Facts about Sherwood Forest

Published: 05th July 2010
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Sherwood Forest has enjoyed a rich and vibrant history, most notably due to the historical association with the legend of Robin Hood. At its peak the forest was once 100,000 acres (a fifth of Nottinghamshire), today the Forest is much smaller and has become a popular attraction for young and old.

Robin Hood and Sherwood
Robin Hood is closely associated with Sherwood Forest, but it has not been proven that he existed. The popular story of Robin Hood is that he was born in Locksley to the Earl of Huntingdon. Later, his father would be killed by Prince John who then declared his son an outlaw. As a result, he adopted the name 'Robin Hood' and escaped to the Sherwood Forest with a group of individuals opposed to the Prince. Robin Hood and his 'Merry Men' spent the remaining years poaching the King's deer and robbing rich travelers who passed through the forest.

Did He Exist?
There is some debate about whether Robin Hood really existed. Many people have looked for evidence about his existence, but so far there are only five tales that are known to have existed about Robin Hood from before 1500. There are also 38 traditional ballads about Robin Hood, but these were only written down after 1600 when singing ballads became popular with the masses.

Fit for a King
In 1066, King William the Conqueror designated Sherwood Forest as a Royal Hunting Forest for the King and his men to hunt deer and other forest animals. At the time, the Forest was a mix of birch and oak woodland with open areas of wood pastures, settlements and sandy heath. It was once the largest Royal Forest in England, covering 1,000 acres of land. The Forest reached its height of popularity between 1200 and 1380 and only began to decline in 1227. Then, in 1649 the Forest lost its status as a Royal Hunting Forest after 585 years of retaining that status.

Harsh Laws
When Sherwood was a Royal Hunting Forest, the laws of the forest were harsh and meant to protect the animals from being poached by common people. Laws were enforced by 'Rangers' and 'Wardens' and once every six weeks a Forest Court was held to prosecute individuals who had hunted deer or cut down trees. Up until 1217 the laws were so tough that a man could receive a death penalty for killing the King's deer.

Major Oak
Sherwood Forest is home to the famous Major Oak which is said to have been Robin Hood's main hideout. The tree is between 800 and 1,000 years old, weighs around 23 tonnes and has a circumference of 33 feet. Since the Victorian era the limbs of this massive tree have had to be supported by elaborate scaffolding. Today, a local company is working on creating clones of the great tree to be planted in major cities around the world.

Jenny Oneill is a freelance travel writer who is currently researching Sherwood forest in the UK.



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