diamond geezer

 Saturday, August 26, 2017

A place you can visit: Virginia Water

What is there? A very big lake with landscaped gardens.

Is it pretty? Yes, that's the main reason for going.

Where is it? In the southern half of Windsor Great Park, where Surrey meets Berkshire.

How do you get there? If you live locally you probably drive. The car parks get absolutely packed out.

I do not live locally: There's always the train. Virginia Water station is about half an hour's walk from the lake.

That doesn't sound like a very interesting walk: Christchurch Road runs direct, and is lined by all sorts of million pound houses, plus gateways to the private Wentworth Estate which surrounds the famous golf course and is where Bruce Forsyth lived. It's not quite so interesting on the walk back.

Where is the entrance? There are several, but the main one is on the A30 where you'll also find the Virginia Water Pavilion, a new timbered cafe/kiosk/toilets combo. Pasta Plus Pesto costs £6, but if you've any sense you'll have brought a picnic.

What to do? Most people walk around the lake. It's a big lake, so the path around the edge is 4½ miles long. If you're fit enough to commit to a circuit, it's ideal for a good stroll, or a cycle, or for the walking of a dog. Less committed visitors tend to merely saunter up to the ice cream van by the totem pole and back.

Clockwise or anti-clockwise? Obviously either, but I'd recommend clockwise because there's only one path along the south side of the lake but a multitude of options on the north side on the way back.

Is there a scenic cascade? Why yes there is, at the point where the River Bourne exits the lake. It's ten metres high and was built by King George III's architect in the 1780s as part of the landscaping of Windsor Great Park. There's now a little viewing platform, perfect for photos and gushing selfies.

Has anyone stolen a city from Libya and dumped it by the lake? Technically the British colonel who acquired the stones of Leptis Magna would say they were a gift to the King, but these days the three dozen columns look very much like brazen cultural appropriation. The current set-up is a repair job following much-needed restoration in 2009.

Was any of Harry Potter filmed here? Some lakeside scenes from The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire were shot by the lakeside, but bits you probably don't remember, so don't come here just for that.

Hang on, did you mention a totem pole? Indeed. 100 feet tall and cut from a single log of red cedar, the pole was a gift from Canada to the Queen in 1958, and is carved with ten staring faces.

What are The Valley Gardens? 220 acres of forested gardens on the northern side of the lake, part of The Royal Landscape, and a glorious place to wander, rest and admire.

I thought that was The Savill Garden: No, that's half a mile to the north. The Savill Garden is a lot more ornamental with a lot more flowers. It's gorgeous but it costs £10.50 to get in, whereas The Valley Gardens are six times larger and you can explore for nothing.

When were The Valley Gardens created? Immediately after the Second World War at the request of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, as a splash of brightness amid the austerity, freely open for all.

What's the best way to explore The Valley Gardens? You can wander anywhere, but two waymarked paths weave across the the tumbling contours, full details of which can be found in an excellent free leaflet dispensed on site. The red path is the Hilltop Route, via the Heather Garden, and has the best views down each of the micro-valleys. The yellow path is the Discovery Route, which explores the horticultural dips and hillcrests in a more undulating way. The blue Lakeside Route is positively dull by comparison.

Where do the Royal family play polo? That'd be at the Guards Polo Club, a large exclusive complex of ten pitches behind the Heather Garden. It costs mere mortals a five figure sum to join, and over £6000 a year to play, so don't think you're going to be welcome.

When's the best time to visit The Valley Gardens? Probably spring, when the national collections of rhododendrons and azaleas are doing their thing. Autumn colours are often very impressive, given the combinations of trees on site. Summer is more about verdant foliage - lush, but not as colourful.

What's special about the tiny stream down Daffodil Valley? It marks the boundary between Berkshire and Surrey. For a month it's also surrounded by the largest display of daffodils in Britain, allegedly.

Best thing about Virginia Water? The Valley Gardens, as part of a wander round the lake and perhaps a wider exploration of Windsor Great Park.

I really must visit Virginia Water sometime: Yes indeed.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream