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Character Area


Sherwood ●

Rolling landforms with numerous dry valleys.

Large amount of woodland, particularly oak-birch broadleaved woodland and conifers.

Extensive, enclosed, arable farmlands with rectilinear field patterns divided by low, treeless hedges.

Strong contrast between open arable fields and woodlands.

Strong heathland character, diminishing in north, often evident at roadsides and in woodlands.

Parks and estates.

Conspicuous remains of coal industry - including disused mines, pit heaps, old railway lines and mining settlements.

Narrow river corridors with pasture, flood meadows and woodland, often in sharp contrast to the adjacent arable farmland.

Urban influences around Nottingham and the larger western towns.

Quarrying of sandstone for industrial aggregates.

Buildings of local sandstone with older building materials being generally red brick and pantile.

Landscape Character

Sherwood contains a wide range of landscapes. It includes the historic heartlands of Sherwood Forest, the extensive parklands and estates of the Dukeries and the estate farmlands south of the hill settlement of Blyth. The area is rich in historic and cultural associations, including those of Lord Byron at Newstead Abbey, the Pilgrim Fathers and the legend of Robin Hood. It extends in a broad band from the northern edge of Nottingham and lies chiefly on welldrained, infertile, sandstone-derived soils which historically supported extensive heathlands and woodlands and are now substantially converted to arable. The agricultural lands and


woodlands of the Southern Magnesian Limestone lie to the west and the open arable land of the Trent and Belvoir Vales and the Nottinghamshire Claylands lie to the east. The area abuts the Humberhead Levels to the north.


Key Characteristics

Mining and its associated activities are much in evidence. Its demise has created opportunities to recreate heathland and plant large blocks of conifer woodlands.

The woodland cover and the heathland character are a strong reminder of the formerly extensive forest and wastes. A range of features combine to produce a distinctive and sometimes unified landscape. These include rolling landform, scattered areas of bracken, grass and heather heathland, lowland oak-birch woodlands, large mature conifer plantations, enclosed arable farmlands, narrow river corridors and landscape parks. The landform ensures views of varying distance, frequently to wooded skylines, or, in the more open arable areas, to the heads of dry valleys. The arable land is, in many places, almost devoid of tree cover and the rectilinear pattern of low hawthorn hedges imparts a rather featureless character to the landscape. To the north, farmland is the dominant feature with a markedly different extent and pattern of woodland cover. However, the landscape parks add diversity.

Character Area 49

S he r wood Area 49 boundary Adjacent Area

200-400' 0-200'

A Road

height above sealevel in feet

B Road Railway and Station County Boundary District boundary



A1 ton




The Dukeries lie in the central-western area, south-west of Worksop. Their distinctive character arises from extensive broadleaved and coniferous woodlands, landscape parks with large man-made lakes, open arable land and an undulating landform. In many respects similar to the Sherwood heaths, this landscape is distinguished by its management as large parks and estates from the 18th century onwards. There are few roads and the population is sparse, being concentrated in the few estate villages or in scattered, isolated farmsteads. The coal industry left this area largely untouched and there are no railway lines or pylons. Heathland is extensive in the eastern part of the Dukeries, becoming less frequent to the west as the soils become less acid. Views are generally to the middle distance, usually to wooded skylines, with a strong sense of enclosure by woodland.

Bassetlaw District





Great Lake





l Pou ver








er M Riv

Ollerton Market Warsop Edwinstowe A6




er M Riv New Clipstone Newark and Sherwood District







Ravenshead 14 A6











A52 A52







Arnold 21




Gedling District









Ashfield District



Mansfield District




00 5

Broxtowe Beeston District A6

The northern part of Sherwood comprises sandstone estatelands. These are intensively farmed and predominantly arable landscapes characterised by regular, medium to large fields, small to medium-size woodlands and many small pockets of parkland and estate farmland, set within a gently rolling landform. The area is sparsely populated and has little industry. Heathland influences are slight and woodland cover is more diffuse so that the overall impression is one of well-ordered and managed farmland. The gently rolling landform, low hedges and dispersed woodland pattern ensure medium- to long-distance views. Waterside willows, alders and ash holts take on greater prominence due to the dispersed woodland cover and the general absence of hedgerow trees. Small parklands, with mature trees over permanent pasture, make an important contribution to the character of this area. Several areas of clay farmland occur along the eastern edge which is transitional to the adjacent Trent and Belvoir Vales. They lack the heathy character of



