Sherwood Forest, Thoresby Abbey, Rufford Country Park and Wellsby Abbey


August 13, 2014
Sherwood Forest, Thoresby Abbey, Rufford Abbey Country Park and Wellsby Abbey
It is Wednesday our wedding anniversary so we have planned to catch up with Ingrid and John Pears plus revisit Thoresby Abbey. Ingrid is a world renowned glass blower with her furnace and shop at Thoresby courtyard and past President of the Nottingham Rotary Club. Thoresby is now a Warner Hotel but Warner has restored the Abbey magnificently. It is about 55 minutes north of Long Eaton.
On the way (as usually happens) we were distracted with a sign to Newstead Abbey but the Abbey building is closed during the week. This diversion meant that we approached Thoresby from a different direction and we ran into Rufford Abbey Country Park. Rufford is now a ruin but has an interesting history. The Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in 1147. Henry VIII closed the Abbey and it ended up in the hands of the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury and converted to a country house. Now remember Bess of Hardwick. One of her husbands was the Earl of Shrewsbury so the Abbey might have ended up in the hands of the Cavendish family except that it passed along the female line and ended up in the hands of the Saville Family until sold to Nottingham County Council in 1952 and became England’s first country park. It is 150 acres in size and regularly frequented by families.
Below you will see photos of the Abbey as is today showing
• The interior ground floor of the monks quarters
• The base of a corbel (support for the upper floor) and its grotesque
• One part of the under croft with displays of abbey furniture and
• The other part showing the lay monks quarters and
• What is now called the Orangeries but started life as a bath house with a swimming pool (in 1740 this was quite unique) and the view from the Orangeries to the grounds.

You can read more at website:

We then moved on to the only remnant of Sherwood Forest remaining. Mining and logging over the years has decimated the forest and the Brits are desperately trying to hold on to this little bit. It is near the village of Edwinstowe and includes a visitor centre and various walks in the forest. We took the walk to Major Oak said to be the tree Robin Hood and men used as a hiding spot because the trunk has a cavity which can hold 13 men. All of the good oak trees have been cut out leaving the stunted and diseased but even these have grown to enormous proportions over 800 years. In Robin’s time the forest was a Royal Hunting Forest made up of villages open heath woodland sunny glades and farmland. I was surprised to learn that the ecology of the forest is quite unique and includes 200 different species of spider and 1500 species of beetle.
I have given you below photos of
• The entrance to the visitors centre
• Major Oak (11m in circumference and longest limbs being 28m)
• An eagle and a hawk at the visitors centre

• The Robin Hood supply wagon

• and us enjoying a cuppa

You can read more at website:

Finally we made our way to Thoresby. Having been there before we went straight to the Courtyard (the former stables turned into a retail centre for the hotel) in the hope of catching up with Ingrid and John. We had heard that Ingrid had been ill so it came as no real surprise that her studio was closed. So we went to the hotel to have lunch but ended up visiting the restored abbey because it is so outstanding. I have attached photos of the:
• the entrance to the courtyard
• the abbey in the distance
• the grand hall
• the blue room restaurant and the hand-made silk wall paper costing 500 pound per metre
• a carving of “major oak” and
• examples of towel art

You can read more at website:
There is reference in the tourist guides to the “the Dukeries” which is a reference to the 4 great ducal estates in the region south of Worksop. The Duke of Newcastle (Clumber House – no longer there) Duke of Portland (Welbeck Abbey – questionably there) the Duke of Kingston (Thoresby Hall) and the Duke of Norfolk (Worksop Manor). To find out more about the Dukeries and to get some lunch we went to Welbeck Abbey. We were puzzled by the crowds of people visiting this former abbey which is now just a group of shops selling plants to produce. Not worth the visit unfortunately and no photos.

Peaks district – Blue John Cavern and the Chestnut Centre

August 14, 2014
Peaks district – Blue John Cavern and the Chestnut Centre
Sunrise Thursday the weather looks clear and cool but the TV forecasts rain for everywhere else in Britain. Therefore a good time to visit the Peaks District. This is about 1 hour 15 mins north-west of Long Eaton by car travelling out through Chesterfield. We have two objectives the Blue John Cavern and the Chestnut Centre both near the village of Chapel en le Frith (Yes we are still in the UK but in the 12th century when this used to be royal hunting forest King Stephen established the chapel and from there grew the town. These royals of course were Normans and spoke French not Saxon so it became known as the Chapel in the Forest or Chapel en le Frith).
The drive was trouble free and when we started to climb the hills the scenery changed dramatically. Suddenly the hills were the colour purple with heather flowering everywhere. We stopped by a public walkway (these paths are all over the UK allowing the public to walk across most open fields and hills) and took the photos below. Tres pretty and this is where we got the first inkling that cool really meant very cool. We continued the drive and the scenery just got more and more picturesque. It is hard to pull over to take photos so I just snapped them from inside the car. I also took a video which I am not sure if I can put into my blog but I will try. It will give you some idea of the extraordinary beauty of this region.
We came into the Blue John cavern region through Castletown and to access the cavern we had to travel through this pass in the hills which looked like a giant sword strike in the hills (see photos below). As we travelled up the crag sheep hung precariously off the slopes grazing but I wondered how many had become road kill over time – how they hung on I don’t know. Once we reached the top and made our way to the turnoff to the cavern another extraordinary vista opened before us. Just pretty country.
The cavern looked pretty tired. The visitors centre looked more like a military bunker and the entrance to the cavern looked like a cell. It did not help that we were dressed for a summer day and it felt like the middle of a Brisbane winter day. Even in the cavern it felt like a fridge.
Blue John (or as the nobles of the 17th century referred to it “Bleu et Juene” [French was still the language of the nobility] – hence the locals misinterpreted it as Blue John) is a semi-precious fluor-spar mineral formed in the limestone and mined for the last 300 years. It is the only hill in the world where this mineral can be found so the clever miners have reduced production to simply top up use of the product annually thereby holding its value as a semi-precious mineral. I have included some of our photos going through the cavern and some of the veins of the mineral and the entrance to the current cavern where the commercial deposits can be mined (not allowed in there). I have also taken a photo of a yellow stone/deposit in the gift store window as there was none of that evident in the cavern.
After surfacing from the cavern we travelled on to the Chestnut Centre (Otter Owl and wildlife-park). We stopped for a coffee from our new flask courtesy of our friendly bus driver Robert and then ventured into the park. We arrived at feed time for some of the animals. We saw a martin, some European polecats (looked very much like the martin) various owls from little ones to big ones and otters from little ones to big ones. Kerry was put off that they were feeding them dead day old chicks but none of the kids seemed the least bit worried. I have given you a variety of pictures below. As we arrived at the Giant Otter pen it started to rain and rain and rain so we made our way back to the visitors centre but on the way stopped under a tree to watch the deer being feed hence the rain drops on the lens.
It was time we were fed. So we decided to shout ourselves lunch instead of the boiled eggs we had planned to eat. We found the Roebuck Pub in Chapel en le Frith in the ancient part of the town (the pub had been there in some form since the 12th century and the food tasted like it was from that epoc). Rested and fed we travelled home via Ikea town where Kerry solved a problem with the curtains in our bedroom – bought new curtains. So ended another successful adventure.
I have attached photos of:
• the heather over the hills
• views of the picturesque country side
• the gorge and the visitors centre
• the trip down the cavern
• “blue john” in the face of the wall and cut and polished and
• The pole martin and his friends at the Chestnut Centre.