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Things to do in Nottinghamshire
Having spent nearly 10 years living there, I know there are plenty of enjoyable things to do in Nottinghamshire especially if you enjoy outdoor activities and or history. There are annual events such as the Southwell Ploughing Match and Show to look forward to as well as things to do which are very cheap or free. Have a look at the options and decide what things you would want to do if visiting Nottinghamshire. Writing all these enjoyable activities up, I had to wonder why I ever decided to leave the county!
Southwell is an attractive small rural market town of around 8000 people. There are some lovely old properties around the town, making it a very pleasant place to stroll around. Of historical significance is Burgage manor, where Lord Byron the poet lived as a boy, a large and very well preserved Victorian workhouse and Southwell minster.
How do I rate Nottinghamshire as a Place to Visit?
Even the local pub and hotel the Saracen's head can boast that King Charles I had dinner there the night before surrendering at Newark Castle in 1646.
Also of interest is the fact that the well-known cooking apple the Bramley apple originated from the town. The original tree produced fruit for the first time in 1837 and the fruit was deemed to be of such quality that cuttings were taken from the tree and ultimately they were sold far and wide.
You may be a little confused to hear Southwell pronounced South well but also pronounced Suthall. Neither is more correct than the other, but people who live in the town tend to say South well whereas those from the rest of Nottinghamshire say Suthall.
Visit Southwell workhouse and experience what life was like for jobless people with no other means to sustain themselves between 1834-1948. There is an extensive Victorian kitchen garden. Produce from the garden can be purchased or enjoyed at the café.
Cost £15 for a family ticket. Closed in the winter and on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Building began on Southwell minster in 1108 and some evidence of that earliest work survives. By 1170 the towers, which are described at being like ‘pepperpots’ were completed.
From then on additions were made throughout the centuries. Of particular note is the chapter house built in 1300, which has incredibly intricate carvings of leaves in the stonework.
By 1805 the building was in poor repair and unsafe. The iconic 'pepperpot' towers were even taken down to reduce the danger. Luckily in 1850 a major restoration project began which means we can still enjoy the building in its full glory.
It really is well worth a visit. There are helpful stewards on duty as well as informative leaflets. They welcome donations which go to the upkeep of the impressive building but there is no set charge for going in. It is open throughout the year from 8am – 7pm.
Southwell Ploughing Match and Show
An annual autumn event held at different locations around Southwell and nearby villages, the ploughing match is a splendid old fashioned agricultural show.
The ploughing match is extensive with classes for everything from horse drawn ploughs, traction engines and modern ploughs. It's not a fast event, but it is interesting. There are also livestock classes, a dog show and produce classes for everything from locally produced honey and giant vegetables to scarecrows and sheaves of wheat.
The next show will be held at Blidworth Dale, Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire on Saturday 28th September 2013.
Newark, only 20 minutes from Southwell is another Market Town. It is larger than Southwell, but still small enough to be charming and intimate and with equally interesting and attractive buildings. Newark is on the banks of the River Trent, there has been a town there since the 10th century and was important enough for a castle to be built there in 1073. The castle ruins are free to visit and open year round, but you can pay to take a guided tour of the towers and dungeons, which you can’t otherwise access. You need to book these by phone in advance though – tel 01636 655765 which is Newark tourist information centre.
You may even strike lucky and visit at the same time as the Dragon Boat Races are held. You can watch teams of enthusiastic paddlers racing their boats down the stretch of the river Trent in front of the castle. It’s a lot more exciting than the Oxford and Cambridge boat race!
You can't come to Nottinghamshire and not visit Sherwood Forest. The most ancient trees look a bit sorry for themselves, propped up as they are with various arrangements in an attempt to increase their longevity. However get out into the forest proper and you will see a wonderful oak forest with trees allowed to die in dignity and young saplings growing ready to take over. It's particularly great visiting in autumn and winter on a crisp sunny day.
Children can enjoy racing around playing at being Robin Hood. You can look out for the plentiful wildlife and one of my favourite sights is the holly avenue. This is wide grass track with the woodland to one side and to the other a row of mature holly trees about 1/2 a mile long. When these are full of berries it looks stunning and is very popular with birds such as fieldfares.
Sherwood Pine Forest - Cycling
Sherwood pine forest isn't as visually exciting as the broad leaved wood of Robin Hood fame, but is worth a mention. It contains Sherwood Forest Cabins where you can stay literally in the heart of the wood and enjoy activities such as archery and swimming. Obviously staying there costs money, but the forest itself is free to use for anyone.
The pine forest has an extensive network of cycle trails and you can either take your own bike or hire one from Sherwood Pines Cycles. There are trails ranging from easy, which are safe for families with toddlers, to challenging, with jumps and obstacles to tax experienced off road cyclists.
A couple of times a year the forest is closed to cyclists, but still worth a visit. There is an off road car rally and a Sled Dog racing rally. The next sled dog event at Sherwood Pines is 12th January 2013.
Spectators are welcome at both events, but do be sure to follow the organiser's instructions for your own safety. You may see sled dogs practicing in the forest at other times of the year too, as there are some dedicated practice trails for them.
Clumber Park is a 3800 acre National Trust property which consists of beautiful woodland, heath a couple of lakes, a church and a restaurant. You pay to park, but then you can spend hours walking or cycling around the estate with or without children and dogs. I used to have a great time there with my dogs.
It's a good place for wildlife watching; one of the lakes is usually host to a few cormorants as well as a range of ducks and gulls and I've occasionally seen lizards basking in the heath.
The park is open 7am to dusk throughout the year. The restaurant is usually open from 10am - 4pm.
White Post Farm Park
White Post Farm Park is open throughout the year and as well as extensive paddocks filled with animals has plenty of activities which are undercover for rainy days.
As you would expect from a farm park there are opportunities to meet livestock such as goats, chickens, llamas and pigs. They also have a walk in aviary, reptiles and pet rodents.
There are large play barns - one set out as a beach with sand, an aerial walkway and a large slide and another with a mini farm, mini tractors and bouncy castle slide.
A family ticket for the farm costs £35.00, so it is one of the more expensive options, but is none the less popular especially with families who have children under 10 years old.
Nottingham is Nottinghamshire's city and whilst there is plenty to do there, I find cities quite bamboozling, so have less first hand experience of it.
There is a large park called Colwyck Park on the edge of the city with a marina, lake, tracks for walking or cycling and racecourses for horses and greyhounds. Nearby is Holme Pierrepoint a white water activity centre. So there is plenty for active people to do even right by the city.
Nottingham itself is notable for its many red brick buildings, the Galleries of Justice Museum where you can find out more about Robin Hood, lively nightlife, modern tram system and the 'Goose Fair'. The goose fair, once a traditional livestock market, no longer contains any geese, but is one of the largest street fairs in Europe with a host of travelling fairground rides and attractions. It runs over 5 days in early October.
Possibly the most surprising thing about Nottingham is the network of 400 caves under the city which were used as housing between the 10th and 19th centuries as well as housing factories, storerooms and an underground tannery. The caves are a visitor attraction giving a taste of a very different part of Nottingham's history.
Places to Visit in Nottinghamshire
Southwell has a minster, workhouse, racecourse and 16th century pub.
Newark has a castle, markets, river and occasional boat races
Sherwood Forest - of Robin Hood fame. Great walking and wildlife
Clumber has lakes, heath, an interesting church and a restaurant