Wild side with Prof Ian Rotherham

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On our doorstep is perhaps the most famous forest on the planet, Sherwood, and one of the most notable trees, the Major Oak.

For long-standing historical reasons of connections through the Shrewsbury family estates, Sheffield has always had close ties to Worksop and so to the Dukeries.

This continues today though mostly with sites like Clumber, Sherwood Forest, and Rufford Country Park being major day visit attractions.

I always find it amusing that Nottingham has the link to Sherwood when they only had the bad guy, the Sheriff, and we had Robin of Loxley.

Oh well, Hollywood can’t always be right.

Anyway, the real history of Sherwood and the Dukeries is even more interesting and exciting than the myths.

Today, the giant old trees and the great houses, or at least their parks and ruins, tell the real story.

This once extensive royal hunting preserve has now shrunk to a fraction of its former glory in early medieval times.

The legends and myths largely stem from that period when Edwinstowe was a hugely important location and English kings came to hunt and to parley with their lords and with other monarchs.

Many of the ancient sites remain, and the ruins of what was once a great hunting palace can still be seen.

Imagine Edwinstowe and Mansfield at the centre of so much royal activity. Emergency parliaments were held under the Parliament Oak, and yes, you can still see it.

A large number of the great trees have been lost but many remain as testimony to this amazing lineage.

The heritage remains too, of the great Dukeries estates and the wonderful parklands that once dominated the landscape, as feudal times ended and the forest gave way to aristocratic playgrounds.

A consequence of this remarkable history is a rich ecology with heathland and open forest with great trees.

Only a small amount remains intact, but this is still of international significance.

You can find out more at an evening illustrated lecture by me to the Priory Historical Society next Thursday, June 5, at The Innings Pub, Gloucester Road in Worksop.

Starting at 7.30pm it is open to all (for a small entrance charge), and is based on my recent book, telling the fascinating story of Sherwood Forest and the Dukeries.

The book, profusely illustrated by old postcards and antique prints of the area, the great houses, and the ancient trees, is ‘Sherwood Forest & the Dukeries - A Companion to the Land of Robin Hood’ published by Amberley.

So join me for an evening about the world’s most famous forest, the people, the great houses, and the history. There will be a book sale with big discounts including the Sherwood & Dukeries book, so do come and find out more!

n Sightings: Cuckoos are still featuring across suitable areas of the region, especially in the moors to the west of Sheffield. Common buzzards are also noticeable with records from drivers on the Dronfield by-pass, for example, and red kite have been seen around Stanage. Canada geese and grey lags are getting more abundant by the year, so many sites resound to the loud calls of the two species around good breeding ponds and lakes. Swifts are now back in good numbers and must be our most iconic urban specialist. Watch and listen for the devil bird in urban heartlands like Meersbrook and Heeley. Meersbrook Park is especially good.

n Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, is contactable on ianonthewildside@ukeconet.org ; follow ‘Ian’s Walk on the Wildside’, www.ukeconet.org for more information.