Thursday, 21 July 2011

Circular Trip to Windsor and Eton

Windsor and Eton are around 20 miles west of London and can be reached by train from either London Waterloo or from London Paddington to the Riverside and Central stations respectively. I used to live on the other side of Windsor Great Park in Surrey and stopped saying that I lived “near Windsor”, which is a euphemism for Slough (known locally as Sluff).  There are direct trains from Waterloo and you can join the train at Clapham Junction or Richmond via the London Overground as well as the Underground and other rail services. 

Though I can get out of both Waterloo and Paddington stations, I have never tried buying a ticket and finding the right train and platform. I could probably do Waterloo, though I think Paddington would be more of a problem than Liverpool Street as it is more cluttered with construction works and has a wide circular approach with bay platforms.  The Heathrow Express also leaves from Paddington so there is a lot of international baggage attached to the passengers. 

I managed to negotiate the subway at Clapham Junction and went back to Platforms 5 and 6 for the Reading destinations. These services are run by Stagecoach’s associate South West Trains. Announcements were clear enough though being a Sunday there were delays and alterations. The Windsor and Eton service follows the Reading route and turns off at Staines. The line appears to get more rural but this an illusion as the landscape is manmade. There is a level crossing at Datchet which brought back memories of my being stuck every morning at 7.50 am on trying to get round Slough. 

Stations are “immovable” in the main and it was reassuring to note that little had changed in over 34 years. (Bus stops are prone to being moved, diverted and closed at short notice)  Crossing the River Thames on both routes gives an impression of the “untouched” rural idyll that is Greater Heathrow. While Windsor can appear to be cluttered and busy it is worth the trip to wander around the River and Eton. Windsor and Edinburgh can be full of the most awful tourist tack but you might like a day in “history”.

Windsor is usually packed with tourists and is a tourist trap.  Eton across the River Thames is more tranquil and can be approached by a pedestrian bridge giving access to the river and towpaths. Eton College is famed for its former pupils and the college was founded by Henry VI before the Reformation. The college retains many original features and there are tours of the college. While the grounds of the College Chapel can be explored (wear a hat) it is best to join a tour and go inside the chapel and visit the museum, classroom and cloisters with a guide.  My visit to Eton was inspired by the painting in the National Gallery Room 38 of the college by Canaletto.

Thanks to Clapham Junction ticket office, platform staff at Clapham Junction and Slough, passengers on busy trains and London Underground for checking that I was OK in finding the Bakerloo line at Paddington.   Thanks also to Eton College for including me in a tour of the college. 

Familiarise yourself with changing stations at Clapham Junction and Richmond and go to Windsor and Eton Riverside. Ticket “says” Windsor and E Riverside  cost £4.15 off peak return with Railcard.  Ask for the Eton direction and stroll over bridge. The college is on the right side of the road.

If you are feeling very brave go back and keep Windsor Castle on left and you will find the Central station which is a theme park and you might even find the shuttle train to Slough where you will have to change. I was lucky and followed passengers and found some helpful staff, though they are not as “visible” to us as the Underground staff usually are.

I was lucky in getting a fast train to Paddington so missed the intermediate stops though apart from Ealing I doubt there are many other interchange points.  There are too many Actons on the map, few of which are connected easily. Things will improve with the Cross Rail development and looking to the future interchanges with HS2 and Heathrow may be real improvements.