The Retirees go Abroad – Sherwood Forest and a Bakewell Tart

One of the things on the bucket list for Rod was a visit to Sherwood Forest. There is not much of the original forest remaining but there is a section of the forest containing “Major Oak” a thousand year old oak tree rumoured to be one of Robin’s hiding places in the forest. Without thinking we prepared and took a BBQ for lunch in the forest.

On arriving at the car park we were met with a sign “NO BBQS IN THE FOREST”. Ah well we had come all this way so we walked to Major Oak and completed the circuit to the visitors centre. Having fulfilled the bucket list wish we set off for Clumber Park as we were told it was permitted to BBQ in that park. Clumber is near to Sherwood Forest is a National Trust property and does have a place for BBQs – an open field with no facilities. We had purchased a disposable BBQ from Tesco and some kebabs to cook. The wind was still gusting so we manoeuvred the car to form a wind break, lit the BBQ and waited to cook lunch. A memorable BBQ because of the laughs we had trying to cook in that wind with that BBQ.

A visit to Sherwood Forest is not complete without visiting Thoresby Abbey and Ingrid Pears Glass Works. Ingrid was still there working busy with curious tourists. But our goal was to visit the Abbey show Rod and Kerry the restoration performed by Warner Hotels and to enjoy a hot liquor coffee.

The next day was relax and pack day. But we managed to fit in a trip to Bakewell so that Rod could try a genuine Bakewell Tart and then over to Buxton to visit Poole’s Cavern and see the limestone cavern. To finish off the day we walked some part of the way along Erewash canal to Trent Lock then to the Bulls Head in Breaston for dinner. Early to been this night for tomorrow we drive to Gatwick Airport to farewell Rod and Kerry and collect David and Veronica.

 

Bishops Visit – Interval- De je vu – Southwell Minster

Between returning from Scotland and leaving for France, we had a window of opportunity which I have called “the Interval”.

During these few days we visited Southwell Minster north east of Nottingham, Haddon Hall north west of Nottingham and London (I presume you know where that is). This blog concerns Southwell (pronounced “Suthull” by Nottinghamites and “South Well” by its residents – work that out). Norwell (pronounced “Norrell”) approximately eight miles northwest may support the notion of there being “south” and “north” wells in the area.

Southwell is a town in Nottinghamshire, best known as the site of Southwell Minster, the seat of the Church of England diocese that covers Nottinghamshire. The town lies on the River Greet, approximately 14 miles (22 km) northeast of Nottingham.

The early history of this Minster as noted by Wikipedia: “Eadwy of England gifted land in Southwell to Oskytel the Archbishop of York, in 956. Eadwy’s charter is the first dated reference to Southwell. Evidence of a tessellated floor and the 11th-century tympanum over a doorway in the north transept are evidence of the construction of the minster after this time. The Domesday Book of 1086 has much detail of an Archbishop’s manor in Southwell. A custom known as the “Gate to Southwell” originated after 1109 when the Archbishop of York, Thomas I wrote to every parish in Nottinghamshire asking for contributions to the construction of a new mother church. Annually at Whitsuntide the contributions known as the “Southwell Pence” were taken to the minster in a procession that set off from Nottingham headed by the mayor followed by clergy and lay people making a pilgrimage to Southwell’s Whitsun Fair. The Southwell Pence was paid at the north porch of the minster to the Chapter Clerk. The name of this custom – the Southwell Gate – derives from the Scandinavian word “gata” meaning street or way to. In its original form it persisted well into the 16th century. In 1981 Dolphin Morrismen revived the tradition.

Geoffrey Plantagenet was ordained as a priest at Southwell in 1189. On 4 April 1194, Richard I and the King of Scots, William I, was in Southwell, having spent Palm Sunday in Clipstone. King John visited Southwell between 1207 and 1213, ostensibly for the hunting in Sherwood Forest, but also en route to an expedition to Wales in 1212. The Saracen’s Head was built in 1463 on land gifted in 1396 by the Archbishop of York, Thomas Arundel, to John and Margaret Fysher. When built, the first floor overhung the roadway in the vernacular of the time.

In 1603, James VI of Scotland passed through Southwell on his way to London to be crowned King James I. During the English Civil War, King Charles I spent his last night as a free man in May 1646 in the Saracen’s Head (then the King’s Head), before surrendering to the Scottish Army stationed at nearby Kelham. The fabric of the town, the minster and Archbishop’s Palace suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s troops, as they sequestered the palace as stabling for their horses, broke down monuments, and ransacked the graves for lead and other valuables. In 1793, iron rings fastened to the walls to secure the horses were still in situ. The end of the civil war left the Archbishop’s Palace in ruins apart from its Great Hall. It is reputed that Cromwell also stayed in the King’s Head.”

So you can see that this small town (around 7,000 people) has played a big part in bits of history of the UK. The Archbishop’s Palace was home to Cardinal Wolsey who was Henry VIII’s advisor and when unable to secure Henry’s divorce from Rome Wolsey hid out at Southwell until summons by Henry to London but fortunately for Wolsey he died on his trip back to a trial and execution planned by Henry.

The Saracen’s Head is still there. It changed its name from the King’s Head when Charles lost his head. So we visited the Minster and the pub. Whilst at the Pub we picked up this fascinating leaflet on the history of the hotel which told us more of the story of Charles I last meal than the dry facts given by Wikipedia. Remember that in 1642 Charles had raised his standard at Nottingham Castle to signal the beginning of the Civil War. By 1646 the Royalist Army had been all but defeated or surrendered. After the Battle of Naseby Charles realised he needed the Scots to help him defeat the Parliamentarians.

The leaflet told us that Charles escaped from London and went to the Inn disguised as a Clergyman with his clerk to meet with the Scottish commissioners then in Southwell Minster with a regiment of Scottish soldiers. You may recall in earlier blogs I have written about Cromwell’s son in law Henry Ireton and how he was negotiating with Charles around accepting a role as constitutional monarchy. Well the Scots were talking to Charles about supporting him if he accepted Presbyterianism as the religion of England and Ireland amongst other things.

So Charles revealed himself to the Scottish general and started negotiations to have the Scottish forces join his Royalist Army. However he prevaricated so much (as he was doing with Ireton) and refused to sign an agreement that the Scots who left Southwell and marched with Charles as their “prisoner” to Kelham outside Newcastle where they treated with Cromwell’s Parliamentary army and handed over Charles in exchange for 400,000 pounds. And, as they say the rest is history and Charles lost his head at Whitehall on January 30, 1649.

Whilst at the pub and we saw a copy of Charles I death warrant signed by Parliament and in particular Cromwell and Ireton. The leaflet says that as well as Charles I many other notable people stayed at the Inn, namely:

  • Lord Byron (who lived close by),
  • Cardinal Wolsey of course
  • Kings of England, Richard I, Richard II, John, Henry II, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, and Edward IV
  • King of England and Scotland James I
  • Charles Dickens – he was a very wide travelled individual as he has popped up as a visitor in many places we have been; and
  • The Beatles

So well worth a visit to this village and see the Minster (there are displays of the remains of an old Roman villa under the Minster visible, Saxon “bread” pews and Norman and Gothic architecture), the ruins of the Archbishops Palace and the restored Great Dining Hall and the Saracen’s Head (so named as the sword used to behead Charles was a Saracen sword)

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: http://www.Nottinghamshire.gov.uk/ruffordcp

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: http://www.Nottinghamshire.gov.uk/sherwoodcp

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: http://www.warnerleisurehotels.co.uk
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.