Walk 114: Sherwood Forest Circular: “Robin Hood, Robin Hood”

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.5 miles (10.5km)

Time to walk: If you include a look round the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, it’s roughly 2.5 hours

Difficulty: Flat, easy walking with no stiles. Mainly off road on forest tracks, with a bit of field-side too, which could probably get a bit muddy after heavy rain

Parking: You could pay to use the Visitor Centre car park, but we parked for free on street in Edwinstowe just down the road & started the walk from there

Public toilets: Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, or in Edwinstowe

Map of the route:

“Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen…” Why oh why did that tune come into our heads before the start of this walk & then refused to leave them until we exited the forest?

We tend to find that happens quite a lot on our walks…for example we once started a walk in London in Warwick Avenue & were plagued by the Duffy song for days after!

Anyway…we were working in the local area & it must have been 40 years since we last visited Sherwood Forest. Our memory of it had somewhat diminished with age, a bit like some of the large trees, but we felt that it was well worth a walk. Sherwood Forest is a royal forest in Nottinghamshire, famous by its historic association with the legend of Robin Hood. The area has been wooded since the end of the Ice Age & today, Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve covers 1045 acres surrounding the village of Edwinstowe. It contains 900 ‘veteran’ oaks

Sherwood attracts between 360,000 & 1 million tourists annually, many from other countries

Right…green tights on & quiver in hand…

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk begins at the crossroads in the large village of Edwinstowe

The origin of the village name, “Edwin’s resting place”, recalls that King & Saint Edwin of Northumbria’s body was hidden in the church after he was killed in the Battle of Hatfield Chase, near Doncaster, probably in AD 633. The battle against King Penda of Mercia took place near the present day hamlet of Cuckney, some five miles north west of the current village

Thoresby Colliery was Edwinstowe’s main source of employment until July 2015, when the mine was permanently closed. Tourism is now the main arm of the local economy

2. Turn left & walk up the hill away from the crossroads passing the Forest Lodge, an 18th century coaching inn

If St Mary’s Church, on the left’s open, pop in & have a look around. The church dates from around 1175 & was restored in 1869 & 1890. Most tourists come to see the church as, according to legend, Robin Hood & Maid Marian were married here

A slightly sadder sight is further up the hill…a somewhat abandoned looking Edwinstowe Hall, although there was a ‘Sold’ sign up so that’s hopeful. The Hall was built about 1702 possibly by the Duke of Newcastle, & has had many owners…firstly the Earl of Scarborough, afterwards the Alexander family, next the Bolsover Mining Company Welfare Centre, an archery manufacturer, a NCC children’s home, respite home & we now understand the next use will once again be residential

3. At the junction we start to exit the village taking the small path diagonally left towards Sherwood Forest itself…

Look across to the left to see a new Visitors’ Centre starting to take shape, which is being developed in conjunction with the RSPB. At the crossroads of paths turn right, passing the playground to arrive at the car park…

4. Keep walking straight to eventually arrive at the current Visitor Centre…

The number of events they hold here is very impressive & very educational

5. The Visitor Centre is where all of the marked walks start from &, for the next part of our walk, we’re going to follow the signs to the ‘Major Oak’. Now…if you are here at a weekend it’s likely to be pretty busy as the ‘Major Oak’ is the main tourist draw in the forest, which is a shame as there are many other huge, ancient trees. Today though we pretty much had the whole forest to ourselves

The photo’s don’t do these huge specimens justice, but they are massive & sureally remind us of ‘The Knights who say Ni’ in Monty Python & the Holy Grail

6. The path is a real gem…

After about 15 minutes of walking we arrive at the forest’s main attraction, the Major Oak &…yes it’s pretty ‘major’

According to local folklore, it was Robin Hood’s shelter where he & his merry men slept. It weighs an estimated 23 tons, has a girth of 33 feet, a canopy of 92 feet, & is about 800–1000 years old. In a 2002 survey, it was voted “Britain’s favourite tree” & in 2014 was voted ‘England’s Tree of the Year’ by a public poll by the Woodland Trust

It received its present name from Major Hayman Rooke‘s description of it in 1790. There are several theories concerning why it became so huge & oddly shaped:

(i) It may be several trees that fused together as saplings
(ii) The tree was possibly pollarded, a system of tree management that enabled foresters to grow more than one crop of timber from a single tree, causing the trunk to grow large & thick. However, there is only limited evidence for this theory as none of the other trees in the surrounding area were pollarded

