Call me no longer Locksley, my Liege, but know me under the name, which, I fear, fame hath blown too widely not to have reached even your royal ears. I am Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest.
-- Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
Happy Medieval Monday! I was having coffee out on our patio this weekend, staring at the trees dotting our view and reflecting on how much I love forests. Then it came to me! How fun would it be to research some of the more famous forests from medieval legend?
And so today it’s not Robin Hood we’re after, but Sherwood Forest. While we might never be entirely sure who Robin Hood was, it’s nice to know that there really was a King John, Nottingham, and Sherwood Forest. It lends credence to the possibility of the Prince of Thieves, don’t you agree?
The earliest mention of a mention that I can find of Sherwood Forest follows – and it’s repeated in several places on the web.
The name ‘Sherwood’ was first recorded in 958 A.D. when it was called ‘Sciryuda’ meaning "the woodland belonging to the shire".
It seems to me the name “Sciryuda” was recorded, not “Sherwood”. I’m not even sure what language that is and evidently don’t know where to look to find out. I’m going to email one of the sources, however. We shall see who knows what! In any case, it’s been a recognized area for at least a few thousand years.
The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions the forest as covering most of Nottinghamshire. According to various UK government agencies, it comprised around 100,000 acres in medieval times.
Romans cleared some of the forest during their occupation of the area. Later, following William the Conquerer’s invasion in 1066, it was designated a Royal Hunting Forest.
When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, powerful dukes were granted the lands. Called “the dukeries”, most of the estates are still intact and well worth visiting.
Today, Sherwood Forest is much smaller than it once was. Excluding the vast estates, it’s comprised of around 1,049 acres, filled with pine, birch, and ancient oak trees. The oaks are major players, some of the oldest oaks in Europe -- about a thousand of them. The Major Oak has its own trail. Estimated to be between 800 to 1,000 years old, this huge and venerable tree has a circumference of around 36 feet, is approximately 52 feet tall, and its canopy spreads around 92 feet.
All the usual woodland creatures make their home in Sherwood Forest -- deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, squirrels, bats, birds, and plenty of insects! Cattle can also be found grazing.
It’s surrounded by Nottinghamshire, which includes the city of Nottingham. To my surprise – I don’t know what I was thinking – well, I do know. I was thinking King John and Robin Hood. It’s a bustling, modern metropolis with lots to offer both historically and otherwise. There are manmade caves, a castle, great restaurants and museums. I begin to think it’s a must-see!
I did not realize what a vast undertaking research on Sherwood Forest would turn out to be. Each estate is worthy of several posts of their own. I have to say – I’m writing this after reading back over the full post – finding exact and matching numbers and information has not been easy. It might be that it’s out of of my realm of experience. This is British land – trusts, private estates, counties, reserves, so much history… There's doubtless a great deal of information that a citizen might take for granted that I'm completely unaware of. While I don’t believe there are any wild discrepancies, please feel free to share your knowledge!
Links for more information:
I hope you will have enjoyed this brief foray into the home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
Next week, King Arthur’s forest, Brocéliande!
For more medieval fun, be sure to visit medieval ladies Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis.
Robin Hood proposing to Maid Marion, St. Mary's Church, Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire
It's no secret that I prefer fat HEAs. Where better than in a beautiful romance?
From me to you with a smile.
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