Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 15: Nottingham

We departed a little after 9am (after latching onto wifi at at a restaurant) for Sherwood Forest and arrived there bang on opening time. We waltzed ahead of the crowd to the Major Oak, taking photos all the while. Mostly young narrow trees lined the paths with the occasional wider tree. I thought it would be very difficult for an outlaw to hide there - but the signs informed us that the great oaks are now gone and in the early 20th century there was 90% more forest than there is today.

I nicknamed the tiny forest "Sherwood Patch".

I was taken with the idea of the Robin Hood legend being more akin to the outlawing the pagan Green Man. A mystical figure guarding the last pocket of resistance against the changing destructive world.

We came across a sculpture (the Laughing Tree - somewhat odd) and then the Major Oak greeted us. It was fat and lumbering and held up with poles. A little less than 1200 years old, it somehow survived the axe - either because the wood was no good...or because it was already being sold as Robin Hood’s tree.

The last survivor

We bought souvenirs. I had a hot chocolate. We returned to the centre of Nottingham, parked the car and hurried back along the canals to Nottingham Castle. We made it in time for the 1pm cave tour. Along with a few others, we were led through locked gates to Mortimer’s Hole - a hand-dug tunnel through the rock that was used to bring supplies up to the castle.

A cave-in opened this section to the sky.

While the tour guide explained how sandstone is formed, Cazy and I (Sydney sandstone veterans) exchanged knowing glances. The tour was short but the guide told us interesting stories about the history of the castle (Richard III rode from the castle to do battle with Henry Tudor). We hesitantly climbed down sandstone steps that have been used to ferry tourists through Castle Rock since the 1800s. 

We reached the bottom and noted how many buildings were still dependent on the caves. Centuries ago, houses were built into the rock though most of them have now been removed.

If God gives you a rock, make rock houses!

Cazy and I were the only tourists who opted to follow the guide back up the steps (well, we paid three quid each for the privilege, damn it!). It was challenging and I wish I’d gone back the easy way.
We bought gifts and went back to the hotel. My Robin Hood fantasies are thoroughly ruined. But caves! Caves are cool.

Is Robin Hood the Green Man of Sherwood?

Tomorrow - Arbor Low.


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