In the footsteps of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest

The British Isles are rich in legends and stories that have managed to exceed the limits of their coasts and become true myths of popular culture. In other trips through English lands we have talked about places linked to King Arthur. Today we are going to stop next to a small forest located halfway between London and the Scottish border to discover the origins of other of those mythical characters of English popular history. Sherwood Forest today is not what it was in the days when Richard the Lionheart was held captive in Austrian lands. Barely 324 hectares remain of what was once a true forest that covered much of central England between the cities of York and Nottingham. A forest that stretched across several counties and was one of the most important royal hunting grounds in the country. A place that became world famous thanks to a name that is not known corresponded to someone really.

Robin Hood embodied the archetype of the folk hero for centuries. The thief who stole from the rich to feed the poor; the defender of the outraged Saxons subjugated by the Norman elite; the outlaw who hunts in the preserves reserved for the nobility; the romantic lover of poor Marian, forced to marry against her will; the loyal follower of Ricardo in the face of the greed of his brother Juan de el; the tax confiscator who cruelly and unfairly collects the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Apparently, the origin of the myth is quite far from here and alludes to a famous Italian thief named Ghino di Tacco who lived in the 13th century in Tuscany. There is also talk, as the germ of the character, of up to three English outlaws who lived a few hundred years later than tradition says.

Those historians allude to several documents that mention poachers with the surname Hood. In 1226 a Yorkshire court record speaks of a fugitive named Robert Hod. In 1262 another document found in Berkshire speaks of a thief known as William Robehod. And in 1354 another act appears in which a certain Robin Hood appears awaiting sentence for robberies and assaults in the Rockingham woods. Hood means rogue; so it is not uncommon for many Hoods to roam the woods of England in those brutal times. Oral culture founded the myth that grew thanks to literature, theater and, in the 20th century, cinema. And the idea of ​​hero hatched. Robin’s raids are said to have been concentrated in the fronds of Barnsdale, far to the south. But tradition and literature gave Sherwood the status of the setting for the adventures of the mythical archer and his band of vigilante dispossessed.

The sherwood forest today it is just a small dark green spot surrounded by meadows and small villages. As we said before, it hardly exceeds 324 hectares, although in recent times the local authorities have bought several neighboring properties to increase the wooded area. In the Interpretation Center (Forest Corner, sn – Edwinstowe-; Tel: (+44) 1623 677 321) we are going to understand the natural space and also the context in which the myth of Robin Hood unfolds: the Norman conquest of England (1066) imposed a severe reform of forest laws and places like Sherwood (in those days Shirewood or county forest) became hunting grounds reserved for the nobility. Cutting down wood or large game – the King’s deer and trees – within its boundaries was considered a capital offence. An extreme that made the miserable life of the country’s peasants and shepherds even more difficult – the vast majority of whom were of British and Saxon origin. From this opposition to the private appropriation of the forest by the privileged, the myth of the rebel outlaw who challenges the established power is born.

Sherwood was originally a temperate atlantic forest with an abundance of oak, elm and beech trees; but today, most of the forest is made up of repopulated pine forests. Unfortunately, England is one of the places hardest hit by forest loss in Europe. Even so, in the interior of Sherwood there are still some portions of native flora with some noteworthy specimens such as the one known as ‘The legendary Major Oak’, a superb oak tree over 1,000 years old that was already here in that distant century. XII – is one of the most famous and beloved trees in the country. In the place there is a good handful of great grandparents with many hundreds of years in tow. Also several trails and many references to the most famous neighbor of the place. Sometimes in the form of posters or others with statues of little fortune in which you can see some of the most famous episodes in the history of the thief Hood. Take the opportunity to visit the small town of Edwinstowe and if you are interested, a few kilometers from here (and very close to another of the main patches of forest -Sherwood Pines-) you can make a stop at the Rufford Abbey (Rufford Abbey Country Park; Tel: (+44) 1623 821 338), a 17th-century manor house that has the remains of a 12th-century Cistercian abbey attached to it – when the events take place.

A VISIT TO NOTTINGHAM.- A route through the iconic places of the legend of Robin Hood cannot leave behind the city of Nottingham, seat of noble power and oppression embodied in the figure of the fearsome Sheriff. The name of our hero’s antagonist is not mentioned in the story, but if we attend to the historical period to which the plot alludes (the absence of King Richard I during the Crusades -from 1090 to 1094-) the dubious honor of being one of the most hated characters in history would fall on the figure of the Norman nobleman William de Wendenal. Nottingham is a city that has overflowed into endless suburbs and neighborhoods that almost hide its small but beautiful old town where there are several very interesting things to see.

If we continue with our story, the first visit should be the nottingham castle (Lenton Rdoad, sn; Tel: (+44) 1158 761 400), a magnificent fortress built at the beginning of the 12th century by order of William the Conqueror himself to establish the power of the Norman nobility in the area and control any hint of rebellion Saxon (which directly connects with the Hood legend). Although the building was converted into a palatial residence in the 17th century, it still retains some traces of its medieval past and inside there are various exhibits (one on Hood). At the foot of the castle you can see a system of caves that served as escape routes from the fortress and the Museum of Nottingham Life (Brewhouse Yard; Tel: (+44) 1158 761 400), old 15th-century houses converted into an interesting archaeological and historical museum. Right there you have another gem: the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (Brewhouse Yard, 1), which has the honor of being the oldest pub in the country (almost a thousand years open).

Nottingham has a reputation for being fractious. They call it the Rebel City, due to the numerous uprisings and riots that have taken place in its streets; Here, for example, the Civil War between monarchists and parliamentarians began in the 17th century. It is not surprising that the figure of Robin (who has a statue in the beautiful gardens of the fortress) has caught on so well in the area. The Shire Hall (High Pavement; Tel: (+44) 1159 520 555), the Sheriff’s office and court since the 7th century -obviously the building dates back quite a bit after the Middle Ages-, it houses a gruesome Museum of Justice which emphasizes the various forms of punishment and torture. Another attraction of this museum is to delve into the bowels of the city and visit some of the almost 600 caves that pierce its subsoil. Some of these caves served as air-raid shelters during World War II and have been converted as such, an example that highlights the continued use of these caves throughout history.

A walk through the city puts in front of you several interesting postcards. Saint Mary (High Pavement; Tel: (+44) 115 9582 105), for example, is a beautiful Gothic church from the 14th century that is well worth a visit (the stained glass windows are beautiful and the interior space, despite being simple, is very nice) and a ride up Old Market Squarewhere is the magnificent City hallIt will surprise you.

Photos under CC License: Char; Jirka Matousek; Arcadius; steve p2008; speedygroundhog; alan feebery

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In the footsteps of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest

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