Robin Hood, the legendary English hero who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, has been immortalised in many films and television series. Russell Crowe's version with a twist was released earlier this year, stirring up new interest in the hero and his band of merry men.
Jules Lund went to see where it all began and found himself in Nottingham, a bustling, modern city three hours north of London. Just beyond its suburbs lie the remnants of Sherwood Forest, the perfect place to hide from Robin's arch-enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve
The forest once covered 40,000 hectares but is now just 180. The park has enjoyed an unbroken woodland since the last Ice Age and surrounds the village of Edwinstowe.
To Jules' guide, ranger Dave, it is still very important as a national nature reserve and very special for conservation. Its 900 ancient giant oaks are treasured. Dave estimated the famous Major Oak, rumoured to be Robin's hideout, is around a thousand years old. The woodland is as rare and threatened as tropical rainforests.
The reserve was once part of a royal hunting forest. Part of it was opened as a country park for the public in 1969 and in 2002 a portion was designated a National Nature Reserve.
Around 500,000 tourists visit Sherwood Forest every year. Numbers increased in 2006 with the launch of the BBC's television series, Robin Hood, and are expected to increase further with the release of Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett's latest film.
The park hosts the Robin Hood Festival for a week each summer. It's a colourful celebration of the life and times of one of the world's most famous outlaws. Characters from the Robin Hood legend come to life along with jousters, strolling players, jesters, musicians, alchemists, fire eaters and rat catchers providing entertainment in their medieval attire. At other times there are plenty of walks and cycle trails to enjoy.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
One of around 20 public houses claiming to be England's oldest, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem dates back to 1189 AD and it must be way up the list.
Apart from its longevity, the pub is famous for its caves carved out of soft sandstone rock. Larger ground-level caverns are used as drinking rooms and a network beneath the building was originally used as a brewery.
Tim Pollard is the official Robin Hood for the City of Nottingham and lived up to his generous reputation by shouting Jules a pint of Robin Hood ale.
A couple of interesting things to see in the pub are the cursed galleon, a small wooden model of a ship. It's claimed that people who have cleaned it have met a mysterious death. It's now quite dusty and grimy and encased in glass.
The pub also has an antique chair and it's claimed that a woman who sits on it will increase her chances of becoming pregnant. As you would expect, it's rumoured that ghosts roam the caverns. They're said to be past landlords watching over visitors.
Towering over the pub is the beautiful 17th-century Nottingham Castle. The ducal mansion was built on the site of the original medieval castle and was once the seat of power of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
There are no towers or turrets it's more like a mansion. Only the gatehouse, outer walls and caves give a hint of a traditional castle.
It was a favoured stronghold of King Richard I known as Richard the Lionheart. It is said that the king, his knights and men at arms who rallied to his call to fight the Third Crusade gathered at the castle to rest before journeying to Jerusalem.
It's a good place to begin your tour of Nottingham as you will have uninterrupted views across the city. Tours take you into passageways and tunnels and its history is hardly boring. Sieges, murders and intrigue have all gone into its story.
The building was the first provincial museum of fine art, opening in 1878. It continues to house its own collection and travelling exhibitions. Locals like that there is more to Nottingham than Robin Hood, although until the end of October this year there is an exhibition of costumes from the latest film.
Nottingham, two hours from Manchester in northern England.
Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery entry is around $9 for adults and $7 for children. Cost includes entry, all exhibitions including the Robin Hood exhibition and joint ticket with the Museum of Nottingham at Brewhouse Yard, Nottingham. It's open between Tuesday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm between March and October and 10am to 4pm between November and February. The Robin Hood exhibition will run until October 30, 2010.
The Robin Hood Festival will run from August 2 to 8, 2010 with activities from 11am to 4.30pm daily.
Emirates has flights to Manchester from:
- Melbourne and Adelaide $1802
- Sydney $1821
- Brisbane $1824
These fares are for the first 100 people to book.
Prices correct at July 1, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Nottingham NG1 6AD
Ph: +44 115 947 3171
1 Castle Road
Nottingham NG1 6AA
Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Nottingham NG1 6EL
Ph: +44 115 915 3700
Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre
Nottinghamshire NG21 9HN
Visas: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of less than months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.
Electricity: 220V with a three-point plug.
Time: The UK is on Greenwich Mean Time between October and March. Between March and October it is on British Summer Time.
Currency: The British pound sterling.
International dialling code: +44.