What does it take to feel rooted somewhere? How long before a place takes root in your psyche and claims you as it’s own, or do you have to claim it?
I was born in Carlton-in-Lindrick, a small village in Nottinghamshire. I lived there for 6 months before my parents began a series of moves, eventually settling in Cheshire. When I was pregnant with L, Mr A and I moved to Nottingham and I often wonder if returning was a ‘circle of life’ that was meant to be. It has still taken time to set down my roots and call this county home, or to feel I am truly ‘from Nottingham’.
Until I found myself North of the city, deep in the forests where Robin Hood was said to roam, walking among trees that outdate anyone I know who can claim to be Nottingham born-and-bred, less than 10 miles from the first house I lived in. I found it really moving.
Since our weekend in the forest, I feel much more rooted. But this isn’t just my story, I think Nottingham forest has the power to make anyone feel more rooted, to our ancestors, to nature and to the need for new adventure. Nottingham has forests bursting with walks, history, nature, sporting opportunities, picnic spots, playgrounds, dens and incredible accommodation that you can call home for a weekend, or a week.
Many people stop here to go to Centre Parcs, been there, and done that, but I think you can miss the true spirit of a place.
I left this story at romantic poet Byron’s pad, Newstead Abbey, with two Byronic kids who had exhausted their beastly tendencies exploring the Japanese garden and were now the best of friends. Read all about our day at Newstead Abbey if you missed the start.
It was amazing to arrive at our gorgeous Sherwood Hideaway luxury lodge, we were inside and in the hot tub within minutes of arriving which soon soothed away the day.
I was so pleased to see Mr A who whisked the kids off for an hour and left me with the welcome pack. It was the last day of the 2 week Easter break, I was exhausted.
The lodges are on a clearing, but have direct access to open forest, many of the more obvious parts of Nottingham forest do get understandably busy with visitors, so having this on your doorstep is magical. You can walk between ancient woodland, oak and silver birches and giant pines that stretch into the sky like rockets. There is a slightly strange feeling when you arrive, especially if, like us, you live on a busy road, its a bit little house on the prairie, there’s really nothing but these uber-luxurious lodges and trees. There is a staffed reception though, so you do get a very warm welcome to this frontier community. The staff were brilliant, especially when my car broke down, when we wanted take away delivery ideas (great way to relax!) and when I wanted to know more about what birds we could watch.
It was lovely to be able to bring our dog Max along.
What I truly appreciated about the lodges, was the luxurious touches, bathrobes for kids and grown ups, slippers, Molton Brown toiletries, including conditioner and lip balm – which comes in handy when you are outdoors so much! There is tea and coffee, milk, wine and locally made chocolates waiting too. The beds are so comfy, the pillows and duvets so soft and fluffy.
Our lodge was gorgeous and contemporary in style, but I loved the Scandinavian, Rustic and Woodland themed lodges too. You can see more in the video, but just a couple of interior shots to whet your appetite! Cosy in Winter too, and I loved our bedroom. Two photos here courtesy of Sherwood Hideaway, as we were too busy lounging in the hot tub to clear up our mess!
Sherwood Hideaways have made luxury in the forest more affordable, I did a little bit of research, and for a week in the Summer May 2015 half-term a lodge would be £650-765 cheaper than other local lodge options. The lodges don’t have the on-site facilities of Centre Parcs for example, they are not in walking distance to Sherwood Pines like Forest Holidays. Sherwood Hideaway isn’t as generously wooded, having been an army base in a previous life, but it has direct access to very tranquil woods. If you are looking for affordable luxury, a weekend retreat, or accommodation for multi-site adventures, then Sherwood Hideaway makes a great base. The old army buildings mildly disrupt the tree line, but once the staff explained that owls descend on the trees around them at night we were fascinated.
Just ten minutes drive from Sherwood Hideaway is Sherwood Pines. Owned by the Forestry Commission, this has various walking and cycle tracks for all abilities, Sherwood Forest Cycle Hire, Go Ape, a cafe, nature trails, kids activities, adventure playground and den building area. It also hosts events around the year. We love it – we met Vikings there once and did nature craft with the ranger and Mr A and I once were brave and did Go Ape.
Mr G can ride, but was really excited about tagging along with Daddy. Dan and the team are really friendly and used to kitting out everyone from families to serious mountain bikers.
We met my friend J and her family here as they live in Yorkshire. Her eldest F took a bit of coercion but quickly loved his tag a long.
