First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Linby stands at the edge of the Nottinghamshire coalfield: a neat, solid, stone-built village, handsome and comfortable. A yellow froth of daffodils lapped up against the stepped preaching cross on the village green, an earnest of spring as we stepped out along the old railway cycle path on the outskirts of the village.
The old line has been sensitively landscaped, the track snaking back and forth to relieve its geometric straightness. Blackthorns in the hedge were dusted white with blossom. A wren chattered manically inside the beetroot-purple leaves of a bramble bush. At the top of an ash sapling a newly arrived chiffchaff sang his two-tone territorial song, fluffing out his pale breast feathers and bobbing his neat olive-coloured cap.
Over the silver birch and oak trees of Freckland Wood a buzzard circled, giving out its cat-like wail. It’s hard to credit that this mature-seeming woodland conceals what was, until a few years ago, a raw hill of colliery slag. The contrast seemed more acute when we turned north-east past a little cottage-ornée lodge and headed into the broad parkland of Newstead Abbey, a world away from the brick-built pit villages nearby.
A fine long avenue of horse chestnuts led us on, each upturned bough end bursting out in a pale green bud of leaves as sticky as glue to the touch. At the top of the drive a wide lake and noisy sluice separated a battlemented and turreted extravaganza known as The Fort from the massive frontage of Newstead Abbey, half monastic ruin and half-Jacobean mansion.
When the poet George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron, managed to sell house and estate for £94,000 in 1818 he thought himself well rid of it. Byron loved Newstead Abbey in a romantic way, but it had cost him dear. He’d inherited the estate from his great-uncle, the 5th Baron Byron, a.k.a. “The Wicked Lord”, who had deliberately run everything down and ruined the great house and the woodlands just to spite his own son during a family feud.
Just beyond the house and lake we turned south along the Robin Hood Way. There were glimpses of the walled gardens and lakes of Newstead Abbey, and a wonderful oak avenue that led us homeward by way of Papplewick church. Here Robin Hood saved fair maid Ellen from her marriage to a rich old man and delivered her all a-blush to his merrie man Alan-a-Dale, who’d loved her all along – a tale swoonsome enough for Lord Byron at his most romantic.
Start: Horse & Groom Inn, Linby, Notts NG15 8AE (OS ref SK 535511)
Getting there: Bus 141 (Mansfield-Hucknall)
Road – Linby is signed off A611 between Mansfield and Hucknall
Walk (6¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 270): From Horse & Groom, right up road. Right at roundabout; in 30m, right (‘public footpath’) along Cycle Trail No 6. In 1¼ miles, at Linby Trail sign (525528), bear right and continue on Cycle Trail 6. In 1¼ go between The Fort and Newstead Abbey (541538); continue up drive, and in ⅓ of a mile, turn right (544541) along Robin Hood Way for 1¼ miles. At B683 (549519) right along pavement. At left bend in Papplewick (549514), right (‘Path to Linby’). In 200m, just before metal gates, left through wooden gate (547514). Follow field path to B6011 (539512); right into Linby.
Lunch: Horse & Groom, Linby (0115-963-3334, thehorseandgroom-linby.co.uk)
Newstead Abbey: 01623-455900, newsteadabbey.org.uk
Nottingham TIC: 08444-775-678