Robin Hood Day
"Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves, Calling as he used to call, faint and far away, In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day." ~ Sherwood, Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)
According to early ballads, the setting of Robin Hood's adventures was not actually Sherwood Forest. It was Barnsdale Forest, in South Yorkshire, England. Over time, the legend became more closely associated with Sherwood, a forest lying to the north of the city of Nottingham and belonging to the king, whose sheriff was Robin’s great enemy. The laws governing the forest were tightened following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and included extreme penalties for cutting down trees or hunting the king’s deer. The locals were being shut out of prime hunting ground, which led to the unpopularity of the laws. Because the lands were protected from clear-cutting, the woods remained a wild place, making it the perfect setting where outlaws could hide and tales of his adventures could be spun.
Amongst other claimants, Nottinghamshire is generally thought to have been the likely home of the outlaw who inspired the legend of Robin Hood, "who stole from the rich to give to the poor." Neighbouring counties Yorkshire and Leicestershire also claim historical links to Robin and his Merry Men.
Sherwood Forest, a royal forest in Nottinghamshire, is home to the famous Major Oak, which, according to local folklore, was Robin Hood's principal hideout and shelter where he and his Merry Men slept. The English oak tree (Quercus robur) is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old and, since the Victorian era, its limbs have been partially supported by an elaborate system of scaffolding. It is one of nearly 997 ancient oaks within the Sherwood Forest country park and yield up to 150,000 acorns!
This tartan, by designer Carol A.L. Martin, illustrates the legendary forest in its rich autumn colours.
For more on the famous Major Oak tree, click the painting by Edmund George Warren, of Robin and his Merry Men underneath the giant oak, 1859.