Walking in Nottinghamshire
Planning a walk in Nottinghamshire may conjure up romantic images of walking through Sherwood Forest in the footsteps of Robin Hood; of honourable thieves in leafy glades relieving rich nobles of their purses for more equitable distribution. A dream maybe, now that the great oaks and beeches of the Sherwood Forest of old are mostly gone. The Forestry Commission have planted stands of fir and pine, but good access and some remnants of mature deciduous woodland ensure this is one of the best walking areas in Nottinghamshire. Farnsfield and Edwinstowe are good areas from which to explore the Forest.
The Dukeries, in the north of Sherwood Forest, is an area which is particularly attractive and full of interest. So named because most of the land hereabouts was owned by the Dukes of Norfolk, Portland, Newcastle and Kingston, these vast estates have now largely gone, but there are important remnants. Clumber Park (NT), formerly the home of the Dukes of Newcastle, has a wide expanse of parkland, peaceful woods, open heath and rolling farmland with a serpentine lake at its heart.
The middle reaches of the River Trent flow through the industrial city of Nottingham, after which the river heads north through wooded vales along the eastern side of the county, eventually forming the boundary with Lincolshire. Here there are some lovely walks beside the placid river and incorporating pretty villages such as Caunton, Bleasby and East Bridgeford.
The pleasant village of Laxton is noteworthy because it is one of very few places left in England where the medieval open field farming system is still in use. Also known as strip farming, this system divided the land up into strips one furlong (furrow long) in length and one chain (the length of a cricket pitch) in width. The annual crop cycle involved three stages, typically planting winter wheat followed by a spring planting crop and thirdly the strips would be left fallow and perhaps used for grazing. Strips were allocated to individual village families in such a way that each had a fair share of the good and less fertile land. This system was generally abandoned with the enclosure acts of the 19th century. There is a visitor centre in the village where you can learn more about the farming method.
Laxton also has another feature of historic interest in the site of a 12th century Norman motte and bailey castle. Known as Castle Mound this is located just north of the village near to the church. At one time Laxton was the administrative centre for the ancient Sherwood Forest and the substantial castle was built for this reason.
A Walk from Laxton [SK 724671] OS Maps: Explorer™ 271
This walk takes you on a circuit of the west field, one of three participating in the traditional rotation of crops. The route also passes close by the site of Laxton Castle, claimed to be the best preserved and possibly the finest motte and bailey in the county and worth exploring. Leave the village by passing the impressive 12th century parish church of St Michael and then bearing right along a lane which leads to the west field. On meeting a road turn right and continue past Westwood Farm. Then take a path on the right which will lead to Kirton Wood. At the end of the wood take a path on the right which will take you back to Laxton with the motte and bailey being a short diversion. About 4 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
The Dovecote Inn, Laxton Tel: 01777 871586 (Good Pub Guide)
The Dovecote Inn has a special place in the life of Laxton for it is here that the Court Leet meets to exercise its duties of administering the ancient open field system of cultivation. The Inn is a very welcoming redbrick free house which manages to maintain a 'pubby' atmosphere. The wide choice of food is very popular, served by friendly and courteous staff, and is both fairly priced and comes in big helpings. Accommodation is available.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks in Nottingham' by Peter Fooks
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