er Riv

The Sherwood heaths commence at the northern edge of Nottingham and occupy most of the area as far north as Worksop. This landscape, which includes the remnant heartlands of Sherwood Forest, has a distinctly rolling landform. It is intensively farmed but has a heathland character and is well wooded with many relics of the former coal industry. The impression is of a patchwork of large and small woodlands interspersed with farmland. The latter is almost entirely arable, lying within large rectilinear fields divided by low hedges with almost no trees, although the pattern is softened by the rolling landform. There are bracken, gorse and broom in roadside hedges and verges and in the rides and edges of the woodlands. Views are confined within dry valleys but can be open and panoramic from higher ground. Undulating land with greater relief occurs south-west of Retford, and around White Post. Tree cover is particularly sparse in these areas so that the dry valleys and crests are more pronounced and there are long open views.






the Sherwood heaths and have a more variable woodland pattern. The landscape is predominantly arable but includes colliery villages.

These groundwater resources are constantly replenished by rainwater soaking into the sandstone and by downward percolation of water from the rivers flowing across it.

Narrow river valleys cut through much of the area. They contain permanent grasslands and flood meadows, often with fringing alders, willows and scrub, although arable land occasionally extends right to the water’s edge. Bankside woodland occurs extensively in some sections, often along steep flanking slopes, and ash holts are a particular feature of the river Ryton. In the Dukeries and the northern sandstone estatelands, the rivers have been engineered to create large ornamental lakes.

The area is underlain at depth by the Coal Measures of Carboniferous age which form the concealed coalfield of Nottinghamshire. The Coal Measures strata are tilted gently downwards towards the east so that underground coalmining operations become progressively deeper in that direction. The Sherwood Sandstone gives rise chiefly to sandy soils, with well-drained coarse loamy soils in the lower parts of the dry valleys. Acidic podzolised soils occur locally, particularly under woodland in the Clumber area, and acidic, well-drained, sandy soils occur under woodland to the south and east of Mansfield. The eastern boundary of the area is influenced by the adjacent Mercia Mudstone, producing gley soils on low ground. Calcareous soils occur adjacent to streams draining the Magnesian Limestone to the west.

Deep coal-mining has had a profound and extensive influence throughout much of the area in the 20th century. There is a legacy of conspicuous spoil heaps, settling lagoons and former workings. Some of these have been reclaimed to agriculture or woodland and amenity uses but some intrusive unreclaimed sites still exist and dominate skylines for some distance. Sandstone quarrying is also locally conspicuous with some large quarries still being active.

The river Ryton drains the northern part of the area, flowing north-eastwards to join the river Idle. The central area is drained north-eastwards by a series of small rivers, including the Poulter, Meden, Maun and Rainworth Water, all of which also join the Idle along the eastern edge of the area. The southern part of the area is drained by the river Leen which flows southwards to join the river Trent at Dunkirk, Nottingham. Surface water is scarce away from the main river valleys, with most rainfall being directly absorbed by the porous sandstone.


Historical and Cultural Influences

Many of the Sherwood heaths have transformed into woodland through natural colonisation or plantation.Woodland tracks make up an extensive network for walking and riding.

