Eton Style

I love the Boatman for there I can eat in style. It is great to sit by the river in the grounds of the same pub mentioned in the piece on Windsor. I was in good company this time and the sun was shining. Lunch had been demolished and I toyed with the idea of indulging in some broken pavlova, mixed in with strawberries and lashings of cream. Instead I decided to cross over Windsor bridge and explore the town of Eton rather than indulge in its namesake dessert. My waistline almost expressed its gratitude for non-indulgence as I set about seeing if there was a link between the town and the dessert. It is rumoured that the dessert was to be served at some time during a cricket match between Eton and Harrow, it was dropped (hence the mess), and scooped up and served as it was.

I crossed the famous bridge, like so many have done before me. I expect that many visitors to Windsor have not gone on to explore the other side of river and the famous town but rather stay on the bridge and capture an image of the castle from there. Instead I left Windsor behind and started to make my way up the high street which is possibly like no other in the land but, sadly, on this day resembled more of a building site than a bespoke arcade. The ubiquitous British flags and bunting still adorned the street, providing much colour above as cars littered the street below. Whilst walking along the pavement I was drawn to some lonely books for sale outside a bookshop. I picked up one that said, “considered to be Dickens’ finest novel”. What a great purchase this may prove to be, as I look to create my own library and find a love of reading. Oh, where was this appetite when I was young? I went to purchase the book and grabbed a booklet regarding the “Eton walkway”. To my delight I was informed by the quaint man behind the desk that it was free. I was delighted that purchasing a book had resulted in the acquisition of a free guide to my afternoon of meanderings. So, I left with one of England’s finest works and a guide to show me the best bits of this town.

As I wandered up the high street, I was able to identify the points of interest as my step by step guide explained them all to me. A red pillar box, for example, once a common feature on the streets of our nation, only this one is a rare one indeed. Only 10 of these types of box exist in the country, and as a result it is grade II listed. A vertical slot for posting letters was puzzling to see. The guide took me further up the high street passing the Porny School towards Baldwin’s bridge. Just before the bridge are a couple of colourful shops that, on closer inspection, proved to be tailors. How does such a small town justify two tailors? Well this high street probably relies heavily on its ‘town and gown’ tag for just over Baldwin’s bridge lies Eton College.

The famous college was founded in 1440 by Henry VI and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As one approaches the college from the high street the first part one sees is the chapel. Not looking like a chapel, one can only assume what it’s like on the inside. The windows in the chapel were destroyed in 1940 during the bombing raids on England. On the outer edge of the chapel and, unlike much of the college, able to be seen by all is a plaque regarding William de Waynflete, a former bishop of Winchester, who paid for the completion of the chapel.


From here one approaches the main gates to the school.  It costs around £14,000 per term for education at the college. Originally 70 scholars were educated for free and provided with accommodation. Whether this is still the case in these financial times I’m not sure – I doubt it. Access to the school is very limited but a sneaky look through the grand gates will allow one to see the statue to the founding king in the centre of the quadrangle.

The college dominates much of the town, with 24 houses providing accommodation for over 1300 pupils. The mind begins to boggle at the finances this school operates with – oh how different to the budgets in state schools. On the other side of the road lies the second main quadrant of buildings for the school. Immediately you are drawn to what lies in front of the centre archway. What school do you know that has a historic cannon on display? A completely different world. It does provide wonderful photo opportunities as the marvellous stonework behind the cannon adds to the image.

The walkway then started to bring me out of the town. It was here that perhaps the finest view of the college was captured. As I stood there and took the picture I wondered if I was actually taking a picture of a college in Cambridge. Is there a link between the two establishments? It was also at this point I had passed some surprising iron rungs in the wall with my guidebook informing me that these are there to provide pupils access to the top of the wall to watch the ‘The Wall Game’. This takes place in the autumn term and is perhaps unique to this college.

