LeJog Day#10 Leicester, Nottingham & Sherwood Forest
Reached 802km, today’s ride (84km) made me pass through Leicester, Nottingham and the well know Sherwood Forest which has an even very special meaning since it’s directly linked to the cause I am supporting « The Forest ».
Speaking of which I would like to thanks very much another supporter who contributed today and enabled to raise the percentage to 42% of the 1500€ target!
As usual, you will find below some postcards I sent along the way and some interesting facts about the different places.
Leicester: Unlike some of your previous stops, a thriving Iron Age settlement was waiting for the Romans to arrive in around AD47. In fact, it was the capital of the local Celtic tribe. With the addition of a forum and a bathhouse in the second century, it would appear that Roman comforts were embraced and adopted enthusiastically.
Like all towns that suffered when the Romans packed up and went home, Leicester’s fortunes faded, including invasions from the Saxons, and later, the Vikings. Although still impressive enough to be recorded in the Domesday book as a city, or ‘civitas’, it soon lost its status, not becoming a legal city again until the 20th century.
More recently, Leicester has been in the spotlight for the discovery and reburial of the remains of Richard III, the last English King to die in battle. His grave was lost, but in 2012, a skeleton was discovered on a dig at a Leicester car park which demanded further investigation. With severe battle injuries, and physical features including curvature of the spine, this man in his early thirties could possibly be Richard. DNA analysis from York line descendants proved that this was the warrior King, and he was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015, in a ceremony including a poem read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch – Richard’s third cousin, sixteen times removed!
Nottingham: Part of the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, the area was under the rule of an Anglo-Saxon chieftain; the unfortunately-named Snot. He did, however, give his name to not just the town, but the county.
Nottingham is rightly famous for its beautiful lace, but is even more well-known as home of Robin Hood, and also the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Part-legend and partly-based in truth, the first mention of him is in the late 14th century poem Piers Plowman by William Langland. Hailed as one of the greatest works of mediaeval literature – alongside the almost contemporary Canterbury Tales – the largely allegorical poem deals with human nature in a surprisingly modern way. With minor uprisings common amongst the nobility in the early mediaeval period, it’s probably safe to suggest that Robin Hood might well have been a composite of many nobles in hiding, with or without a band of followers!
With two universities, modern day Nottingham is a thriving student town. Perhaps fittingly, the town also claims to have England’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which is close to Nottingham Castle. It claims to have been established since 1189, but none of the current building is older than mid-17th century, and neither is there any paperwork to prove the claim. However, it is attached to several caves within Castle Rock, which were originally used as the castle brewhouse and date from its construction in 1068 – this would indicate a hostelry of some kind on the site soon after this date.
Sherwood Forest: It’s not often that a place features as strongly in legend as the main characters. In early mediaeval times, Sherwood Forest covered an area as large as a third of modern day central London. Today, the last remnant of that ancient woodland is the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, and the Sherwood Forest Trust pride themselves on being modern-day Robin Hoods, protecting the Forest for generations to come.
Historically, the location was a royal hunting forest, and used for the enjoyment not only of English monarchs, but visiting nobles as well. Much of the space was actually open land, but the forest was a valuable source of timber both for shipbuilding and construction on land – both St. Paul’s and Lincoln cathedrals made use of Sherwood oak.
And what of Robin Hood? Sadly, a construct of popular folklore – created as an ally and supporter of Richard the Lionheart, Robin is variously a yeoman, a noble, and a true outlaw; early ballad ‘Robin Hood and the Monk’ (1450) makes him out to be a cheat and a casual murderer – a far more bloodthirsty figure, and no ally of any King. The only thing recognisable from later representations is that the Sheriff is still his sworn enemy!