I never get tired of tree gazing (and of course stargazing), especially the Ancient Oaks. Their colours, their textures, their immense histories, their hidden hearts full of life and memories.
Everyone has their reason or reasons to visit Sherwood Forest. Young families searching for Robin Hood; a couple taking a peaceful stroll in the woods, maybe with their faithful four-legged friend; or perhaps the many thousands of visitors from across the country and far away lands to experience first hand the Major Oak for the first time.
As a guide, I have the privilege and opportunity to meet or accompany visitors. On one such occasion, I strolled not walked, stopping often to observe the wide variety of fungi that Sherwood had in Autumn. I was so grateful for their knowledge identifying fungi. After we parted, my thoughts turned to our ancestors. Their almost certainly passed on their knowledge of which fungi to avoid, how to forage etc, to their young.
Later on this particular Sunday morning, I accompanied a local family from Clipstone, who had been visiting Sherwood Forest for years. I suggested a detour from their regular weekly walk. As I pointed out the hidden world of notable oaks they responded by seeing “faces” in the Ancient trees.
Their reaction “We’ve been coming here so many times, and never known how trees can be so interesting…
By walking slowly, like our ancestors, we see and experience so much more that can be hidden from our very eyes..
I came across a article a few years ago about how writers sometimes take a walk in the woods and game inspiration, especially when they have writers block. Even though I’ve not experienced this, I understand why this might help, but I’m not totally sure why? When we dwelt amongst the trees and were ‘one with nature’, the sounds and the smells have a positive impact. I wonder whether our ancient and medieval ancestors were inspired to tell tales and stories.
Walking through the Forest on Remembrance Sunday, I couldn’t help feel not only thankful the sacrifices made by our gallant men and women in both world wars, but how they fought for not just physical liberties, but the freedom to walk and experience the Woods. What it must have felt for the returning service personnel to amble through the tress amongst family and friends, is hard to fully imagine. What I do know is that they play an important part in inspiring each generation that follows.
Over the two week October half term, it was great to witness the young (and those young at heart ) following in the legend of Robin Hood. Some would be dressed in Lincoln Green, occasionally looking out for the Sheriff’s men. For many it’s a family occasion, not only reminiscing their own childhood visits but “lmagination Sharing” – being the Merry Men once more!
I walked around the Oak Giants with two grandparents and their grandson. He became wonderfully excited and slightly spooked as he gazed at each Ancient Oak tree that appeared to watch him with their menacing arms. For this eight year old, the visit to Sherwood was not because of Robin Hood. No, it was the legends that are the Ancient Oaks, that invoked his imagination.
“Thousands have passed me by… How many more will I see before I fall?
On Sunday, David and June from Bishop Stortford booked a tour with myself around the Hidden World of Sherwood. This was their first visit to Sherwood. We had a pleasant walk beyond the Major Oak taking in the beautiful autumnal sunshine highlighting the wide array of fungi. Like the boy, our imagination added to our journey. June stopped to take a photograph of fungi.
“I will do a pen and wash drawing when I get back home,” she said. For her the enjoyment of the woodland walk, sparked her creativity.
Bathed in the atmosphere we probably shared with our ancestors a common imagination that people have been creating for thousands of years.
I wonder what stories our ancestors told or art shared in the mediaeval Sherwood. We know that Victorians visited to experience the green woods romantically captured by novelists such as Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe”.
It seems that the Ancient Oaks are a catalyst. So when you visit Sherwood Forest you never know whee re your imagination takes you.
Today’s re-occurring conversations focussed on memories of childhood. The snippets were from visitiors who came down from Yorkshire on Sunday (27th October) morning.
“I can remember when I came here in the 1960s.”
“We used to used to come down here for the day, and play in the woods.”
“Yeah, I think the gap in the Major Oak was bigger then.”
Another couple hadn’t been to Sherwood for a couple of years, were on a good walk around the Reserve. What was interesting to me was their comment that many local people did the ‘Walk from Visitor Centre to Major Oak ‘ but never went further afield to Budby. ‘They’re missing so much,” he commented. So true…
For me listening to the stories that our visitors have of their younger memories, is immensely interesting offering an insight to the variety of reasons people come to the Nature Reserve.
As a Guide, I have the opportunity to witness first hand parents sharing their own memories with their children ensuring these fond memories continue.
Whether your experience is of being one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, whilst soaking up the soothing atmosphere of the wonderful oaks and birches; at the same looking out for the vast diversity of fungi in Autumn. One thing is clear, people have been doing this for hundreds of years. I try to imagine whether our ancestors in between their daily routines gathering food, securing shelter etc, spent time sharing their own hidden memories by telling stories from their childhood experiences.
“*Hidden World of Sherwood” is a guided walk by Steve. For more information about this and other activities at RSPB Sherwood
What’s your hidden memories of Sherwood Forest?
A weekly diary of a Sherwood Forest Explorer.
The glory and immense beauty of autumn