Physical Influences

The area is mostly underlain by the Sherwood Sandstone (formerly known as the Bunter Sandstone) of Triassic age. The Permian Magnesian Limestone, consisting of dolomitic limestone and marl, borders the area to the west and Mercia Mudstone (formerly Keuper Marl) underlies the Trent and Belvoir Vales to the east. The Sherwood Sandstone is highly permeable and is a reasonally important aquifer containing vast resources of potable groundwater which are extracted by numerous water wells in the area. 74

Extensive woodland clearance had already occurred by the medieval period, although woodland remained abundant on the Mercia Mudstone east of the area. Through the Middle Ages, Sherwood Forest was probably composed primarily of open heathlands and waste with scattered blocks of woodland. Woodland cover increased in the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of the development of landscape parks, timber production, game management and fuel supply needs. The development of landscape parks was particularly significant around the many large houses, parks and estates lying on the agriculturally unproductive sandy soils, such as those of the Dukeries. The sandy soils of the Sherwood Sandstone have historically been poorly suited to agriculture, being low in nutrients and prone to parching. Many marginally viable farms were abandoned at times of economic hardship (such as in the early 20th century) and reverted to heathland and secondary acid scrub-woodland. The soils could not support high quality pasture and the most fertile areas were therefore put to arable production and, periodically, fodder crops. Modern farming methods have overcome many of

distinctive settlement in the heaths landscape, being built in an area of former waste and now developed into a sizeable commuter village. It is characterised by large houses set in well-wooded gardens with a strong heathy character.

these problems, however, allowing more widespread cultivation and better yields from crops such as barley and wheat.


The coal industry has played a significant role in the development of the area especially in the south and west. Deep coal mines were sunk in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a number of pits being established near existing villages away from the main centres of population. This led to the expansion of the villages and nearby towns, and the creation of new mining villages. The coal industry has declined in the latter half of this century, leaving behind a legacy of former colliery sites and spoil tips. A dense network of railways developed to serve the coal industry, most of which are now disused. The Chesterfield Canal, which links the 19th century industrial centres with the river Trent, crosses the region between Worksop and Retford. The Sherwood landscape is associated with the Pilgrim Fathers and most famously with the legend of Robin Hood. The association with Lord Byron and his family home at Newstead, however, has more substance:

Sherwood’s woodland is distinguished by large blocks of conifer planting and oak-birch broadleaves. Here, at Clipstone, pithead reclamation will be planted, extending the wooded area.

In the Dukeries there are a few nucleated estate villages, such as Perlethorpe and Hardwick, but the main settlements are isolated farmsteads. Colliery villages are virtually absent from this area although there are large country houses with parkland estates. Notable examples include Welbeck Abbey, Thoresby Hall, Worksop Manor and Clumber Park.


‘Through thy battlements Newstead, the hollow winds whistle: Thou, the hall of my Fathers art gone to decay; In thy once smiling garden, the hemlock and thistle Have choak’d up the rose which late bloom’d in the way’.

Older buildings are generally local sandstone and limestone with pantile roofs. Former rural villages, such as Edwinstowe, have been extended by 20th century red brick housing.

Buildings and Settlement

There is a variety of traditional building materials in the area: red brick and pantiles are frequent in the east, limestone in the west and sandstone elsewhere. Settlement on the Sherwood heaths takes the form of scattered villages and farmsteads. These were originally small farming settlements but many have expanded this century to become mining villages. Extensive colliery settlements also occur around villages such as Calverton, Bilsthorpe, Edwinstowe and Rainworth. Ravenshead is a

In the north there is a dispersed pattern of scattered villages, hamlets and isolated farmsteads. Small parklands surrounding substantial country houses are a significant historic feature, including Babworth Park, Hodsock Priory, Osberton Hall, Ranby Hall, Hermiston Hall and Serlby Hall. Industrialised urban edge influences of larger commuter settlements extend into the northern parts of the area. Land Cover

