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Monday, 11 September 2017

Visiting Sherwood Forest Country Park & Visitor Centre

During the Summer Holidays, while Rebecca was in Switzerland with Guides, Danny went on a PGL trip with single ventricle heart charity, Little Hearts Matter (I always wanted to go on a PGL trip when I was younger!).  As he was staying at PGL Caythorpe it made more sense for us to stay in the area too and have a break with the younger girls rather than driving the long distance four times back and forth.  We booked a three night stay at Premier Inn Grantham and had a chance to explore the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire areas.  On our first day out we chose to visit Sherwood Forest Country park and Visitor Centre.

Visiting Sherwood Forest Country Park and Visitor Centre

Sherwood Forest Country Park and Visitor Centre (NG21 9HN) is free to visit.  Parking costs just £3.  It is open every day 10am - 5pm and dogs are welcome.  We planned to just visit for the morning but found ourselves staying all day as there was lots to see.

Before we'd even left the car park the girls were getting into the "Robin Hood" spirit.  Growing up reading the stories and watching the shows I was very excited to finally visit Sherwood Forest, the setting for all these legendary tales.

If our visit had been a few days later it would have coincided with The Robin Hood Festival  which would have been perfect timing however even without this event on we had a great day all the same.

On arrival there are plenty of facilities- toilets, a restaurant- to grab a coffee or food, the Visitor Centre and gift shops.

We began our day by sitting down to watch a video about the history of Sherwood Forest.  This was a great way to set the scene before exploring this nature reserve.

In the courtyard there is a statue depicting Robin Hood fighting Little John on a bridge over the River Leen.  

This was their first meeting and neither man would give way. 

 When Little John eventually won the contest Robin Hood asked him to join his band of Merry Men.

There are other statues and wood carvings all around the country park.  

Robyn Hodes Sherwode Exhibition

Inside Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre there is an exhibition on Robyn Hodes Sherwode.

This is a must for all Robin Hood fans.

This exhibition takes us on Robin Hood's journey but there are also learning opportunities about nature and true historic events as well as the legends.

"And where this arrow is taken up,
There shall my grave digged be."

From "Robin Hood's Death".

"Bury me where my arrow falls" are traditionally Robin Hood's last words to Little John.  Before dying he shot an arrow out through the priory window to mark the site of his last resting place in Kirklees, West Yorkshire.

"The spirit of Robyn Hode lives forever in Sherwode Forest and in the hearts of those who seek him."

The Major Oak Tree Walk

Next we followed the signs to the Major Oak Tree.  This was a lovely walk, one of many routes that we followed on this day.

We enjoyed looking out for the little tree houses.

We read informative signs along the way about the trees, flowers, insects and mammals living in the forest.

We spotted another type of "Robin".

Can you spot the bug on this owl?

This gorgeous grey squirrel was so tame.

We saw lots of insects on the walk too.

The Major Oak

We then reached The Major Oak.  The Major Oak is estimated to be between 800 - 1000 years old and has been crowned England’s Tree of the Year in a public vote run by the Woodland Trust.  

The world famous tree is a Quercus Robur, the English or pendunculate oak.  It weighs an estimated 23 tonnes, has a girth of 10 metres (33ft) and a spread of 28 metres (92ft) making it the biggest oak tree in Britain.

Legend has it that the ancient oak not only provided Robin Hood with shelter, it was also the place where he and his Merry Men slept.


All of the older kids enjoy archery so Caitlyn was happy when she saw that there was a chance to have a go at traditional longbow archery at Sherwood Forest.  It cost just £3 for 6 arrows.

Phew!  I'm so glad she missed the squirrel (can you spot it in the background?).

The Forest Archers were very patient and offered one to one tuition.

No "bullseye" on this occasion but she had fun!

More Walking Routes

We then stopped for lunch (more information on this below) and then went on another longer walk.

Again it was a gorgeous nature trail full of organic  treasure.  We found birds' eggs (look at just  those grubby hands).

I love this photo.  Even though the egg is already hatched it makes me think of this verse:

Soon the frail eggs they shall 

Chip, and upspringing 

Make all the April woods 
Merry with singing. 

from Nest Eggs by Robert Louis Stevenson in "A Child's Garden of Verses").

I need to buy a copy of this poem book for our home actually as it was one of my favourite poetry books when I was younger.  We didn't see any of the chicks so I'm sure they were all safe in the nest.

We also spotted:

  • Butterflies (is this a Meadow Brown?). 

  • A bearded man

  • A cheeky imp

  • Lots of caterpillars (to the delight of the kids).  This looks like a cinnabar moth caterpillar.

  • A pair (well lots of pairs actually) of mating longhorn beetles.

  • One of our favourite beetles- the ladybird ( we saw hundreds of these over the weekend which cheered me up as I really don't see so many of these in Pembrokeshire as I used to.  I'm not sure if numbers have declined or if I look in the wrong places.).

  • Lots of dragonflies flying above us ( I failed at getting a good picture sorry- this is the "best" of a bad bunch.  Ahem).

  • A spider wrapping it's prey in the web.

  • We played "conkers" with ribwort plantain (do you remember playing this version?  I still call those weeds "conkers" to this day!).

  • We found more fungi growing on trees.

  • ... and bumble bees pollinating the flowers.

The  huge old tree stumps made great dens and places to explore.

Dave and his girls!

I find the shapes of these old trees fascinating.

The Cattle Enclosures

Along the walk we found enclosures where English Longhorn Cattle are grazing.  We decided to walk along this way hoping to find some cattle.

In we went over the sty (or under in Izzy's case!). 

We spotted more types of fungi.

We found cow pat but no herds of cattle.  

We had good fun looking for them though!

On our walk we also passed a potato field which was a great opportunity to show the kids the potatoes growing.

Dave told the kids all about when he used to pick Pembrokeshire potatoes for a living.  I know my dad did this too and possibly my mum as well.

There were apples (cob apples?) growing too.

The Play Park

We ended our walk with a play in the park which is located quite close to the car park so perfect to save until last before driving home.  It was good motivation for our girls once their legs were starting to tire.  Here the kids took "The Outlaw Challenge".

The trees make the best play base though!

The Forest Table Restaurant

As I mentioned earlier we stopped for lunch after our walk to the Major Oak Tree.  The Forest Table Restaurant is located near the entrance with all the other facilities.  You can pop in for a coffee, a snack or hearty meal.

The food was tasty and there were was a good children's menu ( Izzy liked the kid's box!).  
While we visited there was a wedding so the restaurant closed early so always check the opening times before you visit.

The Shops

There are two shops at Sherwood Forest Country Park, one is a general gift shop and the other sells "Robin Hood" and "Sherwood Forest" gifts.  This is the one we preferred as we wanted to buy gifts that  reminded us of our visit.

Their shop goodies kept them amused in the hotel that evening!

It was a great day out at Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre- such a bargain for £3 and even with the archery and lunch we didn't spend a lot.  I hope we can visit again in the future with Danny and Rebecca.  We felt very relaxed here and there was a special atmosphere in this ancient woodland.

Have you visited Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre or this area before?

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