A walk around Virginia Water

Life with a toddler and a newborn has its challenges, and one that had been bothering me was how to entertain the toddler at weekends without disrupting the baby sisters’ routine too much – and of course the grown-ups have to be kept happy too.

One thing I’ve missed since the advent of children is proper long-distance walking – having succumbed to the lure of a double buggy, we were finding it harder and harder to persuade the toddler to walk anywhere. She wants to perch on top of the Phil and Teds like Lady Muck, surveying the land and stubbornly refusing to walk a step unless it’s in the direction of a playground or an ice cream van.

With a baby on board and a toddler who won’t walk a step, rambling through bluebell woods or over stiles was off limits, and then cleverly the Mr discovered Walks with Buggies – and we decided to try out Virginia Water, which had, according to the site, a 4.5m walk around the lake perimeter.

We stopped first at the very overpriced cafe for some underwhelming sandwiches – considering it’s all Crown Estate land, we are not amused, Mrs Queen – but once the walk got under way, things looked up. 

The whole plot of land surrounding the lake – on the outer edge of Windsor Great Park – was laid out as a kind of heavily landscaped woodland, with native species mixed in with things like rhododendrons and azalea. What I think of as a very old-fashioned botanical garden – decorative, imposing, Victorian, with substantial, dark and evergreen trees, paths winding through the woods and signposts leading off in intriguing directions. This even got the toddler off her seat and wanting to climb every flight of stairs she saw!

  
However, it wasn’t all beautifully landscaped shrubberies – as our path looped back towards the lake, I spotted an old favourite, a wetland-loving British wild flower, lady’s smock

  

A lovely flower, with its delicate petals having just a hint of purple – made me nostalgic for our village green where it grew in abundance, but only after my mum persuaded the council lawn-trimmers to let a patch of grass grow long to allow the flowers to bloom.

And this was the view down towards the lake from the wetland area where the lady’s smock was growing:

  
  
Then on the edge of the lake itself I spotted another familiar face from my childhood, Jack-by-the-hedge – can there be a more delightful and quirky name for a wild flower?

On the far side of the lake, we stopped to admire the Cascade, a rather impressive man-made waterfall.

  
And spotted some attractive fungi underneath a log.

 
The buggy-friendly path was certainly a success – though it veered between Tarmac paths we could navigate quite easily and sandy tracks which were a bit harder on the buggy wheels. And of course we could not follow some of the winding trails and stairs up into the woods which would have been fun for the toddler to explore.

Somewhere on the edge of the site was the Savill Garden which looks like a more conventional floral garden – but we didn’t get to it in the end; and somewhere around there was the toddler’s longed-for play area, which we never found – but we compensated for the lack of playground by getting her to scramble around on tree roots and show off her climbing and balancing skills. A mountain goat in the making! 

We drove home via Windsor town itself – I’ve never set foot there before –  and a trip to the castle will definitely be on the cards one day. In the mean time, our first attempt at a buggy friendly walk can be counted a success – provided you bring your own picnic rather than rely on the cafe. I’m sure we will be back.

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