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Windsor Castle
The Great Park

After the castle itself, the chief glory of Windsor is the Great Park, the remnant of a tract of 180 miles in circuit, which formed the happy hunting-ground of our medieval kings. It is joined to the town and castle by the Long Walk, the noble avenue of elms planted by Charles II. The Park is gently undulating and dotted, here and there, with magnificent oaks and beeches, sometimes standing singly, sometimes in thick clumps. Looking from George IV's Gateway to the gilt statue which he erected to "the best of fathers," the beauty of the landscape thrills one with the satisfaction of perfection. The spirit of romance seems to pervade each fairy glade and hill, and visions of days long past arise before us, when lord and lady fair on fiery steeds rode through the enchanted spot, and paused in their pursuit of the bounding deer, moved by the genius of the place, to whisper words of love. An oak measuring 26 feet 10 inches, at the height of 5 feet from the ground, is reckoned to be 800 years old. Three oaks in Cranbourne Chase, the oldest of which is probably 450 years, are called respectively, Queen Anne, Queen Charlotte and Queen Victoria, these names it is scarcely necessary to explain, having been given since they evolved from their sapling stage. Herne's Oak, which Shakespeare memorialises in "The Merry Wives" was, according to some, blown down in a storm in 1863 and a sapling was planted to mark the spot. According to others, it was cut down by mistake, with other decayed trees, by the order of George III. At one corner of the Park, there are some dozen oak trees, all as old as the Norman Conquest.

In fact, wherever one glances, be it at an old tree, or a bit of old carving half hidden in grass, or a china cup in the drawing-room, or a picture in the library, from the marble sarcophagus erected in memory of the Prince Albert to a blade of grass on the terrace, one finds endless cause for interest and deeper investigation. Such historical associations cling to every stone or crumb of earth, such romantic stories are whispered to one at every turn, such echoes of old-world times are recalled at every foot-fall, that no one could weary of visiting again and again this wondrous spot, to dream of bygone faces, fashions, and manners. And as one gazes, one feels the same pride in its beauty as stirred the hearts of Henry III and Edward III; one understands the desire of the world-satiated Henry VIII to rest in peace by the side of his best loved queen under those cool grey stones, and one feels a deep thankfulness that the storm-tossed Charles is at rest for evermore in that calm, sanctified, world-remote spot.

Edited from PH Ditchfield's "Bygone Berkshire" (1896)
  

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.