J’s youngest is 17 months old and so went in a buggy behind his Dad’s bike, but they were too fast for me to snap a picture, baby S was poorly so his Dad had to keep him moving, he seemed to really enjoy the buggy ride though.
I was cycling with Max for the first time, he really took to it, but I was taking it really carefully for our first cycle together! Check out the video, Max running alongside me while I have the Go pro on the handlebars = serious multi tasking!
We were all ready for a picnic in the woods, what a spread, Mr A got the teas in from the cafe. J even made us easter egg nest cakes – she makes the best cakes and we really appreciated them after exercise and fresh air.
S wasn’t feeling at his best, poor bunny, but he made some very important points over lunch.
It’s magic to get to know the kids of people you’ve been friends with longer than you haven’t, F is such a sweetie. My youngest G took this pic.
G also got a great snap of Max, who deserved picnic more than all of us, he ran the whole lot!
There was time for the adventure playground and den building too.
Then back to our lodge for chilling in the hot tub!
Snuggling in robes in the sunshine, and a sneaky glass of wine with J before she had to head home.
Then scrub up for dinner time.
Mr G declined to be photographed at this point.
The Normanton Inn, Clumber Park Hotel
The Normanton Inn was special, a little smarter than we were dressed, but we didn’t feel out of place. Clumber Park Hotel and Spa, is another amazing place you could consider for a weekend stay, kids were made very welcome.
The interior plays on nature and the forest, with another eye firmly on contemporary design. I couldn’t disturb the couple opposite us to photograph it, but some of the wall dividers are real silver birch trunks.
I started with parsnip soup which was delicious.
Mr A went for Devilled White Bait, which was generously portioned for a starter.
The ‘kids’ chose nachos from the children’s menu, which was designed by a local primary school, a lovely idea.
My main was a sun blush tomato risotto with mozzarella fritters, beautiful!
Miss L went for a kids’s burger, presented in a very grown up fashion, while Mister G had mini me fish and chips like his Dad. Mr A also realised at this point he had ordered battered fish twice, but fortunately he had built up an appetite.
The creme brûlée was incredible…with a lemon shortbread which I had no room for, but pocketed to eat the next day.
The rest of the family inhaled the gooey sticky toffee pud.
Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre
Before we had to sadly leave our Sherwood Hideaway and the hot tub, we stopped here to pay homage to the Major Oak, the tree Robin Hood was said to have hidden in, thought to be over 800 years old. I love reading all the stories and legends about the tree from over the years, there are many more than Robin’s. It really is an amazing sight, as are all the trees in the wood, they are a special kind you don’t get to see in suburbia, councils have to cut them back. Here the trees grow like gnarly wild things, oozing character, then they die and are left to become homes to insects. You can learn about the legend of Robin Hood in an exhibition, buy Robin Hood themed things in the shop, eat in the cafe and explore this site of specific scientific interest.
There are several pre marked trails around the tree, we were short on time so did the 20 minute one, but there are two longer walks, perfect if you want to get away from the busier parts of the reserve. We had already had the forest to ourselves at Sherwood Hideaway, so didn’t mind sharing it. You have to stick to the path as the woodland is home to so many species of wildlife, over 200 different spiders and 1,500 species of beetle. Wildlife is brilliantly signposted for children, with lots of boards on the 20 minute walk that prompt you to think about the forest’s inhabitants.
from Robin Hood by John KeatsCheck out the little video! I sped it up, but the kids reactions to the Sherwood Hideaway were brilliant, so I had to keep the audio in this part, even though they sound like chipmonks. Let me know what you think!
I really found myself this weekend, I emerged from the forest feeling reconnected to my roots and to nature. But the city called, the next two posts take you to the city centre, fish and chips in an actual beach hut in Nottingham at the incredible George’s Fish and Chip Kitchen, and then to the National Video Arcade, yes that’s in Nottingham too!
Need to Know
Normanton Inn – open to non residents, booking advised.
Sherwood Pines Cycles – prices start at £8 for an hour’s adult bike hire, £24 all day hire.
Find out about Sherwood Hideaway luxury lodges.
Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre – admission is free, car park is £3.
More information on Newstead Abbey.
For information on things to do, places to stay in Nottingham, visit Experience Nottinghamshire @experiencenotts #lovenotts
Joining in with…
A vote in family fun would be amazing Px