A circular walk to historic Runnymede, Surrey

by Jan

On this easy, circular walk to historic Runnymede, you will enjoy spectacular nature, award-winning art, three memorials and the site where the Magna Carta was most famously sealed.

This circular walk to Runnymede makes a interesting day trip from Windsor or London or a pleasant walk if you live locally.  The route is about 7km (4.5 miles) on varied terrain.   

Read our guide to the walk from Englefield Green to historic Runnymede and what you can expect to see.

Where is Runnymede?

Runnymede is a meadow near Egham on the River Thames in Surrey.  It is close to Windsor in Royal Berkshire and about 20 miles west of Central London.

The easiest way to get to Runnymede is by car.  However, you can take a train to Egham station and it is 20 minutes walk from there.

Our circular walk to Runnymede starts in the the nearby village of Englefield Green, Surrey.

The start of the walk to Runnymede

This walk to historic Runnymede is a popular circular trail, which we have completed many times, at various times of the year.

Our walk starts by the green in front of the Barley Mow pub in Englefield Green, Surrey.  This gives us a nice incentive to finish the walk.  The pub looks out onto the cricket club and there is a small playground there too. The postcode for the Barley Mow Pub is TW17 0NX.

Alternatively, if you want a shorter walk, you can start at Cooper’s Hill Car Park.  The postcode for this car park is TW20 0LF.

The route starts by walking away from the pub and across Englefield Green.  Then, take a right turn up Cooper’s Hill Lane.  Eventually you’ll come to the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial.

The Barley Mow pub, Englefield Green, Surrey

The Runnymede Air Forces Memorial

Runnymede Air Forces Memorial, Surrey on the circular walk to historic Runnymede

The first stop on our circular walk to Runnymede is at the Air Forces Memorial, on Cooper’s Hill Lane.

The Runnymede Memorial commemorates the thousands of airmen and women who were lost in the 2nd World War and have no known grave.  It is a very special place as the names of the many who were lost are engraved around the memorial.

Take some time to climb the spiral steps to the tower.  From here you’ll get spectacular views over the River Thames, Runnymede and Windsor.

Cooper's Hill Woods

After your visit to the Air Forces Memorial, retrace your steps to the gate and turn left.  At the end of the road, you’ll find a kissing gate which leads to Cooper’s Hill Woods.   The woods are managed by the National Trust and cover an area of about 35 hectares.

This stretch of the circular walk provides a diverse woodland landscape, with ancient Oaks, Ash, Hazel and Hawthorn trees.  Boardwalks cover a downhill path through the woods, so it’s easy to navigate and not too muddy.

The diversity of habitat attracts a good selection of wildlife, including nuthatch, bats, butterflies and woodpeckers.  One of the best times to do our circular walk to Runnymede is in late spring, when you can enjoy a carpet of shimmering bluebells.  In autumn, keep your eye out for some interesting fungi.

Nature-lovers will love this section of the walk through the woods, which takes about 15 minutes.  Recently a community initiative “The Forest of Memories” has been planting Memory Trees in honour of loved ones lost to covid.  QR cards will give you more information about the lost individuals or groups.

The Magna Carta Memorial

The Magna Carta Memorial in front of some trees at Runnymede in Surrey

At the end of the path, leave the woods through a gate and enter the open meadows.  The next part of the walk takes you around the National Trust Runnymede site.  There is no formal entrance and admission is free.

On the left of the meadow is the Magna Carta Memorial, the first of two extremely significant memorials at Runnymede.

The Magna Carta was designed by English architect , Sir Edward Maufe to celebrate the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1512.  It was erected by the American Bar Association in 1957.  It stands just above the meadow and you can get in via the gate.

The memorial is a neo-classical style rotunda.  A short path and flight of steps lead up to the memorial.  Inside you’ll see a pedestal with the inscription “to commemorate Magna Carta’s symbol of freedom under law”.  If you look up you’ll notice the American stars painted on the ceiling. 

What is the Magna Carta?

National trust sign, during Family Walk, Runnymede, Surrey

The original Magna Carta is a charter of rights, agreed by King John of England at Runnymede in June 1215.  The intention was to create peace between King John and his rebellious barons.  It started the principle that the king and his government were not above the law.

Initially, it wasn’t very successful, as neither party complied with the rules of the agreement.  However, Henry III later reissued the charter and it eventually became part of English law.

Today it is one of the most famous documents in the world and one of the most influential documents in British history.  It represents a powerful symbol of liberty and has inspired many famous people.  The most famous clause gave all “free men” the right to justice and a fair trial.  It is considered to form the basis of modern democracy.

