Ravenshead - Thieves' Wood
w/e 19 February 2006
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

Information Point

For this walk we attempted to follow a route through a 'remnant part of Sherwood Forest' as described in the 1997 publication of Malcolm Sales' "100 Walks in Nottinghamshire". The start of the walk was fine, beginning as described in the book by the 'sign indicating a choice of waymarked walks' and even the map on the information board showed a Blue Trail and a White Trail. It was not until we returned here though that we noticed that the sign pointing to the blue route to the left had been either removed or broken off!
Pine Cone

The predominant species of tree in Thieves' Wood is pine and whilst many of the trails and paths through the area were littered with pine cones some of the trees still had cones clinging to their branches.
The King's Way

Initially the route was easy to follow although it did direct us to look for blue and white painted wooden posts and the only ones we saw had only white paint of them. We did find a long broad lane though running straight as an arrow through the trees. (One of Robin Hood's arrows no doubt). This lane is known as The King's Way and it was once the main route between the castles at Nottingham, Tickhill and Bolsover. This view above is looking in the direction of Nottingham. In fact many years ago, it was trees from these woods that were used in the construction of the castle at Nottingham but since that time the woods have been left virtually untouched and they are now managed by the Forestry Commission. Some restocking of the trees has had to been undertaken in recent years by the Commission following a devastating storm in 1976.
Picnic Area

Due to the lack of blue-topped posts and the multiplicity of tracks and paths through the forest, the route as described in Mr Sales' book was becoming more and more difficult to follow but he does mention a picnic area and we found this right in the heart of the forest. Publicity material about Thieves' Wood mentions 'many different species of flora and fauna' and 'the abundant wildlife' but for much of the walk we were struck by the eerie stillness and what is best described as a deafening quietness. No rustle in the undergrowth, no bird song, nothing! It was only here on our way back at the picnic area that we saw squirrels, blue tits and robins. They are obviously clever enough to realise that where humans gather, there is a free meal to be had.
The Bird Stone

Near the picnic area and by the side of the King's Way is the Bird Stone. It is very easy to walk past this without a second glance - as we did - but I eventually did find it. Although it is not the original Bird Stone it marks the spot where the first British specimen of an Egyptian nightjar was spotted by A Spinks on 23 June 1883. The story is that Albert Spinks, a gamekeeper, had been firing at a rabbit and the sound of his gun startled the bird. He shot the bird but before disposing of it, mentioned it to naturalist Joseph Whitaker, who recognised it as a rare species in Britain. Whitaker had the bird stuffed and it is now kept at the nearby museum in Mansfield. An Egyptian nightjar was not seen alive again in the wild this country until one was spotted in Dorset in 1984.
Forest Track

Sherwood Forest and Nottingham of course are synonymous with the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men and tales of robbing the rich to give to the poor. It is thought that the name Thieve's Wood for this part of the Forest owes much to the fate of the travellers along the King's Way and it was not hard to imagine bands of outlaws lurking in the dense growth as we returned to the car park, still looking for, but failing to find a single blue-topped post. One of the Robin Hood stories tells of how he and his men drove a band of robbers from the woods who were preying on the people of Ravenshead. It strikes me that the robbers' descendants have returned and stolen the way markers but we accomplished a tortuous route back along the forest tracks without mishap!

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