The Starting Point
This interesting circular walk begins and ends at a free carpark on Cooper’s Hill Lane, close to a lovely little place called Englefield Green. It is also marked with brown signs as the parking for the Air Forces Memorial.
Use post code TW20 0LQ
The beginning of this walk involves some roadside walking and crossing a busy road. After this, most of the route is traffic free.
A Dog Friendly Walk?
Yes, mostly although there are some areas where on-lead walking is a must.There are some kissing gates and areas where there may be livestock. Parts of this walk can get quite busy, so might be hard going if your dog is reactive or anxious.
No dogs allowed into the Air Forces Memorial.
The John F Kennedy Memorial
Leaving the carpark and turning left, a pretty country lane takes you to a T-junction. The route then runs down along Priest Hill until you come upon a white gate and a lane signed as a footpath. This tree lined track will, after a short walk, bring you out at the John F Kennedy Memorial.
Set on an acre of land symbolically gifted to the United States of America by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965, meaning you can technically stand on American soil in Surrey.
The memorial is carved from a seven-ton block of Portland stone and stands in memory of John F Kennedy following his assassination. The stone is inscribed with words from his inaugural address in 1961.
Continuing past the memorial, the path drops down a set of cobbled steps. There are fifty steps in all-one to represent each state- with each step being made up of individual stones. The memorial is a lovely thing in a beautiful setting, but there are some deeper ideas behind its creation. More on that here.
At the bottom of the steps, a right turn and a wander along the tree line reveals another interesting Anglo-American gem. An oak tree, planted in soil imported from Jamestown Virginia to commemorate the bicentenary of the Constitution of the USA.
And that ties in neatly with the next memorial. A little further and through a gate and the view opens out to…
The Magna Carta Memorial
I have always associated the Magna Carta with Salisbury. I wasn’t wrong- one of four surviving original copies is held there and has been there for a very long time. It’s believed that the Salisbury copy was delivered to the original Salisbury Cathedral at Old Sarum in 1215.
However, the Magna Carta or ‘Great Charter’ was actually sealed in Runnymede. King John was getting a bit greedy and throwing his weight around, so a group of Barons got together and decided it was time for some rules about the place.
The Magna Carta was written and sealed. It went on to influence the development of rights and freedoms throughout history and across the world.
The ideals and rights set out in the Magna Carta were bold and far reaching enough to influence the United States Constitution, and that hasn’t been forgotten. This memorial was funded by the American Bar Association.
There’s an interesting stone marking the year 1985, when representatives of the Bar Association returned to, “renew its pledge of adherence to the principals of the great charter”. Seems like his corner of Surrey will forever have a special bond with the States.
The River Thames & Runnymede Pleasure Grounds
Cross the meadow towards the Thames, and the scenery changes from mighty oaks and memorials to tranquil river views. A nice spot to pause and watch the river traffic sailing by.
The route here picks up a little bit of the Thames River Path and meanders along to Runnymede Pleasure grounds. A nice enough place with a cafe and toilets. But it was bustling with cyclists and children, so we pushed through. The Wolf always wants to join in and it’s hard to convince people he’s not out to eat them.
After that, back on the river side path but a different view. The banks here are more built up, residential. On the opposite side, lots of lovely homes with gardens that extend all the way to the river. On our side, the tow path between the homes and the water but each house had a small dock and many had boats.
It seemed like a lovely place and a lovely way of living.
A short walk and a lot of property lurking later, we came to a fascinating place. A boat yard. River craft of all shapes and sizes. Some looked ready to sail, others like eternal projects. Plenty of people pottering on a sunny Saturday. They all seemed to know each other, have a little boat yard community going on.
Cooper’s Hill Woods
Leaving the Thames behind, the land opens up into meadows, hills and woodland. Cooper’s Hill Woods is the place to wander if you want an idea of what old England might have looked like. Thanks to the use of traditional methods when managing the land, like cattle grazing and hay making, the historic landscape is being preserved.
As the name of the woodland suggests, the walk climbs uphill here. The tree lined slope is a little steep and muddy in parts, but worth the effort as it brings you to the final stop on this walk before you’re back to where you began…
The Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede
The scale and beauty of this memorial reminded me of sites I have visited in places like Luxembourg and Ypres. Painted ceilings. etched glass and 20,000 names.
The Memorial is dedicated to the men and women who were lost in the air and in related operations in WW2. The names recorded belong to those who have no known grave. Many were lost without a trace. The names are engraved on the stone walls, listed by name and by rank.
All of the men and women listed died far too young, but the age of the youngest casualty commemorated really made me pause; RAF Air Cadet Joseph Smith, aged just 15. One year younger than my twin daughters.
The cloisters and courtyard create a beautiful and tranquil space for reflection. Here and there, tributes and photographs have been left by visiting families, bringing a personal touch to the long lists of names.
Huge windows at ground level give views across the treetops. Entering into the memorial, you can climb the stairs to the rooftop terrace. It’s worth the effort. The memorial’s location on the crest of Cooper’s Hill gives a knockout view that takes in the river Thames, the meadows of Runnymede, Windsor Castle and over to London.
Parts of the memorial were closed for maintenance works on the day of our visit, so a return visit will certainly be on the cards.
Leaving the gates of the memorial gardens, a right turn and a short wander has you back where you started. From here you could head home, or into Englefield Green which has a cracking looking graveyard and plenty of places to eat and drink.
If you liked this post, you might like to read this one next- Memorials That Stayed with Me