01:00PM, Friday 18 March 2016
Preparations are well underway for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and a charity is adding the finishing touches to its own special gift to Windsor in honour of the monarch. Assistant editor Nicola Hine reports.
With 63 points of interest connected by a 6.3km self-guided walking trail, the Outdoor Trust’s Queen’s Walkway gives visitors the perfect chance to explore the famous sights and hidden highlights of the town Her Majesty calls home.
The project began a couple of years ago, inspired by the success of other walkways created by the trust. The first, in London in 1977, was to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and is now walked by more than three million people annually. It was followed by a route to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, which connected Buckingham Palace with the London Olympic venues.
The Windsor walkway has been created in recognition of another milestone; in September last year the Queen became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Trust director Jim Walker explained: “We wanted to do a walkway here because Windsor is the Queen’s preferred home, it’s the place where she comes at weekends, and also it has been the place where most monarchs have made their home, going back as far as William the Conqueror. So it’s a very special place and I know the people of Windsor really appreciate that relationship. And so we decided to work out a route that could be 6.3km long, joining 63 points of interest, which wasn’t difficult as there are so many great places here, and the whole idea was to celebrate her 63 years of having been on the throne.”
The trust approached the then Royal Borough mayor Cllr Colin Rayner, who introduced the idea at a council meeting in June 2013, and Jim and the team had a meeting at Windsor Castle.
With the idea well received, fundraising for the project began, with support from residents, local businesses including Glaxo-Smith-Kline, and charities, including the Shanly Foundation and The Gosling Foundation.
“We then designed the markers themselves and agreed about where we were going to put them in the ground and what the 63 points were, and worked really closely with people like the local history society to help us with the detail about the story that is Windsor that we could share with all the visitors who come here all the time,” Jim said.
The Queen herself gave the project her seal of approval in its early stages. Speaking to the Express in September 2014, trust chairman, writer and broadcaster Hugo Vickers said: “The Queen is good on detail so it is wonderful she has taken a great interest in the project.
“We’re giving something back to Windsor, which is a gift to the Queen for the use of the general public and tourists, who I hope will enjoy it immensely.”
This Sunday marks one year since the first marker was officially unveiled by Admiral Sir James Perowne, the Governor of Windsor Castle, outside the Henry VIII Gate.
Contractors from Murrill Construction Ltd, which has supported the project, then set to work installing the remaining 62, including one on the Long Walk which was laid on a rainy day last May. The final markers were put down within days.
In July last year the walkway was viewed by a prestigious guest. The Mayor and Mayoress of The Gold Coast in Queensland, Cllr Tom Tate and his wife Ruth, were joined by the city’s CEO Dale Dickson on a visit to see the attraction.
The Gold Coast is getting a walkway of its own, also being produced by the trust, which hopes to install one in all of the Commonwealth nations and territories before the next Commonwealth Games in 2018.
During his visit, Cllr Tate was presented with the final marker for his walkway.
With the castle being the obvious starting point for the walk, other highlights on it range from parks to the riverside, town centre streets, statues and churches.
Choosing the route was an eye-opening process for Jim, who lives in Cheltenham, who cites the Hawker Hurricane near Alexandra Gardens, Bachelor’s Acre and the Long Walk among his own personal highlights.
“The process has been really fascinating for me because I didn’t know Windsor really well, but what I found was so many things got revealed to me that I thought as a visitor I would have loved to have known,” he said.
“We were privileged to be able to take the route right down the middle of the Long Walk.
“It’s such a great view running through the park and you can go for miles in there.
“The Duke of Edinburgh does his carriage driving down there, and it’s just a very special place. And we’ve been as I say very privileged to be able to put a marker just off the main line, because we didn’t want to interrupt the sight line itself looking majestically through the park, but just off to the side you’ll see our marker.”
A panoramic panel displaying information about the walkway is due to be installed shortly, and the trust is now gearing up for the official launch of the walkway, which is due to take place within the next few weeks. Details of the occasion will be announced shortly.
See next week’s Express for more on the Queen’s Walkway.
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