Certain parts of the country are so linked with legends they draw tourists from all over the world. Strangely the ones you live nearest too are the ones you tend to forget about. We live within 60 miles of Sherwood Forest – not a great distance but one we have never undertaken. Time to remedy this with a family weekend in the Forestry commission holiday lodges.
Robin Hood and Maid Marian are figures of history everyone will have heard of but whether they actually existed – who knows? Still, visiting the church where they allegedly married, having your photograph taken with their statues and visiting the majestic Major Oak, rumoured to be their sleeping place, it is hard to have any doubts about their existence. The village of Edinstowe is a pretty very ‘English’ place with tea rooms and souvenir shops and of course St Mary’s Church which is rumoured to be the wedding venue for Robin Hood and Maid Marian. The Church from the outside is very photogenic but sadly wasn’t open. Without the loose link to the Robin Hood story I doubt it would attract any special attention.
The Major Oak, on the other hand, cannot be described as anything other than majestic. Approximately 10 metres wide and 28 metres of ‘branches’ it is supported by metal poles and other structures and kept safely behind a fence to ensure it survives intact for another 1000 years. Voted ‘England’s tree of the year in 2014 – would you know any other tree to vote for?! – it is well worth a visit and an attempt at fitting the whole tree on any shot you can successfully take. Selfies of the family with the tree behind were a particular challenge! The whole of the Sherwood Forest Country Park was a lovely place to visit – thankfully the weather was good and the park was full of families walking, eating ice creams and spending time together. Over by the visitor centre and shop they were even setting up for a wedding later that day.
We spent the whole weekend in and around Sherwood Forest only venturing out once to visit Newark Air Museum. A lovely place and we even bought a Robin Hood teddy back for Nanna!
In May for our first "proper" trip of the year we chose to spend a week down in East Anglia, flipping between Norfolk and Suffolk in the Brecks.
Over the space of several days we visited loads of great places and experienced what really is a unique place with some unusual habitats found only in that part of the country along with some glorious weather too.
As ever in our usual leisurely fashion we took a few days to journey down stopping off at a few places along the way. We hope you enjoy our visit to the Fens and Forests of East Anglia.
We stayed at a fantastic place the "Old Boot Garden Cottages" in Long Whatton just outside Loughborough. The accommodation is a great mix of luxury and quirky with a fantastic breakfast room which really is help yourself and set us up great for Saturday. Full details of "Old Boot Garden Cottages" can be found here.
Refreshed on Saturday we set course for Ely our base for the next two nights but first decided we'd take a small detour via Melton Mowbray - home of Pork Pies and Stilton cheese.
Yes we did go in the Pork Pie Shoppe - in fact there are several in the town that are certified to sell the official Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. We stayed away from the Stilton though as we didn't think that was very wise picnic food? Away from the gastronomic choice the town has a great park and a fascinating piece of sculpture as well as a handful of great looking buildings.
However our destination called and we set off again hoping to stop for lunch somewhere to enjoy our newly acquired and historic baked goods.
Before we knew it we were in Cambridgeshire and looking for a good place to stop. Following the sat nav we ended up on some pretty remote roads right in the middle of the flatest landscape in the Uk - the Fens. A quick look at the map and we found out we were literally a few miles from the WWT reserve at Welney. As you'll know we are members of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust but never been beyond our local reserve at Martin Mere so it was too good an opportunity to miss. 15 minutes later we were parked up in glorious sunshine, eating our picnic and then set off to explore Welney.
After a few hours welcome rest and a coffee and cake we set off for our base for the next few nights a self catering treat - Stable Cottage in Little Downham just outside Ely. Further details here.
Ely is a great place - a medieval town, a huge cathedral, a river, set in great countryside and loads of unique sights.
Over the next few days we visited the cathedral, used our National Trust membership for our first ever visit to Wicken Fen nature reserve (now one of our favourite places) where we heard our first Cuckoos of the year and spent time getting to know the area.
Monday came and it was time to move on but not until after another stop over for a more in depth visit to the majestic Ely Cathedral -one of the most impressive we've ever seen and a good mooch around Ely including a great pulled pork baguette from the food market.
Our base for the rest of the week wasn't a huge drive away bit in the 20 or so miles we drove the scenery changed from the flat undulating Fens to the forests and heathlands of the Brecks, straddling the Suffolk and Norfolk border.
Our destination was the Forest Retreat's site at Thorpe Forest just outside Thetford.
We went for the "retreat" option which had a hot tub, hammock and all sorts of things just for two in a more secluded cabin.
Over the next few days we explored the area in car and on foot and really fell in love with the area.
Some highlights: going to see the early morning training on the Gallops at Newmarket, worth getting up for; visiting the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath Fen not only great for wildlife yes more Cuckoos but Eagles too - OK they were overflying F15s from the nearby airbase; some great woodland walks around the site which is really secluded including Nightjar spotting - worth staying up for and a host of other great places to visit including Bury St Edmunds home to Greene King brewery and a cathedral that has only just been finished being built!
All too soon it was Friday and a 4 hour drive home.
We will be back though. It's a good few years since either of us had been to the area but if anything it was better than we could remember and the great thing - it is so big and so much to do we feel like we've only scratched the surface. Roll on our next visit to the land of fens and Forests.
We're members of a number of various organisations two of which - the National Trust and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust have two great places not too far away from home and virtually next door to each other.
Rufford Old Hall isn't the biggest of properties, in fact apart from the Beatles' homes in Liverpool I would think this may be the most compact of NT properties but what it may lack in size it makes up for in having some spectacular gardens and at this time of year some outstanding Bluebell woods.
Situated right at the side of the Leeds Liverpool canal it is a unique mix of over 3 centuries worth of building from the great hall dating back to 1530 through to more "modern" rooms - if the 1820's could be called modern.
We spent a good few hours meandering through the grounds and the hall itself - as ever welcomed by the friendly and knowledgable staff and volunteers. As NT members and this being about 20 minutes down the road we will obviously be back and this time we'll try the tea room too!
So after finishing here we nipped 4 miles down the road to go to another of our favourite haunts - the WWT centre at Martin Mere.
We are regular visitors here and enjoy our visits especially like they were on this day with a glorious clear blue sky and a good mix of wildlife - though the "outbreak" of rats around the bird feeders was a little disconcerting especially when one took a flying leap at a Moorhen!
Theres no doubt though that Spring has sprung with trees budding, birds getting noisy and territorial and more warmer days than cold days now. So we'll be looking forward to more of the same over the rest of the year and making the most of our various memberships.
Don't expect globe-trotting reports from the Himalayas. We do like a good holiday and break every now and then and also some simple days out not too far away from home. No bucket lists just some common places done differently.....