There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at Windsor Great Park. Here you will get to know some of the team, what they do to keep this working Estate a place we all love as well as some fun facts.
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.
I manage a team of some 50 people including the wardens and the landscape maintenance teams for the Great Park and Home Park Private. I work closely with our major events suppliers and liaise with key stakeholders including Natural England to manage our Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation.
We work year round to maintain the highest standards here in both Parks. I understand the importance of stewardship and that we have an important responsibility as custodians of this special place. To maintain the highest standards, we must understand what has come before and plan for the long term in the future.
Covid 19 has had such a huge impact on all aspects of our daily life and our work in managing the Park. We have worked right through the pandemic to keep the Great Park open as much as possible as people have recognised the importance that outdoor spaces bring for physical and mental well-being.
We have seen an increase in the number of people using the Park, however I have been very impressed at how our teams rose to the challenge working together to ensure that we keep the public and our colleagues safe.
Weather plays a huge role in how we manage the Park, whether its monitoring the dry weather and the risk of fire through to the risk posed by storms, both of which have the potential to impact the landscape quite significantly. We monitor the weather on a daily basis and the increased reliability of weather forecasting does enable us to plan and react better to any adverse weather that may be forecast.
At heart I am a countryman with a strong a sense of adventure and fun. I am fortunate to have worked in some very iconic landscapes, be it the Canadian Artic or the Scottish Highlands and I never ceased to be amazed by the natural world.
I grew up reading about the exploits of explorers such as Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen which I found captivating. I was fortunate enough to work in an Inuit settlement that had the remains of a boat Amundsen used in his Arctic trips just down from my office, which underlined to me what you can achieve if you put your mind to it – extraordinary feats in an extraordinary landscape.
I like to think that that I have made the most of opportunities when they have presented themselves and I will always seek out a challenge. I am always willing to give something a go and its probably why I have had such interesting career which gave me the opportunity to come and work here at Windsor Great Park.
My first job after leaving school at 18 was running a hotel in the Canadian arctic for 6 months and ended up being able to cook the range of breakfasts including steak and pancakes for a hotel full of pilots, building workers and TV crews. I even remember becoming a little blasé to the regular displays of the Northern Lights from my office window interrupting my satellite calls! I also managed to get frostbite on my ears which is not something I would recommend to anyone.
The Suffolk Coast - I was born and bred there and never tire of it.
The other would have to be the Canadian Arctic, 24 hours of sunshine in the summer with fantastic wildlife. The landscape and climate are harsh, brutal and challenging – fantastic.
The last film that I watched was Spectre on TV. I am looking forward to seeing the new James Bond film 'No Time to Die'. The last book that I read was 'Vietnam : An Epic Tragedy - 1945 - 1975' by Max Hastings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ability to be in 2 places at once so I can do more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
After nearly 13 years developing and managing the Visitor business here at Windsor, at the start of the year I was very pleased to move into the role of Head of Engagement, Events and Filming, and to welcome Athena Morse to the Senior management team here to look after the Visitor business . My new role includes developing an event program which will sit comfortably in the Great Park, with a wide range of high-quality events . Alongside the events I’m looking forward continuing to develop our relationship with the filming industry, with whom we have worked closely over the last dozen or so years. Some of you may not know that both Windsor Great Park at the wider Windsor Estate is now one of the most filmed in areas of countryside in the UK. It is now an important revenue stream for the Estate. As Head of Engagement, I’m looking forward to helping to nurture and develop relationships with the myriad of stakeholders with whom the Crown Estate at Windsor is in constant contact, be they local authorities, politicians, tenants, the media, various user groups, and of course the Friends of the Savill Garden!
There have been so many highlights it is hard to pick one. It could be a surreal morning spent on Robin Hoods boat floating on Virginia Water lake introducing Russell Crowe and Sir Ridley Scott to the then Chief Executive of The Crown Estate! It could also be simply standing by the Copper Horse on a beautiful frosty morning with no one around apart from the Deer as the sun rose. However, without apology as it seems a strange ‘highlight’, I have chosen the very sad occasion of Mark Flanagan’s funeral service in The Royal Chapel, when a huge number of people, some of whom had travelled from all over the world, gathered to say farewell to a very special colleague and friend. The respect, warmth, love and affection shown towards Mark, Lesley, Callum and Sophie is something I will never forget.
Something my father, who was a very special man, said to me once. It was along the lines of, ’Always do what you feel is right, and what you would want others to do. Be guided by your values.’
This is something which I have always remembered and always try hard to put into practice. It is something that I hope my children may take with them as well.
Yogi, the family dog, as he never answers back. A small ,island sized branch of Waitrose, to have nice things to cook, which I enjoy very much. And finally, if allowed, I’d like to have the family with me as well!
I grew up as a diplomatic family child, which meant that we moved around the world quite a bit. Childhood had its exciting times. Our family home in Cyprus was destroyed in a tank battle between Greek and Turkish forces during the 1974 invasion, with my mother and brother stuck in the cellar, as I was languishing in a Surrey boarding school. I also once spent two hours, sometime in my early teens, with my friend William Phillips, hiding in a bunker on a golf course in Addis Ababa, as a full-scale gun-battle took place around us as anti-government rebel forces stormed the nearby Cotton corporative headquarters!
I have been to, and love Australia, I would like to return to the sheep station in remote Western Australia to show the family where I spent six happy months. From there we would move on to Bora-Bora, so that my 11-year-old daughter could finally say she’d been there!
Invisibility. It could get you out of difficult situations quickly and easily.
I have been reading, and re-reading Driving over Lemons by Chris Stewart, along with the other books in his wonderful series about living in an isolated Spanish farm house. One of my brothers opted for a similar lifestyle in the Heart of Andalusia. These books are both familiar, but also transport you to a quieter, kinder, gentler place.
During lockdown, the family have been enjoying all sorts of films online. The last we watched was a very obscure children’s film, Dragonworld, filmed in 1994. It was filmed primarily at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, where I was at the time Comptroller To the Duke of Rutland. It’s the only film I’ve actually been credited on!