I woke up peacefully on the morning of August 25th in York. Because I didn’t have a long distance to drive to my next destination, I was able to leisurely eat my breakfast, help a fellow traveller from the hostel get to the train station on time and then head south in the trusty rental car to the town of Edwinstowe near Sherwood Forest.
Ever since I was 9 years old, I’ve been fascinated with old castles and legends from medieval times, particularly Robin Hood. Why the age of 9? Well, one day when I was 9, I had been riding my bicycle around a parking lot across the street from my house pretending I was a race car driver. I had been going just a wee bit too fast as I rounded one of the debris-filled corners. The wheels of my bike went out from underneath me and I ended up sprawled out all over the pavement having rolled a few times, scrapeing my legs and arms. Ouch! That hurt and it hurt really bad.
Still, I managed to get myself up, walk across the street, leaving my bicycle where it lay, and walked into the house calling, “MOM!” I was scraped up pretty bad as I recall; both sides of both legs & arms as a matter of fact. She promptly put me in a tepid bath and then gingerly and ever-so-carefully, picked out the small rocks and goat-head stickers and other small pieces of debris the Mojave desert is famous for, from the scraped up raw flesh of my limbs. Afterward she put me in bed and kept me home from school for about a week until my open scrapes healed over.
After the first day or so, and when the pain and shock subsided, I got pretty bored just lying there in bed, so she brought me a big old thick book to read, Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.” I got so enthralled in that story – the rest of the week just flew by!
It was the first novel I had ever read; the first real genuine adult-type book without a bunch of pictures filling up the pages! I was impressed that I actually read the whole thing and found that it inspired me to want to read more. It also piqued my interest in all things really, really old and my very first “hero” appeared on the scene – the legendary Robin Hood!
When I was planning the itinerary for this 4 1/2 month trip, my route was originally planned to go from York directly to Cambridge. I noticed, however, that Sherwood Forest was right along the path I was intending to follow.
How could I NOT stop and indulge the freckle-faced, hair-in-braids, 9-year-old little girl within? I just had to go!
Upon arrival at the YHA Sherwood Forest Hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand new building which was very cozy, and particularly handy, because it sits, literally, right on the edge of the park! It couldn’t be more convenient! I could just park my car (for free!) and walk to everything I wanted to see and experience.
I spent the afternoon following most of the trails traversing through Sherwood Forest, taking in the beautiful sights, imagining the antics of outlaws around the woods, and let that youthful 9-year-old imagination run wild all the while. It was fun!
Upon my return to the hostel, I enjoyed a very nice home-cooked meal, Bangers & Mash, followed up by a scrumptious cake thingy dessert with custard pudding! Even ended up having the whole female 4-bed dorm room to myself for the night!
Walking through the forest was a special treat. This 450-acre park is the last remaining part of the old Sherwood Forest of medieval times. It has one of the best examples of oak and birch woodland in the country and has an important and unique wildlife habitat.
The name ‘Sherwood’ was first recorded in 958AD when it was called Sciryuda, meaning ‘the woodland belonging to the shire.’ It became a Royal hunting forest after the Norman invasion of 1066 and was popular with many Norman kings, particularly King John and Edward I. The ruins of King John’s hunting lodge can still be seen near the Nottinghamshire village of Kings Clipstone.
‘Forest’ was a legal term, meaning an area subject to special Royal laws designed to protect the valuable resources of timber and game. Laws were strictly and severely imposed by agisters, foresters, wardens and rangers, who were all were employed by the Crown.
In the 1200s, popularly thought to be the time of Robin Hood, Sherwood covered about 100,000 acres, which was a fifth of the entire county of Nottinghamshire. The main London to York road, the Great North Way, ran straight through Sherwood and travellers were often at the mercy of robbers living outside of the law. Hence the name ‘outlaw.’
The largest oak tree in England, perhaps in the world, this famous tree – the Major Oak – has withstood lightning, the drying out of its roots and even a fire. The hollow tree has a circumference of 10 meters and the spread of its branches makes a ring 85 meters around.
The cavity in the trunk is 2 meters in diameter and it is said that Robin Hood, and some of his men, used to hide here. Because many thousands of visitors were compacting the soil around it, the tree had to be fenced off to preserve it in order that water could still penetrate its roots and keep it alive and well. Branches have become so heavy they are also propped up to keep them from breaking off.
What a beautiful and scenic forest to walk through. It’s just the way I imagined it would be. Funny how that works!
There’s even a 105-mile walking path which meanders through the nearby countryside following the footsteps of Robin that one can take if one so desires. I didn’t walk it; it was a bit more than I had allowed time for. Sounds like a great walk, however. You can check it out at the following link: Robin Hood Way
After that wonderful woodland walk, I headed toward the village of Edwinstowe in the other direction from the hostel passing St. Mary’s Church along the way.
As I walked around the church and amongst its many headstones, I kept an eye out for any bearing the name of Sherwood. I didn’t find any but was hoping I might. One of my ancestors, Thomas Sherwood, emigrated from this town to Connecticut in 1634. He was a 9th great grandfather.
The town of Edwinstowe, which is just outside of the forest boundaries, gets its name from King Edwin. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘stowe’ means special, or holy place. King Edwin was the first Christian King of Northumbria; a kingdom which stretched from Edinburgh as far south as the River Trent.
His reign ended when he was killed at the nearby Battle of Heathfield in 633. His body was buried (temporarily) here at the church and later, the site was deemed to be holy by the people because Edwin was a Saint. A wooden chapel was built and it became known as the place of Edwin, or Edwinstowe. They still celebrate St Edwin’s day each year on October 12th.
Edwinstowe has all kinds of interesting buildings to behold and lovely little shops and pubs to wander in and out of. Here are a few examples of what lies on either side of the main drag, High Street, as I walked down into the small village.
Lots of beautiful floral displays graced the colorful shop fronts…
And of course, artistic statutes of Robin Hood and Maid Marion grace the centerpiece of this delightful village at Robin Hood Plaice.
I was so pleased I had included this stop. Such a pleasant and easy-to-get-around location and a real treat for the child within.
The park is beginning construction of a new visitor’s center directly across the lane from the hostel. It should make a big improvement over the existing facilities within the park that are a bit out-dated and seen better days. I didn’t include any photos of the shops and facilities because, quite frankly, they weren’t much to look at.
Just the same, I was amazed at how many people, especially families with children, visit this place. There was a plethora of little boys with bows and arrows donning Robin Hood hats throughout the grounds and young girls with conical Maid Marion hats as well. With newer, more modern facilities in the near future, I have a feeling they will be attracting many, many more visitors! Earlier in the summer, around mid-July they also host a Robin Hood Festival with parades, games, archery events, etc., which I am sure is quite a popular and fun event to attend.
Just next door to the hostel is a medieval craft centre, artisan shops, and great eateries too, including a big favourite, the Chocolate Factory. There’s something here for everyone!
I had a very restful sleep in this cozy respite amongst the trees. I woke feeling grateful that I had the opportunity to indulge the child within exploring the magical and mythical forest with her. A rare opportunity indeed!
The sun was shining brightly the following morning, coaxing me out for yet another adventure and a drive further down the road to a famous, and most-beloved, academic center – Cambridge! We’ll explore that wondrous place in the next post. Until then… hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of the land of the legendary Robin Hood!