When it comes to Sherwood Forest, there’s only one name on everyone’s mind. Who cares if England’s philanthropic hero really existed or not?
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Robbing the rich, helping the poor, tossing his friends into streams and whacking his foes into submission – Robin Hood (or Wood, or Locksley, or Fitzooth) is the nearest we’ve got to a national saint, better than that milk-and-water St George by a long chalk. We all love jolly, carefree Robin, and we all want to be on his team, frolicking in the greenwood with the Merrie Men.
A select band of Times readers set off from Sherwood Forest’s Visitor Centre, the beauty of the autumnal forest and the gentle pace of the walk soon loosening all tongues. Karen and Lynn had come all the way from Bedford, their first time in Sherwood. ‘Absolutely beautiful,’ was the verdict. ‘We weren’t expecting it to be so open – you think of a forest as trees close all round, don’t you?’
It’s true – our psyches have been stocked since childhood with Grimm’s fairy tale forests, deep, dark and dangerous. Yet the thousand acres that remain of the old Sherwood Forest are more of a mosaic – open ground, broad grassy, rides, farmland, clearings, patches of heath and wetland.
Sherwood’s famous veteran oaks really are huge; bulbous old giants with troll faces and knotted limbs, blasted, cracked, hollowed, yet still defiantly sprouting leaves. It’s reckoned each one hosts more wildlife than a whole forest of commercial conifers. Under them we found Granny’s Cakes generously spilled – fly agaric fungi, deadly and beautiful in glossy scarlet sprinkled with sugary white.
‘Lincoln Green? They made the dye with a mixture of woad and weld,’ quoth our walk leader David Wenk, adding modestly ‘ – or so I’m told. Now, a bit of a historic thrill up ahead!’ It was a memorial cross marking the burial place of the headless corpse of King Edwin of Northumbria, after his death in battle in 633AD – a strange image on this peaceful morning.
We ascended the gentle dome of Hanger Hill, known to Robin Hood and his contemporaries as Thyngehoe – perhaps a Norse ‘thing’ or meeting mound, surmised David. With the wide views, and our voices carrying far down the slope, we could well believe it.
A slug of hot chocolate and a nibble of lebkuchen and we went on under silver birches whose turning leaves, acid green and yellow, glowed against the sombre Scots pines. Tiny tots came pelting past, absorbed in their own greenwood fantasies.
Nearing the Visitor Centre once more, we came by the Major Oak, a salutary presence to end the walk. Old enough to have sheltered Robin Hood himself, the ancient oak with its craggy rind and soft heart leans on wooden crutches like a veteran of a thousand-year war.
Start and finish: Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, Edwinstowe, Notts NG21 9HN (OS ref SK 627677)
Getting there: Rail – (www.trainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Mansfield (7 miles). Bus – 10A from Mansfield. Road – M1 Jct 28; A38 to Sutton-in-Ashfield; A 6075 to Edwinstowe; B6034 to Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. Car park £3
Walk (6 miles, easy, OS Explorer 270): From Visitor Centre follow Greenwood Walk and Birklands Ramble (signed) for ⅓ mile. Just beyond ‘Major Oak/Fairground’ signs, keep ahead (621676, blue arrow) on bridleway (‘Clipstone’ fingerpost). In ¾ mile pass path on left (‘Edwinstowe’). In another 300m, at T-junction (606676), left along wide ride. Right beside A6075; in 250m, bear right away from road on Robin Hood Way/RHW (604663, green arrow). In ⅓ mile, fork right (600665, RHW). In 600m pass memorial cross on left (593666). In another 300m, at corner of forest, cross track; ahead for 100m, then right at junction (591667; white arrow on tree; RHW).
In 1 mile at T-junction (599681) dogleg left, then right off RHW, on track heading NNE past Thyngehoe (summit of Hanger Hill – unmarked). In 250m track forks (600684); don’t go right, but keep ahead along ride. In 600m cross RHW (606686); ahead through barrier. (‘Sherwood Forest, Edwinstowe YHA, Dukeries Trail/DT’). Fork immediately right on bridleway (horseshoe signs). In ¾ mile at junction, left (617679, DT). Path forks immediately; don’t go right up slope, but keep ahead to Major Oak (621679); RHW to Visitor Centre.
Lunch, information and green peaked hats: Sherwood Forest Information Centre (01623-823202; www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/sherwoodforestcp)
Accommodation: Forest Lodge Hotel, Edwinstowe, Notts (01623-824443; www.forestlodgehotel.co.uk
English Country Walks (David Wenk): 07932-953174; www.englishcountrywalks.com
www.LogMyTrip.co.uk www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com