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Sherwood Forest: Forest Ranger’s Watch

Welcome to Sherwood Forest, home of the legendary Robin Hood and a wilderness with a special quality that abounds with stories of the legendary outlaw/hero (depending on whether you were Norman or English!) The park at Sherwood was at the heart of the ancient Royal Forest of Sherwood, which then stretched from Nottingham into South Yorkshire.

Established as a royal hunting preserve in the 10th Century, it is now separated from the main part of Sherwood Forest by the village of Edwinstowe where legend has it Robin Hood and Maid Marion were married.

Canopy

Sherwood Pines forest is a pine forest with areas of birch, oak, sweet chestnut, and beech. There are open areas where the mature trees have been harvested and allowed to become heathland. Around 50% of the forest is planted with Corsican Pine, 10% with Scots Pine, and somewhat under 10% is a mixture of the deciduous species. The rest of the area comprises felled areas, heathland, chases (tracks) and amenity areas.

Robin Hood’s famous tree, the Major Oak, where Robin reputedly hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men, still survives in nearby Sherwood Forest, and there is an annual Robin Hood Festival held there in August where thousands descend to cheer on Robin and boo the Sheriff. Robin Hood hats and costumes are sold in the Retreat and budding Robins and Marians can have archery lessons on site.

Archery

Flora

Ones to look out for on your visit include: Broom; Bracken, Ling Heather, Heath Speedwell; Harebell; Tormentil; Heath Bedstraw, St John’s Wort;  Foxgove; Thistle; Cow Parsley, Stags head club moss; Polytrichum Moss and Caledonia Lichen

Fauna

Among our forest friends here we have Rabbit; Vole; Shrew; Hedgehog; Stoat; Weasel, Fox; Badger; Pipistrelle bat; Noctule bat, Fallow deer. The fallow deer which live in Sherwood Pines Forest Park are small, dark, very shy, unusually coloured, and difficult to spot, but patience is rewarded. Usually as soon as they catch sight or scent of you they will be gone.

Butterflies and Moths include the Small Heath; Speckled Wood; Small Tortoiseshell; Small Skipper; Common Blue; Red Admiral; Peacock; Cinnabar Moth; Lesser Swallow prominent moth; Antler moth; Smoky Wainscot and Angle striped sallow.

Birdsong

There’s plenty of birdsong from the wonderful laughing notes of the Green Woodpecker, the whirring song of the Nightjar and haunting call of the Tawny Owl. You may also hear Woodlark; Great tit; Coal tit; Lesser spotted Woodpecker; Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Blackbird; Common Crossbill and Tree Pipit.

As early as October or November Owls start to establish their territorial rights. Young owls of the previous year will now be ready to breed and will be seeking a territory of their own. This can lead to noisy and aggressive disputes, especially if young owls try to establish a territory that overlaps one that is already occupied. The male will decide and defend the boundaries while the female will procure a nest hole

Forest floor

Stunning colours from Red Oak and Beech leaves carpet the Autumn woodland floor. There’s a huge diversity of fungi throughout the forest. Shaggy Inkcap is really pretty when young, dissolving to an interesting gooey sticky black ink as it ages. Clouded Agaric can be quite dull and boring in appearance but they make it up through sheer numbers - they can be quite large (up to about 20cm) and often grow in huge rings or groups.

The spookily named Dead Man’s Fingers can be seen at the end of October, so is perfect for Halloween walks. It grows on dead wood, its black and shaped like stubby fingers!  This fungus is not edible but I don’t think anyone would fancy a nibble anyway! Hoof Bracket fungus (another name is Tinder Bracket) is found all the year round on silver birch and was well used in the past for its fire making properties. It will hold an ember for carrying, and was also used for healing wounds, and for rheumatism.

Others to look out for are Razorstrop, used in the past for sharpening razors (shades of Sweeney Todd!) and for its anti-bacterial properties, so also used on wounds; Earthballs, similar to puffballs but darker and ‘scaly’ looking (watch out for them ‘exploding’ clouds of spores into the air); and Candlesnuff – eerie white fronds amongst bright green moss

Sherwood scene

The Wildwood

Parts of the original large Sherwood Forest of which Sherwood Pines (then called Clipstone Forest) was a part, were acquired by nobility and four main ducal estates – Clumber, Welbeck, Thoresby and Worksop. This unique area is known as The Dukeries. Nearby Clumber and Thoresby and the old abbeys of Rufford and Newstead (Lord Byron’s home), can be visited, along with parts of privately owned Welbeck. The remains of King John’s Hunting Palace (recently featured on Time Team) are at the edge of Sherwood Pines. Sherwood Pines is a popular walking and cycling forest with miles of trails and plenty of children’s play areas 

“People come here for the peace and quiet: space in the woodland to be alone and listen to nature; laughter from families and friends as they cycle or stroll through woodland, or relax on their decking or in their hot tub. It’s a time to listen to birdsong, fill the lungs with pine scented air, and just ‘be’.”

Did you know?

To release the tasty Sweet Chestnut cases from the tree, our squirrels often fasten their teeth to the base of the prickly case and spin – very entertaining!

Look on the flowering stems of Ragwort for the vibrantly coloured caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth – its black and yellow stripes warn birds that it is mildly poisonous, due to feeding from Ragwort. When it becomes a Cinnabar moth it is again strikingly coloured, this time black and bright pink.

Strange But True!

We have an interesting type of fungi at Sherwood Pines – it’s called ‘Wolf’s Fart’. Can you guess why?

We have had a number of square acorns this year caused by a gall wasp. These strange looking fruit are infertile and so could potentially pose a threat to the future of the much loved oak tree.