04:07PM, Tuesday 29 March 2016
If you're looking to get out for a walk in the fresh air, why not try the Queen's Walkway in Windsor? Assistant editor Nicola Hine and photographer Ian Longthorne put it to the test.
Having followed the progress of the Queen’s Walkway project for a couple of years, I was keen to test the route for myself, and to see parts of Windsor that, even as a lifelong Royal Borough resident, I hadn’t seen before.
So on a bright, if a little chilly, February afternoon, I completed the 6.3km walk for the first time.
I was joined by Jim Walker, director of walkway charity the Outdoor Trust, and Express photographer Ian Longthorne.
While Ian is a relatively experienced walker himself, I’ll be the first to admit that 20 minutes to walk to work is usually enough for me (I tend to ramble in a different sense of the word).
But Jim was keen to stress the walkway is suitable for all.
“We’re really keen it should be inclusive for everybody whatever their ability,” he said. “It shouldn’t be something that you need special equipment for, this is a route around the town that anybody could do and you can push a wheelchair or take a friend with a buggy. The whole route has got no steps on it and is fully accessible.”
So we set off, Jim in office shoes, Ian in walking boots and me in my trusty Converse, to visit each of the 63 points of interest on the route. Here are some of the highlights we saw along the way:
Marker one – the Henry VIII Gateway of Windsor Castle. This is where the first marker was laid in March last year. The gateway was built in 1511. Originally there was a drawbridge over a moat – there has been a castle on the site since William the Conqueror built one in the 1070s. Above the archway you can see the heraldic badges of the King, with the pomegranate of his first Queen, the Spanish Catherine of Aragon.
Marker five – Windsor Guildhall. Completed in 1690, it has served as an assize court, a Second World War food hall, and a council chamber for the Royal Borough. It is a licensed wedding venue; Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles there in 2005 and Sir Elton John and husband David Furnish entered into a civil partnership at the venue in the same year.
Marker seven – the Irish Guards statue. Depicting modern combat gear, the 6ft figure was sculpted by a former army officer using bronze from statues salvaged in Iraq. It stands on a plinth surrounded by cobbles from Afghanistan and was unveiled in 2011 by the Duke of Cambridge after the Guards had recently returned from a tour of the country.
Marker 15 – The Windsor Greys. Two life-size horses, Daniel and Storm, were sculpted by Robert Rattray. The Greys pulled the Queen’s carriage on the day of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The statues were placed on the roundabout to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation in 2013 and unveiled by Her Majesty in 2014.
Marker 22 – The Crispin pub. It is named after St Crispin, the patron saint of cobblers – appropriate for a walking route.
Marker 31 – The Windsor Lady. Depicting the Queen and her corgis, it is one of four memorials to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and was created by Maidenhead sculptor Lydia Karpinska.
Marker 42 – The Queen’s Train. Standing next to Windsor and Eton Central Station, it is a replica of the steam locomotive that conveyed Queen Victoria to London on her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Marker 52 – The Hawker Hurricane. A replica of the Second World War fighter plane, and a personal highlight of Jim’s. Its designer, Sir Sydney Camm, grew up in a terraced house in Alma Road, and the replica stands near the riverside by Alexandra Gardens.
Marker 63 – The Queen Victoria statue. Placed on Castle Hill to mark Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, new monarchs, including the current Queen, are proclaimed in front of the statue on their accession. A panoramic panel which describes the walkway will soon be placed near the statue.
Walking the Queen’s Walkway took us a couple of hours – although we stopped at almost every point along the way for Ian to take pictures – and, as Jim says, it is definitely suitable for all. It’s a great way to explore a town steeped in history and take in some of its most famous landmarks, its more hidden secrets, and some impressive views. Plus it’s an easy way to enjoy some gentle exercise and fresh air.
So lace up your walking shoes – whatever they may be – and give the Queen's Walkway a try. You'll definitely learn something about the town you didn't know before.