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A Duke’s Autumn Stroll

A crisp breeze, sunlight poking through the trees, and a hue of orange & brown covering the ground below; a familiar scene to many, no doubt, as Autumn finally begins.

It certainly proved a pleasant day for The Duke of Edinburgh yesterday, as he was pictured taking a gentle stroll through Windsor Great Park near Windsor Castle.

The Duke, who is 93 years old, has suffered from a bout of health concerns over the past couple of years so it was particularly pleasing to see him sprightly and in good health, taking in the breathtaking sights of the Park during his 40-minute walk.

Prince Philip, who is the oldest and longest-serving spouse of any British monarch, was taken to hospital in 2012 with a bladder infection; something which reoccured later in the year whilst the Royal Family were at Balmoral Castle. The Duke has also spent time in hospital last year for an exploratory operation on his abdomen.

Windsor Great Park, which is often known simply as the Great Park, sits to the south of the town of Windsor and occupies a staggering 5,000 acres or 20 square-kilometers. Originally part of a hunting forest, the Park dates back to the 13th Century when it was enclosed and became the hunting ground for Windsor Castle.

The Long Walk which joins Windsor Castle with the Park, large Horse Chestnut and Plane trees line the walk.

The Long Walk which joins Windsor Castle with the Park, large Horse Chestnut and Plane trees line the walk.

The Park began to become more formally developed in the 17th Century when the avenue of elm trees was planted, linking it with Windsor Castle.

An iconic image in itself, today the same Long Walk is planted with Horse Chestnut and Plane trees and begins at the Southern end with the ‘Copper Horse’; a status of King George III atop his mount.

The Copper Horse, depicting George III was commissioned by George IV. It bears a rather ironic inscription: "the best of fathers" in Latin. Like so many father-son relationships in the Hanoverian family, George III and George IV were known to have despised each another.

The Copper Horse, depicting George III, was commissioned by George IV. It bears a rather ironic inscription: “the best of fathers” in Latin. Like so many father-son relationships in the Hanoverian family, George III and George IV were known to have despised each another.

It has sweeping deer lawns, small woods, coverts and areas covered by ancient oak trees. In the north of the Park, a small river called the Battle Bourne runs to the Thames near Datchet. The River Bourne runs through a number of ponds to the south, such as The Great Meadow Pond and Obelisk Pond, near the great lake of Virginia Water.

The Park has had numerous Rangers including Prince Albert, who developed his farming and forestry interests in the Park and to whom another statue was built overlooking Smiths Lawn.

The current Ranger, Prince Philip, was responsible for the introduction of the Park’s current herd of red deer in 1979. The Duke of Edinburgh established the 600-strong herd from 40 hinds and two stags from the Balmoral Estate.

The area is accessed by a number of gates: Queen Anne’s Gate, Ranger’s Gate, Forest Gate, Sandpit Gate, Prince Consort’s gate, Blacknest Gate, Bishop’s Gate and Bear’s Rails Gate and the original medieval park pale can still be seen in places.

The Village, which was built in the 1930s to house Royal estate workers, lies on the western side of the park. Other buildings include the Royal Lodge, which was originally built in the centre of the park as the Deputy Ranger’s house.

Made in to a retreat for the Prince Regent from 1812, it was mostly demolished after his death but the remains were renovated in the 1930s, as a home for The Duke and Duchess of York before their accession as George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

The Lodge remained the Windsor residence of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother until her death in 2002. Since 2004, The Royal Lodge has been the official residence of the Prince Andrew, Duke of York and it is not accessible to the public.

Image Credits: JR P (Image One) (Image Two)

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