Today my 8 year old son and I visited Sherwood Forest. In this post I share the highlights of our trip, and I’d encourage you to go and explore! While I usually gravitate towards places that are more off the beaten track, we both thoroughly enjoyed our visit and highly recommend it.
It has been a while since I visited the area and given such a lovely sunny day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The old visitor centre and car park was closed around 2018 – being located within an area of internationally important forest habitat, full of ancient oak trees (an SSSI and SAC), it was found to be having a detrimental effect. Parking is now in a large car park on the other side of the road to the cricket pitch which is near the Arts and Crafts Centre. It costs just £5 for the day and you can pay for parking by card or use the app ‘Pay by Phone’.
We called into the craft centre on the walk up where there is a little café in the indoor courtyard and some toilets. There are several craft-type shops with an excellent shop selling fossils and minerals that the kids will love (‘Stone Treasures‘). There are plenty of very reasonably priced items in here for pocket money and some interesting fossils on display outside.
Further up we found ‘The Forest Archer‘, a treasure trove of medieval wares. Be ready to leave this place with lighter pockets if you visit with the kids – they have a superb selection of children’s weapons including swords, axes, working cork crossbows, shields, and accessories, and no doubt your kids will want kitting out with the full Robin Hood and his Merry Men get up. It’s not cheap – I think the wooden sword we bought was £10, the shield was £8 and the sword holder was £4 – but the items we bought were very good quality. There are some stocks outside for photos.
We had arrived on an event day (you can find these on the Sherwood Forest website) and further up outside the newer café, we found Dukeries Ukeries, a ukulele band playing an enjoyable mix of songs, followed by the wonderful Nottinghamshire Band of the Royal Engineers performing a Coronation concert. Dressed beautifully in their uniforms – they must have been absolutely roasting in the warm sunshine!
For those looking to picnic, there’s plenty of open grass in the area and many people had brought their own fold-up chairs for the event (we had not but a waterproof coat did the job!) Close to this area, there is a children’s play park – it was quite busy and Tom wasn’t bothered about visiting, but all the kids looked like they were enjoying themselves.
Having raided the sweet stall, we were then lucky enough to meet Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John and King Richard himself, all part of the lovely Notts Outdoors team who are there for various events through the year. Tom’s day was made when he was knighted by King Richard and given the chance to hold a real sword.
He also got to try on a helmet and pose with some of his heroes!
You can venture out on any number of paths from here – a few years ago I used to bring my bike here and do the Ancient Sherwood Cycling Route with Tom in a seat on the front, when he was considerably smaller.
There are a few walking routes but we hadn’t planned a big trek. Tom was particularly keen on seeing the Major Oak, even though he saw it numerous times when he was younger and had since forgotten about it. The Major Oak is half a mile from the centre and then you can choose to follow a walk, or not.
The options are:
- Major Oak trail – approx 45 mins, 1.5 miles total
- Greenwood trail – approx 1 hr 15 mins, 2 miles total
- Wildwood trail – approx 2 hrs 30 mins, 4 miles
I guess these times don’t factor in all the great little things there are to see along the way – for example, as you’re walking up in the direction of the Major Oak, there’s a great den building area where you can add twigs to the existing woodland shelters or start your own. There’s also information boards to read and lots of little details for kids along the way, not to mention plenty of log-climbing and hide-and-seek opportunities.
The Major Oak is truly awe-inspiring – while you’ll encounter other large oak trees on your way there, nothing compares to its size. According to the large triple information board close by, it would take 10 people holding hands to wrap around its circumference. Of course, the idea of Robin Hood hiding inside immediately captures children’s imagination!
Tom fully prepared to fight off the Sheriff’s men
There are some fun facts on the board – my favourite is that it was called the Major Oak in honour of a soldier and antiquarian Major Hayman Rooke who wrote a book about oak trees of the area in 1790. Prior to that, it was known as the Cockpen Tree as the sport of cock fighting took place there.
These days you can’t get near the tree – in fact, it has been fenced off since the seventies. Unsurprisingly, this is to protect the tree, which has quite a number of supports. Previously, the footsteps of visitors resulted in the roots beginning to suffer from compaction, so the fences are there to prevent that – although the roots reach well beyond the fence and as far as the nearby picnic benches!
The Major Oak Trail from the tree which leads you back to the visitor centre is truly beautiful. It takes you past an array of ancient oaks with impressively large trunks, through the ‘greenwood’ as it is called in Robin Hood lore. The route is fenced, presumably to stop damage to these revered woody elders, but it is no less enjoyable with its lush greenery, abundant birdlife singing in the trees, pretty wild flowers and of course, the timeless monarchs of the forest themselves.
You can easily imagine Robin Hood and his Merry Men making camp among the towering trees and dappled sunlight of this magical place. Although my walk was slightly less serene thanks to play fights with Sir Tom and his variety of armaments.
Heading back to the car, we caught a few minutes of the cricket playing on the green. This was a friendly between the local cricket club Edwinstowe CC and Wellow Exiles CC. What a unique and truly idyllic place to enjoy a game of cricket, even if it is not normally your sport.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Sherwood. It is a great place to take kids as it fuels the imagination, and we’ll definitely be watching out for the events here. If you avoid the shops and take a picnic, it offers incredible value for the £5 parking charge (free for members of the RSPB).