After five months and a lot of shoe leather, Nottinghamshire-based artist and storyteller Dave Wood has completed his ‘perambulation’ around the original boundary of Sherwood Forest. With my best tree costume on I joined Dave with two of the Trust’s ‘trees’ last Saturday to walk the final leg of the route.
A ‘perambulation’ means “a walk around a territory (a parish or manor or forest etc.) in order to officially assert and record its boundaries”. Every three years in ye olde days right across the country, perambulations by keepers of the forest were about checking for deforestation, damage and poachers and the findings were reported back to the King. A chance view of some ancient maps showing the original forest boundary for Sherwood Forest motivated Dave to re-create this event, but in his own creative style and for a 21st Century audience.
The Woodland Trust has supported Dave on this inspirational journey and we’ve been able to join him on a couple of the legs of the route. We’ve also picked up a wood under threat on the way as well as several new friends!
As a Notts resident, I find it amazing to think that our world-famous Forest once stretched this far into the City I know. The ‘Sherwood Forest’ I am familar with is at least 20 miles away from my house, and yet on Saturday I was walking along the original perimeter just a stone’s throw from home. Three hundred and fifty years has seen much change; today this medieval boundary encompasses some very urban areas of Nottingham City, as I have found while walking alongside with Dave and fellow walkers through housing and industrial estates and crossing tramlines and dual carriageways. Woodland sights and sounds have been replaced by traffic and concrete, pollution and tarmac – it is incredible to imagine that these areas were once part of this famous forest. Even the River Trent has been moved over the years, meaning Dave had to cross it twice in order to stay faithful to the original route! – but there were also remnants of ancient woodland and ancient trees to be discovered in the wilds of the county, too. By the way, it was at the tramlines where we stopped at the spot Robin Hood was fabled to have been born.
Hundreds of people have been part of Dave’s journey, not only residents Dave met on the route but local artists and also musician, writer, producer and performance artist Bill Drummond. Video and photographs from the Perambulations are on ‘The Creative Perambulations of Sherwood Forest’ page on Facebook, and you can see more creative offerings from this historic activity on Dave’s blog – there’s more to come as Dave collects this all together. We have also set up a special page about the Perambulations on our website, where we’re lucky enough to share original poems and haiku plus some wonderful woodland illustrations.
We met Dave in July as he embarked on the first steps of his creative interpretation. Five months and just over 85 miles later our meeting place is Colwick Country Park – a well-loved and wildlife packed green space tucked behind Nottingham Racecourse just 3 miles from Nottingham City Centre. From here we headed off on a stroll along the few miles that remained, back to the very spot on Victoria Embankment where we struck out with Dave just a few months before. Veteran Lime and London Plane trees form a leafy promenade here alongside the Trent; this time we kicked great piles of autumn leaves instead of shading ourselves from the summer sun. From there we all walked back to The Hook, a peaceful green space cared for by the local ‘Friends of’ group, a designated nature reserve next to one of the busiest routes into the City. In July a special non-religious blessing took place here to wish Dave a safe and happy journey, on Saturday we celebrated his achievement.
At both sites we planted a very special Oak sapling. The saplings were donated by The Sherwood Forest Trust to mark this historic recreation and were grown from an acorn from the iconic Major Oak, Sherwood’s most famous resident (apart from Robin Hood of course!). They are nurtured by Sherwood Pines Partnership Tree Nursery, a partnership between The Sherwood Forest Trust and Nottinghamshire Country Council. The nursery helps adults with learning needs gain valuable work experience, increasing their confidence and self esteem and helping them live a more independent and fulfilling life. The Sherwood Forest Trust hopes that the nursery will not become a casualty of the economic cutbacks, as do we.
Dave has been keen to encourage people to improve Nottinghamshire’s low woodland cover by planting trees, so we’ve been taking the opportunity to promote our tree planting packs and also to educate local people about ancient woodland. Once his feet recover from the efforts of the last five months, Dave hopes to re-establish the Perambulations of Sherwood Forest every three years as they once were. I hear that around the country others are doing the same in local forests. No doubt our ‘trees’ will be donning their walking shoes again when the time comes at Sherwood, I hope you will be too.
Kaye Brennan, Campaigner