The Magna Carta was sealed in the meadows of Runnymede on 15th June 1215. It was a charter of rights that King John agreed to in order to make peace with a group of troublesome barons. However, it has had a lasting and global impact, seen by many as marking the beginning of the rule of law as we know it today. Runnymede has thus become synonymous with law and peace, and the area offers insights into a fascinating period of history.
So when you visit Magna Carta country today, it’s possible to visit a number of Magna Carta monuments and artworks, as well as roam the ancient Runnymede meadows.
The history-filled land around Runnymede also has a long association as a recreation spot. In particular, the locality became well-known for the Egham Races, which were held annually from 1734 all the way through to the 1880s.
Originally a horse racing event held over three days in the Egham Meadow, the increasingly popular event had moved to Runnymede by the 1770s. Additional prizes were added to the horse racing occasion to celebrate the move to the landmark location, including the King John Plate and the Magna Carta Plate.
As well as horse racing, other forms of entertainment were added to the schedule of the Egham Races, including cock fighting, refreshment stands and a ball at the Red Lion pub in Egham, which is also where all horses were registered to compete in the races. The Egham Races became so popular, royalty started attending too, and a coach service was put on to bring revellers from central London to the event.
Although all the festivities related to horse racing are long gone today, Runnymede is still a popular spot for picnickers, nature and history lovers. National Trust signage in the area calls it ‘A Home to Politics and Picnics for 1000 years’, which also refers to the age-old popularity of the River Thames as a spot for days spent boating and picnicking. So there really is no better spot for celebrating National Picnic Week from 21st to 30th June.
National Picnic Week is all about encouraging people to get together to enjoy a great summer tradition and make the most of outdoor spaces. Indeed, the tradition of picnics enjoys a long history in itself. Eating in the great outdoors was originally a necessity for hunting parties in the Middle Ages who had to bring supplies of easy-to-eat meals out with them. However, the word ‘picnic’ itself originates from the French ‘pique-nique’, which actually referred to food lovers who brought their own wine with them when dining out! The pastime later expanded to mean food too and became a custom that was transported across the world.
Come and join us at The Runnymede on Thames to enjoy our locality for picnics, politics and a powerful history. And if you hire one of our boats, you can also take advantage of our picnic menu. It’s the perfect way to explore the local area from the water. It also presents the opportunity to take a closer look at the River Thames islands including Magna Carta Island with its illustrious history. Or pay a visit to Truss’s Island, which has dedicated picnic points.