I’m well known amongst my friends and family for absolutely hating my home town. Mansfield, a relatively tiny ex-mining town located somewhere between Nottingham and Sheffield in the middle of England. When I moved away to university at the tender age of 18, I was so happy to have finally escaped the dingy town centre, the seemingly endless amount of benefit claimants, and the same-old-same-old of tired Wetherspoons chains of pubs. But the longer you spend away from a place, the more perspective you gain. And (I can’t believe I’m saying this…) I’ve actually come to the realisation that all of the things I hate about where I’m from just aren’t what the area is about. Not even remotely.
I had a great childhood growing up in Mansfield. There were plenty of fields, and forests and general nature-y things that kids love to wile away their time doing, it’s in the middle of the country so it’s never too hard to travel up or down, and, most importantly, my primary school trips were littered with visits to our hope and saviors’ old hang outs a.k.a. the Sherwood Forest of Mr Robin Hood.
Now, all of this stuff didn’t seem so exciting to me then, and to some extent, even now. I mean, when you grow up in that environment, you take it for granted. That kind of stands for living anywhere. Right now I live in Amsterdam, and though the magic of Amsterdam has certainly not completely worn off, after a year and a half it’s certainly a little less sparkly and covered in fairy dust.
Judgments aside and perspectives gained however, I now feel Nottinghmshire represents a true portrait of England. As I’ve written about before, so many people travel to England to experience some of that quintessential Britishness they’ve read about in books. But heading to London and spending a few days in the infamous big city doesn’t really do the rest of England any justice. It’s another world, just as Amsterdam is to the Netherlands, Rome to Italy, Paris to France.
So, here are five amazing things to do around my home area. I’ve never written about it before because, well, I honestly didn’t think it was that interesting. Experiencing life in a different country, though, made me realise that it is a fantastic place to visit if you’re not English. If you are… it’s still nice. But maybe not quite as exciting.
Sherwood Forest is the aforementioned mythical home of the outlaw that stole from the rich and gave to the poor, Robin Hood. I LOVE Robin Hood, and I think it’s awesome that he and I are both from Mansfield. Practically related. He’s real, he was great, the forest is great, end of.
Not really end of. Sherwood Forest is much more of a tourist attraction, but for me, the best forest in the area is Sherwood Pines. I still have only the fondest memories of Sherwood Pines from my youth, from running around the huge wooden park for kids (and it’s big enough for adults, so…). I still love going on walks and bike rides there with my dad when I come home, and my mountain bike obsessed boyfriend seemingly dreams of returning to some hard core biking there every night. They also have a Go Ape which is a great experience, segway tours, a cafe and restaurant, historical tours and every summer, big events. Blondie was here once. Oh yeaaaah.
Nottingham has got so much to offer, from a really great live music scene (Dot 2 Dot festival is held early summer every year and is ALWAYS fantastic!), to a great drinking scene, from history at Nottingham castle to sports at Trent Bridge cricket grounds and Notts Forest FC. For a tourist though, the best thing about visiting Nottingham is the size and the price. You really can do everything you would want to do in Nottingham in a weekend, including shopping, nights out, music, theatre, sports and all of the history stuff. It’s a bite sized chunk of English history that’s super easy to digest.
The Peak District
The Peak District is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the UK. Rolling hills, quintessentially English country towns and an abundance of awesome walks, hikes and camping opportunities throughout. In my opinion, you could spend weeks here, but a weekend is usually enough when taking the typical English weather into account… There’s a million places you can stay with good facilities, or you can just go to one of their many campsites and rough it for a while. The Peak District is definitely not somewhere I appreciated as a teenager. It’s unfathomable to me that it took moving to the FLATTEST country in the world to realise how great it is!
Newstead Abbey is fourth on the list of why you should go forth and visit my hometown. Formerly an Augustinian priory, Newstead Abbey was converted to a domestic home following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. And whose home was it? IT WAS LORD BYRON’S HOME! If you don’t know who Lord Byron is, I make no apologies. Google him. A beautiful house in beautiful grounds, it always surprises me that just 15 minutes either way of the house is the abyss of Mansfield and the wonderful city of Nottingham. Worth a visit – especially on a beautiful day!
Rufford Abbey is a country estate and was originally a Cistercian abbey. It was converted to a country house in the 16th century after the Dissolution of the Monasteries… just like Newstead Abbey. Although the main monastery is crumbling, there are still sections you can enter and have a look at – and all for free! Hurrah! Suck it, London. Afternoon tea, picnics in the grounds, feeding the ducks… If you’re looking for quintessentially English, well. This is it my friends.