I don’t necessarily loathe cars themselves, I just loathe being in them and the myriad other ways they are permanently seared into society. I can appreciate the beauty of finely crafted Italian sports car like a Lamborghini Miura with its curves arcing from the headlights to the taillights or the rugged bravado of a Ford Mustang. Everything else though leaves much to be desired. From the tedium of sitting in idle traffic to the endless costs of running a car to listening to dull middle-aged men at work or the pub discussing which junction they usually get off at to make it home before 6.
Sometimes though cars do have their uses. I usually try to travel exclusively by train or plane or any other means of transport that leads to avoiding one of those tiresome 4-wheeled lumps of metal however for a recent trip from Birmingham to Brighton necessity meant going by car (it’s an awkward place to get to via train). The good thing about going by car is that you can truly maximise the concept of the ‘trip within a trip’. Which means having a destination but also going to somewhere of interest on the way but not spending gargantuan amounts of time there. Usually this works best on longer drives (3 hours plus) as it’s a good way to break up the journey.
There are a few places on the route from the Midlands to Brighton but I had recently read Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (a book I scandalously ignored as a teenager while gleefully devouring the rest of his travel writings) where he wrote about the beauty of Windsor Great Park and the views it gives over London, the Thames Valley and the Chiltern Hills. In the spirit of the Trip within a Trip I thought rather than meander around Windsor Castle for three hours, looking at paintings and climbing stairs, why not just spend an hour appreciating this majestic part of the country that Bryson wrote about so elegantly. He described the view from the end of the Long Walk at the base of the copper statue of King George III on horseback as “one of the most comely views in England”(the summit of the hill is called, conveniently for a Brummie, Snow Hill). I’m a sucker for a great view, especially one I don’t have to pay to see.
The spot is just a 15 minute walk from a local pub where the car was parked. An azure blue sky without the slightest hint of a cloud enhanced the scene wonderfully on this late September midweek day which also meant there were relatively few other people around. I suspect that this magnificent place gets largely ignored at weekends too however and it’s the castle that gets the vast majority of the foot traffic as the prospect of completing the Long Walk in its entirety is probably rather daunting viewed from the other end.
The statue of George III (dressed quite strangely as a Roman Emperor) was commissioned by his son George IV and erected in 1831. The area around the Copper Horse has short, soft grass and is bounded on either side by stately trees that look hundreds of years old. At its base it is surrounded by large flat rocks and stones which are ideal for sitting down on and taking in the view.
Windsor Castle rises regally at the end of the Long Walk three miles away as planes of all shapes and sizes from nearby Heathrow soar overhead and bank into the distance. If you’re an aviation nerd like me, it’s practically heaven. Just to the east the gaudy arch of Wembley Stadium is visible in in the haze among the urban sprawl and looking further east into the city beyond Heathrow is the tall jagged grey cluster of Canary Wharf and needle of the Shard. Bryson said that he could see Battersea Power Station but I couldn’t make it out (judging by some CGI images of what it’s eventually going to look like now that developers have got their hands on it, I don’t particularly want to be able to see it).
Sunrise or sunset at this spot must be quite sublime. Next time you’re near Windsor, perhaps take a detour from the tourists and the selfie sticks and head outdoors to one of the finest scenes the country has to offer. And you can get there by train if you want.