A thirty minute walk around Runnymede

Ed Tebbs, Runnymede Explored project volunteer Ed Tebbs Runnymede Explored project volunteer
Runnymede, Surrey

Runnymede is a beautiful location rich in fascinating history and boasting scenic charm. Should you find yourself at a loss for time, here’s a handy outline for what can be visited and admired in a thirty minute walk.

Starting your walk

Upon arrival it is apparent how parking has been considered for maximum convenience with car parks on both sides of the A308. A handy traffic light crossing connects the Thames’ side car park to the one located behind the South Lodge Magna Carta Tea Room. There is a parking charge of £1.50 per day of £7 for the day or if you're a National Trust member, you can park for free. We ask that members scan their cards at the parking machines, as this means we receive money back from central National Trust funds to spend on preserving Runnymede. 

Tasty tea-room treats

The Magna Carta tea-room is a cosy, inviting building. Admirably suited with plaques and posters depicting the work the National Trust has committed to at Runnymede, the decor reflects the importance of Runnymede as a place of inspiration. Adjacent to the indoor seating area is a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Reeds of Runnymede’. Recently refurbished as part of the Runnymede Explored Project, the Magna Carta Tea Room is the perfect spot to refresh you before or after your walk. Hot and cold drinks are available along with cakes, bakes and hot lunches.

1. The Jurors

Adventuring onto the field outside you will encounter twelve chairs depicting scenes of liberty, triumph and hardship. These are local artist Hew Lock’s contribution to Runnymede ‘The Jurors’ commemorating Magna Carta. From Oscar Wilde’s tragic experience of prejudiced incarceration to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Jurors stand poignantly in the open field. Reminding observers to reflect on the democratic liberties put in place to protect our freedoms and identity.

The Jurors at Runnymede, Surrey
The Jurors at Runnymede, Surrey
The Jurors at Runnymede, Surrey

2. The JFK memorial

As you cross to the end of the field, you’re met with a helpful signpost indicating footpath directions. You exit the field through the kissing gate and begin to climb the hill. The pathway up to the JFK memorial is a treat to walk itself. Stone cobbles meander through the bark and foliage meeting wooden boards that act as steps to ease the incline. Two minutes later the engraved, rectangular tile comes into view. The dedication to JFK is sombre and touching. It takes centre stage in the circular clearing.

After JFK was assassinated in 1963, this memorial was installed at Runnymede in his honour
The memorial to President John F Kennedy at Runnymede in Surrey
After JFK was assassinated in 1963, this memorial was installed at Runnymede in his honour

3. Writ in Water

Beyond the memorial the footpath climbs further still until the interwoven branches are replaced by uninterrupted sky. You go through the gate adjacent to the field at the top of the hill and take in the sights as you walk along. Cars are tumbling serenely along the A308 while clouds mirror their movement in a constant puff overhead. The hillside descent to the Writ in Water is is reminiscent of the pilgrimage King John would have made to Runnymede eight centuries ago.

The architecture appears to you as a stone dome vast in size. The shadows at the entrance to the structure curve inwards, revealing a second internal wall of stone. As you walk along the dark passage you meet the picturesque pond of water at the centre of the place.The sentences enshrined around the base of the pond are written upside down, so that the reflection in the water is made the legible surface.The beautiful artistry of Mark Wallinger’s structure creatively displaying themes of consideration and meditation are not lost on you.

Writ in Water, a major architectural artwork by Mark Wallinger in collaboration with Studio Octopi, at Runnymede, Surrey
Writ in Water, a major architectural artwork by Mark Wallinger in collaboration with Studio Octopi, at Runnymede, Surrey
Writ in Water, a major architectural artwork by Mark Wallinger in collaboration with Studio Octopi, at Runnymede, Surrey

4. Air Forces War Memorial

To finish your walk as you head back, you visit the memorial to the Allied Forces of World War Two. The grand collumned pavilion stands humble to the task of honouring the coalition the Allied countries represented. The defence of liberty from tyranny and protection of the individual from unjust persecution are timeless scriptures that in many ways began at Runnymede. As you walk back to the carpark you make a note to visit Runnymede again. The weight of the monuments and architecture freshly on your mind.

Top tips

  • Don't forget to wrap up warm if the weather's cold and wear sturdy footwear, particularly during autumn and winter when the paths become muddy
  • Dogs on short leads are welcome on site
  • This walk includes some steep paths and steps
  • Toilets are available next the memorial car park
  • There are cycle racks by the tearoom