What Do the Magna Carta, a Bald Eagle, and Windsor’s Paradise Park Have in Common?

Photo by Marv Klassen-Landis

You could be forgiven for overlooking a certain milestone in June 2015—the 800th anniversary of King John of England’s signing of the Magna Carta. 

Essentially the world’s first document to establish constitutional rule of law, limiting the king’s powers and ensuring the people’s basic freedoms, the Magna Carta is considered by many historians to signify the birth of democracy.

And what does that have to do with Windsor, Vermont?

The place in England where the Magna Carta was sealed is called Runnymede. It is, 800 years later, largely a grassland where people enjoy strolling with their dogs. Visitors will find historic markers, of course, including a sign that says “The Birthplace of Modern Democracy.” Runnymede is about a 9-minute drive from the town of Windsor in Berkshire, England.

Sounding familiar?

If you ever wondered how Windsor, Vermont’s Lake Runnemede got its name, now you know. And how fitting that, in the “Birthplace of Vermont,” the 
Old Constitution House—a former tavern in which Vermont officially became an independent country in 1777—now sits a few dozen yards from the lake’s eastern bank.

Just as the original Constitution of Vermont sought to perfect the idea of life freely lived, with equality, in harmony with one’s community, so does, you might say, Lake Runnemede and its surrounding meadows and forestland form a natural sort of harmony and perfection.

No wonder they call the place Paradise Park.

Wending its way through field and forest, along hillsides and streams, across footbridges and carriage roads, a 5-mile network of trails is your path to exploring the wealth of ecological diversity in Paradise Park. (
Click here for a map of Paradise Park, and go here for more trail information.)

The views along the trail can be breathtaking in large ways and small, any season of the year.

Photo by Marv Klassen-Landis

Photo by Marv Klassen-Landis

Birdwatching is one of the more popular activities in the park, where keen eyes have 
noted more than 200 bird species, from scarlet tanager and bobolink to hooded merganser and great blue heron.

But probably the most talked-about avian resident in Paradise, who makes everyone scramble for their camera when it appears overhead with wings spread wide—the one we let stand for liberty and justice for all, here in the Birthplace of Vermont—is the bald eagle.

Photo by Ann Roy

Several bald eagles have been spotted in Paradise Park over the past few years, and anywhere along the perimeter of Lake Runnemede is a good place to wait for one to make an appearance, sometimes swooping toward the water for a meal.

And you have to hand it to one self-appointed ruler of Runnemede, who recently flew down from his perch and claimed a “tax” on one unsuspecting ice fisherman. Local photographer Ann Roy captured this amazing series of images of a bald eagle waiting for the man to turn away from his fresh catch before diving toward the ice and snatching it right up.

Because democracy ain’t perfect, even in Paradise.

Photo by Ann Roy, via Facebook

Photo by Ann Roy, via Facebook

Follow the Paradise Park Facebook page for more gorgeous photos and videos as well as regular updates on trail conditions.  

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Be sure to check out these other stories Around Windsor:

When a President Ran the Country from Above the Windsor Post Office

Two Historic Towns United By ... Beer and Peanuts?

Windsor Middle Schoolers Are Mapping Out Safer Local Roads

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