was more interesting though, so off we set, off paved surfaces for a while, to take a few frozen paths to The Village.

The Post Office there was offering us ice cream with the promise that it was ‘Summer Inside’, but we didn’t believe the claim and it seemed inappropriate to partake, particularly as I was already struggling to feel my hands.

P1070011  Apparently sometimes the local swans, as well as the weather conditions, conspire to put shoppers off:

P1070010 The swans were not in evidence, either by the gate or on the pond. Admittedly, the frozenness of the pond may have contributed to their absence.

P1070012Further through the park we went, passing lots of oak trees that had been planted to commemorate various royal occasions (one princess in particular apparently had a penchant for planting trees for any occasion; Queen Victoria (to whom most of them were gifted) must have been thinking ‘Another oak tree? Can’t she see that we’ve got plenty all ready?’).

A short detour was taken to take in a tower (and look Vic, I even managed to place it straight in the photo!),P1070013

then we were looping back round to get back to the main part of the park, where, pausing for lunch, I impressed Vic with my ability to ferret in my pack, unwrap my sandwiches and eat them, all without removing either of my Buffalo Mitts (far too cold to expose the hands to the air).

Despite the mainly frozen ground, we did manage to find a bit of mud to smear on our shoes and trousers, something we were hoping to avoid in the hope of being in a fit state to visit a Windsor Tea Room for a warming brew before catching the train back.

The miles were eaten up as we chatted away, and before we knew it we were rejoining the Long Walk, this time half way along. The day had cleared a bit by now, so the castle was in our view, but we agreed that it doesn’t look particularly spectacular from this vantage point.

P1070015 (hmmm, actually, not that clear in the photo is it?)

Notwithstanding the muddy shoes and ankles, we descended on a tea room for a warming pot of tea. It took three cups for me to be able to feel my hands again, at which point we thought we’d best leg it back to the station for the train.

A very pleasant walk, with some interesting features to take in. The stats were 10 miles walked around the park (plus 3.25 walking to and from the station from Vic’s house), with a huge 350 feet of ascent.


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