A progressive independent commercial business, created by Act of Parliament. Our portfolio includes the whole of Regent Street and much of St James’s in London’s West End, prime regional shopping centres, Windsor Great Park, rural land and coastline, and the UK’s seabed.
There’s a lot of work behind the scenes at Windsor Great Park, all of which goes into making sure you have the most enjoyable visit today and for years to come.
Welcome to Windsor, home to Her Majesty the Queen and the British Monarchy since the reign of William the Conqueror in 1066. The Windsor Estate, covering Windsor Great Park and Swinley Forest, is a sustainable working rural estate and community with large areas open to visitors to enjoy, by permission of The Crown Estate Commissioners.
The stability of nearly a thousand years of Royal patronage means that Windsor remains unspoilt in many ways - so whether you are looking for somewhere to visit, work or live, Windsor has something to offer everyone. The increasing popularity of Windsor Great Park means that a careful balance has to be maintained with the environment and ecology of some of England’s most important and sensitive wildlife sites. Significant areas of the Great Park and the wider Estate are designated Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Visitors can enjoy the tranquillity of The Savill Garden and Valley Gardens, the beauty of the veteran oak trees in the Deer Park, the thrill and buzz of polo on Smith’s Lawn, or a day at Swinley Forest on the mountain bike trails. We hope that this website will give you some insight into the huge diversity of Windsor Great Park and our team look forward to welcoming you.
DEPUTY RANGER OF WINDSOR GREAT PARK
Here are a few members of The Crown Estate team.
Head of Visitor Development
Tell us about your role here at The Crown Estate in Windsor
I am Athena Morse and my role at Windsor Great Park is Head of Visitor Development. I have moved to the Estate from South East London with my husband, and our 2 year old daughter. My role is all about ensuring all visitors to Windsor Great Park have the very best experience every time they visit. I have 3 main teams to manage, Marketing, The Savill Garden Visitor Centre and the Visitor Services Team. I also look after the relationships with our catering partners Benugo and Casa Café. I will be working closely will all departments because everyone can have an impact on our visitors experience in the Great Park.
I’ve had an extensive career in Visitor Services, primarily in the arts and heritage sector. I’ve worked for some amazing organisations that lead the way in their respective sectors, from The Museum of London Group, Southbank Centre, and until I moved to The Crown Estate, Royal Botanic Gardens and Kew. In all of my roles my focus has been ensuring visitors go home with a greater understanding of the place they have visited and a sense of connection that brings them back time and time again.
What has inspired you in life, and why?
My Nan Eva. She faced heaps of adversity throughout her life but was always positive, kind and considerate, she strongly believed that you got on better in life by being nice to people.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want and why?
My kindle with a large range of books downloaded onto it including a decent book on survival skills. A really good multi-tool so I can make some useful stuff and use it to prepare food. My flute because life is dull without music.
Tell us something about you that not many people know?
Every few years I’ll take on a crazy fundraising challenge to raise money for my favourite charities. Some of my more memorable ones have been walking on fire, kayaking across Scotland from Fort William to Inverness, and walking a marathon during my pregnancy.
If you could travel to two places for a holiday, where would you go and why?
My favourite holiday is always a ski trip so I’d go anywhere for that. I’ve recently returned from a trip to Cambodia which was wonderful so I’m keen to go back and explore more of the country and Southeast Asia in general.
If you could have any superpowers, what would you chose and why?
The ability to be in 2 places at once so I can do more.
What was the last book you read and the last film you watched?
The last book I actually read was Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, repeated approximately 10 times for my 2 year old daughter at bedtime and the last film I watched was Moana, also for my daughter #mumlife
The last book I read for myself was The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. A novel following a homeless married couple who agree to take part in a social experiment that offers stable jobs and a home of their own but with a catch…
The last movie I watched was Rocket Man, A musical film about Elton John’s breakthrough years. I watched it on a 12 hour flight to Singapore and it was the perfect choice to pass some of the time.
How did you first get into gardening? What’s your earliest gardening memory?
I got into gardening through my father who was a very keen gardener in his spare time and my earliest gardening memory was when I was eight years old, helping my dad to dig the vegetable garden.
What is so special about the gardens in Windsor Great Park?
The Savill & Valley Gardens of Windsor Great Park are really fascinating with so much to offer in terms of history, royal connections, plant diversity, landscape use and seasonal interest. They are looked after by a dedicated group of gardeners and are justifiably one of the finest woodland gardens in the country.
What are some recent projects you’ve been involved in and what projects do you have planned for the future?
The projects that come to mind are the recent irrigation and path upgrades in The Savill Garden which have greatly improved the visitor experience. These paths, in particular, have opened areas that they hadn’t been able to access in the past. In The Valley Gardens, the recent projects have included restoring the Punch Bowl, including the cutting back of Kurume Azaleas, tackling the old drainage system which had collapsed and replanting and planting a wider a more diverse collection of plants.
Going forwards, we will be looking at restoring the Rhododendron Collection throughout the gardens, the shelter belts around the Gardens and keeping one step ahead of pests and diseases and most importantly, keeping all the gardens interesting and enjoyable for the many thousands of visitors.
Do you play an active role in selecting plants from around the world, and designing the garden?
As Keeper of the Gardens, I play an important role, with the supervisors, in keeping all aspects of the Gardens integral design in focus. Already, in the short term, certain areas of the Gardens have undergone some changes and there are more to come, including selecting new and improved plants, keeping our 8 National Collections and Champion Trees propagated and displayed for all to see across the Gardens.
My tips of places to visit are The Heather Garden in the Valley and Winter Garden in The Savill Garden in winter, the Daffodil Meadow in the Valley and Magnolias at The Savill Garden in spring. Summer in The Savill Garden has the great displays of colourful borders and in autumn both gardens are full of interesting plants for leaf, berries and interest. The Great Park is simply the best place in the world!
Can you tell us a bit about your background before joining Windsor Great Park as an arborist?
I worked for Guard’s Polo Club on Smith’s Lawn as the groundsman for three years, before joining The Crown Estate.
What does a typical day as team leader of the arboriculture team consist of?
In the morning the team gets organised – there are seven of us here so we split off into two teams, decide what kit we need, what vans we need and so on. Then we set off around the estate, where we can be doing anything from climbing trees, to reshaping them, to re-pruning them, or lifting and logging up wood for firewood logs or biomass.
Health and Safety is extremely important. We have to fill out detailed site-specific risk assessments before we start each job, and visitors will see our signs and closed off areas when we are at work. One of our priorities is working to ensure that Windsor Great Park is as safe as possible for everyone who lives or works here, and our visitors.
What is the best part about your job?
Probably the team I work with, and the new diverse role we have – we’ve just started to cover the properties too, which means we now work beyond the boundaries of Windsor Great Park.
What would you say your favourite time of year in Windsor Great Park is?
Definitely Autumn, when all the trees are covered in Autumn leaves.
Windy Corner in The Valley Gardens is my favourite part of Windsor Great Park – there’s a large Beech tree there - about 130 foot tall - that’s set high up on a hill by the Heather Garden and tucked away. It has a really wide spread and makes for a lovely spot to enjoy a picnic and the views down the valley.