Since the Victorian era, its massive limbs have been supported partially by an elaborate system of scaffolding. In 2002, someone attempted illegally to sell acorns from the Major Oak on an internet-based auction website. In 2003, in Dorset a plantation was started of 260 saplings grown from acorns of the Major Oak. The purpose was to provide publicity for an internet-based study of the Major Oak, its history, photographic record, variation in size & leafing of the saplings, comparison of their DNA, & an eventual public amenity

The Major Oak was featured on the 2005 television programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the Midlands. The formation sign of the 46th Infantry Division of the British Army in the Second World War was the Major Oak. Among the units of the division was a battalion of the Sherwood Foresters

7. Keeping the Oak on the right walk past it & turn left onto the path signposted with a bow & arrow as the ‘Robin Hood Way‘. The Robin Hood Way initially ran 84 miles from Nottingham Castle to Edwinstowe Church & was opened in 1985 with the intention of linking all the places in Nottinghamshire with connections to the legend of Robin Hood. However these are well scattered around the County so since there are also several Country Parks & other interesting places it seemed obvious to include them in order to add to the appeal of the Way

In 1995, the route was extended to 105 miles to include the historic, Minster town of Southwell

8. Bilberry…ever seen Bilberry before? We haven’t! On the left’s Sherwood’s last surviving patch of Bilberry…

Just after the Bilberry we come to another of many crossroads. We need to turn right & walk in the direction of Budby village…

…following the path for around three quarters of a mile. This time we’re following a horseshoe symbol &, when the path forks, continue to follow this to the left

9. Roughly a quarter of a mile further on another major crossroads is reached with a barrier…the people in the photo had emerged from another path & were probably the first signs of life we’d seen since the Visitor Centre car park

Up until now we’ve been walking in what’s mainly an oak forest. Walk straight across the junction & continue in the same direction. The wood’s now changed & has become predominantly beech

10. At the top of the hill follow the track around the corner to the left where it now becomes a beech wood

Around the next corner the track meets another – our route is straight ahead down the one on the left below. We’re approximately at the halfway point in this walk now & haven’t seen anyone since the two people earlier. However we have heard some rather strange noises coming from the woods which we can only presume were deer

11. At this stage this walk feels like it’s all about trees & junctions (which it is) so bear with us as here’s another which we cross straight over. We have to confess that our map wasn’t that good & it is pretty easy to take a wrong turn, so just think you’re walking round in a big circle

The path along this short stretch was much narrower & denser in vegetation. Eventually though, guess what, there’s another junction & this time we need to bear diagonally left (not the immediate left track)

12. Our direction has now changed once more & we feel more like we’re walking around the edge of the forest as, after a short while, there are open fields to the right…

13. After about 300 yards we’re leaving this area of the forest completely as we cross a very busy minor road & head up a hard surfaced road with a bridleway sign towards Clipstone

At the top of the hill the road bends left & eventually arrives at rather a spectacular property known as Archway House. After a fire in 1835 destroyed the Houses of Parliament, the 4th Duke of Portland offered stone from his quarries at Mansfield Woodhouse for its replacement. Whilst 50,000 cubic feet were used for the foundations & lower part of the new building, the stone was not thought durable enough for the whole construction. The Duke disagreed & set about proving his point by building Archway Lodge (as it was originally known). Started in 1842 & finished 2 years later at a cost of £16,000, it was intended as the first of 20 identical structures along a 21 mile private drive from Welbeck to Nottingham. When the Duke died before the completion of Archway Lodge, the rest of the scheme was abandoned

It’s quite hard to see from this angle so either have a quick sneak up the drive, or walk past & have a look from the other side

14. Now our walk’s going to change from a forest walk to a charming river walk. Walk down the hill to the bridge to find a sparkling river which reminds us of the chalk streams of Hampshire

Don’t cross the bridge, but turn left along the bank. Where we’re now walking were once the Duke of Portland‘s Flood Meadows. Teams of watermen (beadsmen) controlled the flooding, depending on what season it was & what was required. Whilst the meadows were created to provide grass they also provide an incredible environment for nature so keep your eyes & ears open along here

The meadows covered an area of nearly 500 acres from Mansfield to Edwinstowe

15. After a couple of hundred yards the path bears right up a slope though another wooded area, still following the river – you can now see Edwinstowe in the distance again

It now exits the wood & it now follows a straight line, along the field edge, back to the village

16. Walk along the edge of the playing fields…

…to emerge into a housing estate. Now it’s a case of winding through it to meet the main road, where we turn right again to return to the crossroads

So…that’s the end of our, some may say, trek around Sherwood Forest as it does feel a bit like that at times & it’s not the best one to write up as, apart from the sections outside the forest, there’s not too much to comment on

However, if you’ve never visited Sherwood Forest then we can highly recommend it – just wear your green tights & don’t forget to hum the theme tune!

Go Walk!