I grabbed a train to Windsor. I had a vague plan to see the town and perhaps visit the Queen's house, but I had stepped into an other-worldly zoo once off the train.
There was some sort of Scouts convention going on? I guess? I couldn't be bothered to find out what was really going on, but there were loads and loads of men, women and children dressed in what I would associate with boyscouts, except a lot of them were wearing kilts. Also, some of them were quite aged. Grandpascouts?
They were all gathered around the front of the castle, with much shouting and fanfare and picture-taking and confusion as the various groups were trying to sort each other out.
Instead of dallying around the castle, where all the scouts seem to be trying to get inside, I hit the park.
Windsor is somewhat extraordinary for the amount of lawns surrounding it.
I started walking....and walking...
Turing around gave good views of the castle. This is the largest castle in the world, originally started as a Norman fortress by William the Conquer, and still in use as a Royal residence- this is the Queen's weekend home. Not too shabby, eh?
The three mile stretch of lawn and trees and grazing land in front of the castle leads you up to a deer park, symbolic of the hunting forest the kings would have access to.
The lawn stretches all the way up to the Equestrian statue of George III, which was slowly getting slightly less small as I approached it in the pouring rain.
A lucky sighting:
A red kite, a forked-tail raptor that was considered a pest and hunted until near-extinction. They have been re-introduced to England from a population in Wales and they seem to be doing quite well here.
There are beautiful old oak trees all over the park. Sadly, dutch elm disease killed a lot of the original trees in the park, but they have tried to replant as much as possible.
There. I made it. Here's a view of the castle from three miles off:
There are all these tiny but luxe cottages and farms in the Great Park. A few roads crossed the park, but they were closed to public traffic. It was mostly woods and farms, with more woods and farms on the other side of the road to shake things up a bit.
I encountered very few people in the park, most of whom seemed to be birdwatchers. A few cyclist and quite a few people one horseback or in carriages.
It was all very peaceful and bucolic.
The castle seemed infinitely far away. I could still be out there walking towards it, and never even know.
Eventually though, I did make it back. I sat down with my GPS and figured I did at least 12 miles from train station to the end loop of Windsor Great Park and back. I was stupid and didn't bring snacks or much water- I thought the park would have at least something in the way of food, but once you get out past the town of Windsor, there's nothing but park. Towards the end, I was contemplating gnawing on a haunch of venison and trying not to envision the punishment for chewing on one of the Queen's deer. I was perhaps a bit more headachy and tired than I should have been because of my oversite, but all was well. Despite the rain, it was a perfectly pleasant day out, and only about 45 minutes outside of London to boot.