Three art installations at Runnymede

After the Magna Carta Memorial, you can visit the three art installations, which are spread across the meadow.

Writ in Water

An art installation with the sky being reflected in the water below. Around the edge of the pool is an inscription which is also reflected in the water.

The first of the three art installations at Runnymede is “Writ in Water”.  Artist Mark Wallinger designed this award-winning art piece in collaboration with Studi Octopi.  It’s not that impressive from the outside, but inside is amazing. 

Writ in Water is is an immersive art piece, which provides a space for contemplation.  The inscription around the side of the pool is upside-down, so can only be read in the water.  You will also see the sky reflected in the water.

The art installation was built to celebrate the legacy of the Magna Carta and explores the principles of democracy.

It is open every day and admission is free.

12 bronze chairs in the centre of a meadow, as part of an art installation.

The Jurors

The second piece of art at Runnymede is “The Jurors”, a group of twelve bronze chairs.  You cannot miss it, as it stands in the middle of the meadow!

Sculptor, Hew Locke created The Jurors to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta.  Each chair has its own intricate design.  The chairs represent a key moment in the struggle for freedom, rule of law, and equal rights. 

Visitors can touch the sculptures and even sit on them for a moment of reflection.

The meadow can get very water-logged and muddy after heavy rain.

Willow Sculptures at Runnymede

An art installation of willow sculptures at Runnymede, including, fieldworkers, a horse and picknickers.

At the far end of the meadow, you will find the third of the art installations at Runnymede.  Haymaking is a collection of willow sculptures introduced after some community workshops in 2021.  It comprises of 19 sculptures, including a horse, a house, field workers,  and picknickers.

The willow sculptures are just in front of the National Trust tea room and car park.

Refreshments at Runnymede

After a look at the art installations, you can head to the National Trust tea room for refreshments.   They offer a choice of hot and cold drinks, cakes and light seasonal snacks.  They also have a selection of ice-creams and lollies. 

They also have toilet facilities here.

The Kennedy Memorial

The John F Kennedy Memorial - an enormous Portland stone with an inscription to JFK with trees in the background

After a stop for refreshments, you can turn back across the field and head up to the Kennedy Memorial.  The Memorial was build to commemorate the life of American president, John F Kennedy.

The JFK memorial comprises three distinct parts – steps, stones and seats.

Firstly, climb the cobbled “steps of individuality”.  You’ll find fifty steps in total, each one representing a different state of the USA.

These steep granite steps symbolise the pilgrimage to enlightenment.  They lead to a simple stone memorial, made from a 7-ton block of Portland Stone, thought to be be about a million years old.

To the right of the stone block is the terrace walk.  The walkway leads to the two “seats of contemplation”, which represent the King-Queen relationship.

The memorial stands in an acre of land, which is actually a little part of the United States.  Queen Elizabeth II gave this land to the USA as a gift in 1965.

Return to Cooper's Hill Lane

After sitting on the seat of contemplation at the JFK Memorial, return to the path and continue the walk up the hill.  Finally, cross the road and turn right to return to Englefield Green. 

Here you can stop for a drink or meal in the Barley Mow Pub.  If it is a sunny day, you can sit in the back garden or the outdoor seating area at the front.

Parking at Runnymede

If you want to visit Runnymede, but don’t fancy the walk, there is a National Trust car park on the Windsor Road, near Old Windsor.  The car park is next to the meadow and from here you can walk directly to the memorials and art installations.

The postcode for the car park at Runnymede is SL4 2JL.

Other walks near Runnymede.

Windsor Great Park

The Copper Horse, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, UK

Some of the best walks near Runnymede are at Windsor Great Park.  This is part of the Royal Estate and stretches for over 5000 acres from Windsor Castle.

With its own deer park, ancient woodland and landscaped gardens, Winsdsor Park is perfect for walkers, nature-lovers, and families.  Click here for 5 of the best walks at Windsor Park.

Runnymede Pleasure Grounds

Just up the road from Runnymede are the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds.  Here you’ll find a playground and park.  You can walk from the pleasure grounds along the Thames Path to Runnymede.

The route follows a scenic trail along the river.  It is about 1.5 miles each way.  There is a pay and display car park at the start.  The postcode is TW20 0AE.

A circular walk at Virginia Water Lake

Virginia Water Lake, Egham, Surrey, UK

One of the most popular walks at Windsor Great Park is around Virginia Water Lake.  As well as a spectacular view of the lake, you can expect to see a cascade, totem pole, and Roman ruins.  Click here for full details of a walk at Virginia Water Lake.

We'd love to hear from you!

Have you tried our circular walk to Runnymede?  We’d love to hear your comments in the box below.

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