Most of the land is in agricultural use and a substantial part is in arable production producing cereals such as barley and wheat, with root crops such as sugar beet and potatoes as break crops. Livestock-rearing is also widespread particularly intensive pig and poultry rearing. Pasture is uncommon, although there are some local areas of sheep rearing. The farmland of the sandy soils is almost entirely arable, lying within large rectilinear fields divided by low hedges with few hedgerow trees. Woodland is most abundant on the heaths and probably now covers a greater area than at any time since the Norman Conquest. Most is secondary woodland. Large-scale planting of conifers occurred in the first half of the 20th century and many smaller woods were amalgamated and expanded. Corsican and Scots pine are now the dominant conifer species in these woods which often have mixed broadleaved edges. 75

The area between the Maun valley and Worksop is the most densely wooded and contains the remnants of the woodlands of Sherwood Forest as well as the emparked lands of the Dukeries and many more recent plantations. The least wooded area lies between Worksop and Retford and has small or medium-sized woodlands and plantations. The main ancient woodlands are the large remnants of Sherwood Forest and woodlands around Newstead Abbey, with their associated heathland and acid grassland areas. Budby Forest represents the largest area of heather-dominated heath. The Dukeries have a much greater extent of parkland, much of it retained as permanent pasture. The arable land tends to be in medium- to large-sized fields defined by broadleaved woodland edges although there are also some large rectilinear enclosures. Some improved pasture also occurs particularly near the estate villages. In the north, the land is dominated by arable land in regular, medium to large fields of rectilinear pattern, divided by low hawthorn hedges. There are many small- to medium-sized woodlands. Woodland cover is generally rather less than elsewhere in the area and tends to greater diversity. It includes species such as ash, oak, birch, sweet chestnut, wych elm, beech, alder and willows. Heathland influences are relatively minor. The Changing Countryside ●


High inputs of fertiliser, cultivation and irrigation are required to maintain viable agricultural production. They give rise to soil deterioration (through panning) and loss (through wind-erosion) in some areas. There are also concerns over nitrates entering the aquifer. The demise of the coal industry has left behind many colliery sites, pitheads and spoil heaps. Mining settlements often have rather ragged edges with an urban fringe character.

There has been a shift in emphasis from conifer to broadleaved plantations.

Hedges have been lost or over-cut and reduced in height in some areas, particularly on the more intensive arable land.

There is pressure for the expansion of sandstone quarries to meet demand for aggregates.

The upgrading of the A1 and new bypasses in the south of the area are likely to have impacts on the landscape.

Villages within easy reach of Nottingham and the larger western towns have been strongly influenced by recent residential development.

Shaping the Future ●

In the south and central parts of the area the Greenwood Community Forest will be a focus for landscape, amenity and wildlife enhancement.

The agricultural land is not of the highest quality and, if EU and UK policies make arable more marginal, there are opportunities to create more diverse landscapes including acid pasture and heathland.

Pit heaps and other coal-mining features can be integrated with the rolling landforms of Sherwood and heathlands and woodlands can be created.

The trend for conversion of conifer woodlands to mixed broadleaved woodland with areas of heathland can be developed to enhance visual and wildlife interest.

Many areas of land such as roadside verges, reclaimed colliery land and old sandstone quarries are suitable for the development of new heathlands.

The conversion of arable fields to pasture within parkland should be considered.

There are opportunities to restore hedges and hedgerow trees where they have traditionally been significant features in the landscape.

Care in planning residential development in and around settlements would retain traditional layouts and materials. Opportunities should be taken to screen the hard edge of development from the open countryside. Selected References

Nottinghamshire County Council, (1995) Nottinghamshire Countryside Appraisal/Strategy: Draft. Glossary

holts: woods or copses podzolised: soil in which the bases of the upper parts have been leached out and deposited lower down


Smaller woodlands of native broadleaved and mixed woodlands are also common with the main trees being oak and birch.

Around Rainworth, the area is dominated by arable production with large open fields, divided by low, gappy hedges, few trees and dry valleys.

Sherwood Nottinghamshire Character Area  

Background to the Sherwood Forest Area Landscape