The next part of the walkway involved me getting a little lost as I tried to pick up access to more of the buildings across the college’s greens. I eventually found my way back onto Common Lane which brought me back to the main college buildings and the top of the high street. It was here that I found ‘the burning bush’. Designed to help the boys cross the road safely, it was moved from its original location when the cannon was put in place. Now a significant landmark of the town and photographic opportunity, it also takes its place in front of a doomed building which bears similarities to that of Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.

Pressed for time, I return towards the river, passing some other points of interest which include the natural history museum and the museum of antiquities before coming across the church of St John. The church is now a shadow of former glories and has had to find a new way of surviving, the school coming to the rescue and converting it into accommodation and a local doctor’s surgery. Oh, how the religious landscape of this nation has changed.

My return to the river beneath Windsor castle completed the ‘Eton Walkway’. It had been an incredibly informative and pleasantly surprising walk. I left with another book for ‘my library’ and many happy memories. Anyone who visits Windsor must plan a longer trip than those arranged from London as they only give the visitor a couple of hours here. Windsor and Eton are worthy of more than a casual glance. Stay a night and spend some serious time here and you never know what you might find for across the river lies the town of Eton, dominated by a famous school and the town is associated with a dessert we all surely love. Why wouldn’t you want to explore Eton?

Eton, England, United Kingdom

Winsome Windsor

Fancy me being educated as I sat in the Boatman Pub by the River Thames and read William Woodsworth’s words on its wall.

How richly glows the waters breast
Before us, tinged with evening hues,
While, facing thus the crimson west,
The boat her silent course pursues!
And see how dark the backwards stream
A little moment past so smiling
And still, perhaps, with faithless gleam
Some other loiterers beguiling

Such view the youthful Bard allure;
But, heedless of the following gloom,
He deems their colours shall endure
Till peace go with him to the tomb
– And let him nurse his fond deceit,
And what if he must die in sorrow!
Who would not cherish dreams so sweet
Though grief and pain may come tomorrow

The beer helped wash down the good food as well. At the end of another day meandering and educating myself it’s always good to take stock of what I’ve seen. I’ve appreciated what I’ve learnt. History is a fascinating marker as we look to create our current and future lives. History never appealed to me at school – perhaps poor teaching and so many different historical eras were the issues. Of course, it could have been me to blame. I opted instead for geography and maybe links with travel was my thought process although I cannot recall having one!! I sometimes wonder how school may have been different had I made other choices than those made or shown the same enthusiasm as I have now.

I’ve been to Windsor countless times, yet I never tire of this place. My love affair with this town is perhaps shared by Her Majesty the Queen. Windsor’s evolution over time has been a result of its ideal strategic location. William the Conqueror first built a castle here as part of his western defences of London. Windsor was one of the 9 castles built around London to protect it from its enemies. Another of these 9 castles was the Tower of London. It is a day’s march between the two which was critical. William the Conqueror first built a motte and bailey structure. The castle now is no reflection of that former initial design. It is now an architectural masterpiece that takes centre stage and maybe takes your breath away upon first sight. A visit to the castle is a must, avoiding the coach loads of people. This is a difficult task but with unlimited visits for one year after the date of purchase on your ticket you will hopefully get a good visit should you return. Whenever you look at Windsor Castle (be that from the High Street or the river or wherever you choose in town) you see its dominating position. It has an ideal strategic position and its shadow is cast over the town. An exploration of the new town is a must and shouldn’t be ignored. This leads onto an enquiring nature of Windsor’s development as there is an old and new Windsor. The two towns are miles apart and downstream of each other with Old Windsor now a peaceful village along the river.

