Windsor Great Park is part of the Crown Estate, with substantial areas open to the public. It features a mixture of woodland, open grassland, farms and waterbodies of various sizes. It has been managed as a royal estate since it was enclosed as a royal hunting reserve in the 13th century. This continuity means that it supports some of the oldest standing trees in southern England, including some notable veteran oaks. The south east corner, comprising the Savill Gardens and the eastern half of Virginia Water lake lie over the county border in Surrey. It is separated from the less wild Home Park which lies to the east of Windsor and north of the Great Park by the A308.
The area is too large to be covered comprehensively on foot in a single day. In the northern part, open parkland with scattered copses rises to the south, with access along the Long Walk, or the parallel Queen Anne’s Ride. At the south of this section lies The Village (SU 955 725), where small pools add variety to both scenery and wildlife. The open areas with dispersed trees contain Stock Doves, Green Woodpeckers, Ringnecked Parakeets and Mistle Thrushes, Nuthatches, Goldcrests and sometimes Spotted Flycatchers. In winter, thrushes and roving mixed flocks of finches, are plentiful. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, though scarce, occur in the park. An evening visit in the summer may be rewarded with Barn Owl or roding Woodcock. The Village pools host Little Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, and occasional Mandarin, joined in winter by increasing numbers of Egyptian Geese.
Further south still, from Norfolk Farm (SU 960 702) to Blacknest Gate (SU 962 687), mixed woodland flanks the widening stream which feeds into Virginia Water. Jays, Treecreepers, Siskins and Lesser Redpolls, common tits and finches occur with Kingfishers and Mandarin Ducks along the stream. On the main lake itself where Grey Heron, good numbers of common ducks and Cormorants can be found and the occasional Goldeneye, Smew or Goosander in winter.
Access: Free car parks on A332 (SU 952 734 & SU 945 727). Pay Car Parks are provided at Blacknest Gate (SU 961 686) and across the county boundary on the A30 London Road next to the Wheatsheaf Hotel (SU 980 689).