Date: April 2, 2022
Location: Virginia Water Lake, Surrey
Back to back walks over the weekend were a nice way to welcome some more of the spring weather. Thankfully our walk around the massive Virginia Water Lake didn’t involve any snow like the walk prior, this one was pleasant with flowers, waterfalls, a stop for delicious lunch and good chats with a friend.
We started our walk at the east entrance, on the edge of the town of Virginia Water. The entire lake and surrounding park is part of the much larger Windsor Great Park that stretches toward Windsor Castle and was created as a royal hunting park in the 13th Century. The lake however, is a more recent addition to the great park, it’s man-made and was created in the 18th century when big gardens were becoming more standard for royal parks and spaces.
Virginia Water Lake is a great place to walk as it’s paved throughout the entire loop and offers different lengths depending on how much walking you want to do. We headed into the park and walked the main loop in a clockwise direction.
The lake was drained during WWII as it was an easily recognizable body of water, and over the last few years has been used in a variety of movies like the Harry Potter films, Robin Hood, Into The Woods, Tarzan and more. When we’ve visited in the past the only things in the water were swans and geese but maybe one day a movie worthy creature will emerge!
One of the nice parts of this walk is that there are interesting landmarks, monuments, and sights throughout the walk. The first one we stopped by was just a few minutes after entering, it’s called The Cascade which is a man-made waterfall created in the late 1780’s. This location was used in the musical film Into The Woods.
The water fall is a great first place to stop and it’s usually busy with wedding photographers and people trying to get a good shot, a while ago they were open and you could walk along the stones but there’s now a fence keeping people out so if you wanted to relive your Chris Pine singing a power-ballad fantasy, you’re out of luck.
We continued along the path (incredibly popular with dog walkers, it was a fun game to see how many different breeds we could see) and after a few more minutes walking we came across the next landmark location, the (currently fenced off) Leptis Magna ruins.
The ruins, which came from the town of Lepcis Magna in present day Libya were transported to the UK in the 1800’s and first displayed in front of the British Museum before being moved to Windsor Great Park where the park’s architect arranged them to form a folly (pretend ruin) in the form of a roman temple. Usually the pathway between the ruins and under the bridge are open but they’ve been doing some restoration work and the area was still closed when we visited.
After we left the ruins we entered a heavily treed part of the path that opens briefly at points to give you a view of the lake, there were a few different kinds of ducks, geese, and swans all floating in the waters and enjoying the sun. As we approached the far end of the lake, we were given a good vantage point of the 5 arch bridge, which was built in the early 1800’s. It was at this point we took a short break from the walk to enjoy a lunch at the nearby Belvedere Arms (can highly recommend the Battered Halloumi and chips!), we passed the bright pink guardhouse along the way.
After our long lunch we continued back on our path, crossing over the Five Arch bridge and following the main road through a big patch of daffodils, magnolias and rhododenrons. This side of the lake is filled with flowering trees, shrubs and wildflowers and makes for a nice walk in the spring.
We reached the top of the road and walked along the nearby Guards Polo grounds created by Prince Phillip and then back through some of the wooded gardens to my favourite landmark in the park, the 100 foot tall Totem Pole.
The totem pole was given to Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 to mark 100 years of British Columbia being a crown colony (clearly some contentious history there). The totem pole was carved by Chief Mungo Martin of the Kwakiutl Federation and is a popular feature of Virginia Waters.
We left the totem pole and after a short ice cream break we continued along the last section of the main trail which brought us back to the main entrance where we began. The walk is a nice one as there’s no route finding, climbing over fences or wondering when you can get something to drink or eat, it’s an easy wander around some interesting dots of history!