‘Exercise is important, but exercise in a gym is not important. Go and take a walk outside. Skip the umpteenth coffee date and go for a hike instead. Take the stairs. Walk your errands’ – Daphne Oz
One of the best ideas I think I’ve had this year was to write our bucket list down with the hope of actually getting somethings ticked off it. It’s something I’ve kind of always had going in my head but trust me, there’s an awful lot of other rubbish that swirls around there on any given day and sometimes you can’t see the opportunities even when they’re right in front of you.
Like some short of weird internet divine intervention, that same day I posted our bucketlist, the Travelzoo top 20 email popped into my inbox (well, that fact in itself isn’t divine intervention, they both just happened to be a Wednesday) what was spooky though was upon said list was a deal for 2 nights in a Ringwood Hall hotel near Chesterfield. Which is near Sherwood Forest. Which is on the bucket list. Hear what I’m saying?
So we left our drizzly raining offices after work on a friday and drove the couple hours down to Nottinghamshire, where of course it was nice and sunny (it always is anywhere south of Darlington).
We’d set aside a whole day at Sherwood so after a hearty breakfast (a very hearty breakfast) we set off on the 20 minute journey. Sherwood Forest is owned by Nottinghamshire Council so there was a small £3 parking fee but we expected that. At the visitors centre there’s ample parking and plenty of Robin Hood themed facilities like Ye Olde Loos, Ice Cream Shoppe and Hark! The Vistors Centre – I may be embellishing on some of the names but you get the idea, it was quirky and quaint and I imagine kids would love it.
There are quite a few walking routes around the Forest which are clearly marked by wooden coloured signs, however the longest one is only about 5K and we were prepared to spend the majority of the day there so downloaded this 8 mile walking route from the Sherwood Forest Trust to follow, which would take us pretty much all the way around the Forest and end up at Major Oak and eventually the visitor centre car park
It really helped that we were blessed with such a beautiful day as we set off on our walk passing the Cricket Ground and a little small fun fair. It’s hard to imagine how little operations like the funfair stay running but I guess the park must have enough tourism to warrant it’s existence. Once you get away from the car parks though you’re very quickly into the depths of the forest (or ‘The Glen’ as I preferred to call it). I think the Robin Hood fanatic in me was disappointed that they hadn’t hired actors to dress as men in tights and swing around the tree tops or ride past you on their horse doffing their caps. Snapping myself quickly out of the dream world I clearly inhabit, I remembered it is a conversation site and having people muck about in tree treetops for my entertainment probably wouldn’t be best for it’s preservation.
Sadly the forest isn’t as big as it once was, a lot of it has been lost due to deforestation which is why the council stepped in and took over. As far as walks go it’s a really pleasant one and almost entirely flat so won’t be too tough on the knees. There are however a few little muddy trails if you’re following the same walk we did. As it takes you right around the periphery of the forest before taking you back inside to see the rest it goes off the beaten trail slightly and I would hate to try and wade through some of those boggy footpaths after some heavy rain. Wear sensible shoes I guess is what I’m saying, but hey if you’re walking 8 miles around a forest you’re unlikely to be doing it in stripper heels are you?
The walk we did is really easy to follow, especially if you use the instructions as well as we found the map once printed off a little hard to read. It was very quiet and peaceful, the only people we really came across was the odd dog walker and some lost Duke of Edinburgh students. Once you get towards the end of the walk however and closer to Major Oak you’re back in tourist territory and it’s noticeably busier.
Major Oak is a large English Oak which according to legend is where Robin Hood and all his merry men would shelter and sleep. Why Kevin Costner never used it in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves I’ve no idea, would have easily kept him, Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater pretty warm and dry. It weighs an estimated 23 tons, has a girth of 33 feet (10 metres), a canopy of 92 feet (28 metres), and is about 800–1000 years old. In a 2002 survey, it was voted ‘Britain’s favourite tree’ and 2014 it was voted ‘England’s Tree of the Year’ by a public poll by the Woodland Trust (kind of like X-Factor but for trees I suppose).
Our walk took us just shy of 2 and half hours so since we had some time to kill and the whether was so nice we took out service station sandwiches we’d bought on the way, along with some cider we picked up at a local off licence and sat and watched some local cricket in the sunshine. Just like in days of yore.