The castle is the oldest occupied royal residence in Britain. The castle has developed over its 1000 years of history from the time it was built by William the Conqueror in 1070 through many adaptions and alterations by different monarchs to surviving the great fire of 1992. King George V’s affection with Windsor resulted in his family’s surname change in 1917. His granddaughter, our current queen carries on the Windsor dynasty through to this day. A castle ticket allows access to the state apartments and St George’s Chapel. The state apartments boast a wealth of opulent furnishings and displays of artwork from the royal collection. Walking around these state apartments is at times mind blowing, the level of detail and beauty in each room being incredible. Modern life’s desire to capture everything on camera is strictly forbidden inside which I feel adds to its incredible charm. I would love to spend time capturing images of the ceilings that you see here, the angelic pieces of paintwork along with a room full of chivalric shields to name but a few. There are numerous amounts of weaponry displayed, all in pristine order. Also residing in the state apartments is the Queen Mary doll house. A truly remarkable and jaw dropping toy built by Sir Edwin Lutyens – it really must be seen to be believed.

After leaving the state apartments you walk around the iconic round tower. The tower is the centre piece of the castle and is home to the Royal Archives and photography collection. For a couple of months of the year you can pay extra for a tour which takes you to the top for incredible views of the castle, chapel and the town. When you leave the tower, you make your way into one of the finest churches of the land. Its incredible beauty was displayed in two recent, royal weddings that took place here. The chapel is the burial place of ten monarchs and if rumours are true then this will be 11 one day.

Whistle stop tours may drag punters by the bus load from London on crazy agendas, but I feel you could spend an age here exploring the history of the castle which is woven together with our rich national history. It is such a symbol of past Britain. When you can finally drag yourself away from the castle there is an abundance of pubs in which to enjoy a pint with the perfect view. Its amongst these pubs you find you will find Instagram’s favourite part of Windsor. The wonky house. Also known as Market Cross house, the following was taken from a visit inside:

Market Cross House leans quite a lot,
for eleven reigns it has stood on this plot.
No one knows why it tilts to one side.
could be the wood that never dried.
We like to think it’s a characterful tilt,
from 1718, when it was re-built.

From here walk under the arches of the Windsor and Royal Borough museum housed in the Guildhall, past the church of St John the Baptist on your left and one of the oldest post boxes of the land (dark green not normal red). Around the corner is a charming pub resting in front of the imperious gates that are the beginning of The Long Walk. Those not on a short trip should take the time to walk it as for some distance as you will get the best view Windsor Castle. Go the end of the walk (some miles) and you will get the iconic long distance view just like many have done down the centuries since Charles II formed the Long Walk. A copper statue of King George III upon a horse sits on top of the hill at the end of the walk and the statue has been made so that he looks back towards the castle. Is there a finer view in the land? Along the walk one passes through the royal deer park, and if the deer ‘play ball’ they provide great photographic opportunities.

After completing the walk return to the town and you’ll find an array of shops and eateries. Exploring the town will inevitably lead you to one of the two railway stations in the town. These brought further wealth to the town during Victorian times. The two stations are terminii. This proves that the railways and industrial revolution made its way to Windsor but there is no other further evidence to support this. Windsor’s wealth perhaps lies with its royal pardon in 1276. This meant that it didn’t have to pay any taxes to the crown. In 1840 a few years before the arrival of the railways Queen Victoria took up residence here and set about works on redevelopment of the castle. This brought a drastic change to the town, as it moved away from its sleepy medieval market past into a centrepiece of an empire. Heads of state were greeted and entertained here; a tradition that has long been continued to this day.

Windsor without the Thames is like bread without butter. Back in the day the Thames would have been the main travel link between here and London. A boat trip sheds light on the ideal strategic location of the castle. Much pleasure can be had from any pool of water.  Sadly, not in ownership of a boat I had to forego cruising along in my own vessel. I have done the tourist boat trips, but these are normally a damp squib. Instead I would recommend a free walk along the riverbanks on either side (the Eton side gives the better view of the castle) and witness the huge number of swans, but not to be distracted from the picturesque view.

So, as I sit and enjoy a refreshing pint, I try and understand William’s words and appreciate a real warmth for Windsor and try to work out why visitors to these shores don’t plan longer to visit this royal town.

Windsor, England, United Kingdom