Miner2Major is a Landscape Partnership scheme supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It encourages local communities to get involved in projects that celebrate the diverse wildlife, important habitats and rich heritage of Sherwood Forest.

Miner2Major focuses on the heart of the Sherwood Forest area from Nottingham to Ollerton, and Mansfield to Rufford Abbey, an area that has a distinctive landscape character, which is recognised and valued by local people, as well as visitors from around the world.

Sherwood Forest is famous for being the home of Robin Hood and his merry band, living deep in the impenetrable medieval forest. But was Sherwood Forest always like this? Snails found by archaeologists excavating a 2,000-year-old Roman well, tell a very different story.

In the 1970s, crop marks were identified in an aerial photo in the area now known as Wild Goose Cottage, at Lound. The crop marks revealed evidence of two Iron Age Huts and three Romano British sub-rectangular enclosures.

Photograph of the excavated well at Wild Goose CottageAerial photograph of Wild Goose Cottage

When the site was being cleared for mining in 1992, a well was discovered. The one-metre square well, lined with oak planks, was filled with household waste and soil (a common practice once wells are abandoned). Archaeologists collected soil samples from the well for paleoenvironmental analysis. The samples contained flora and fauna that lived in the well while it was operational, and soils from the surrounding area that were used to backfill it.

By sieving through these samples and extracting organic matter under the microscope, 163 species of seeds, pollen, and insects were identified. What did this evidence reveal? Firstly, the snail species present are known to prefer open habitats to dense forests. Secondly, pollens from cereals indicate open damp grasslands in the floodplain, while other species indicated drier, sandier pastures with hedged fields to the west. Finally, seeds associated with grazing animals and dung living insects suggest the keeping of livestock. This evidence enabled archaeologists to build a profile of an open, grazed landscape during the Roman times, more like today than the dense medieval forest.

The post-Roman development of Sherwood Forest is well documented. It was created as a royal hunting forest after the Norman Invasion of 1066. By the 1200’s it covered 100,000 acres. Medieval forests were carefully managed for their wood resources, but by the time of the Civil War, the forest was lacking proper management and in decline. Large areas were gifted to local aristocrats, forming the ‘Dukeries’. They profited from the sale of timber to the navy and for construction purposes. Deforestation continued with the Industrial Revolution and the two world wars. By the 1950s, the area was no longer economically viable. Forestry operations were abandoned, and wild woods began to flourish again. In 1954 Birklands was designated a site of Special Scientific Interest, leading to the creation of Sherwood Forest Country Park, a heritage site of international significance, popular for recreation and tourism.

Human activity has transformed Sherwood Forest over the centuries. Using paleoenvironmental data, archaeology, and historical records, we can develop an understanding of the evolving relationship between people and Sherwood Forest, through time.

Find out more using the links below:

Wild Goose Cottage Monument

Paleoenvironmental Sampling

The history of Sherwood Forest

Recommended additional reading:

'Caught in a trap: landscape and climate implications of the insect fauna from a Roman well in Sherwood Forest'. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 10:125–140. Paul C. Buckland & Philip I. Buckland & Eva Panagiotakopulu. 2018.

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Nottinghamshire County Council and Forestry England have worked together to help shed more light on the archaeology buried within Sherwood Pines. A crew of volunteers assembled from Operation Nightingale and Forestry England have excavated three archaeological targets within the WWI training trenches within the forest. These features were selected over the course of several months, where specialists consulted the HER, conducted thorough archival research, and carefully studied the LiDAR survey data in the area (more information can be found here: The Veiled Landscape: Sherwood Lidar Project - Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record) . Soil samples were collected on site and processed to help us understand the environment of the past, and a metal detector and unexploded ordnance officer were also on site to lead in the discovery of a number of fascinating finds (and help keep us safe while doing so!)

Photograph of Sherwood Pines Excavation

A huge thanks goes out to the volunteers who braved the very wet conditions to help us better understand this important relic landscape and improve the management of the WWI trench network within the Sherwood Pines.

Photograph of a group excavating Sherwood Pines

To find out more about the Clipstone Camp and the effects of WWI in Nottinghamshire:

Check out some more photographs from the excavation below:

Photograph of a couple of people on a break at Sherwood Pines Photograph of a man showing a find from Sherwood Pines 

Photograph of a couple of people excavating Sherwood Pines Photograph of a couple of people having a break from excavating Sherwood Pines 

Photograph of a group excavating Sherwood Pines

Delivered as part of the Miner2Major Landscape Partnership scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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‘This road was built by the Romans, see how straight it is!’

A phrase said by many-a-parent to their kids on long road trips as an attempt delay the inevitable ‘are we nearly there yet’ question. If you are anything like me, you’d peer out of the car window in wonder, watching the hedgerows and signposts swoosh past, trying to imagine instead a scene filled with Roman soldiers in bright lorica segmentata armour and banners fluttering in the breeze.

Some of these great highways built by the Romans became so embedded in our later infrastructure that they are major highways nearly 2000 years later. The A46 Fosse Way, which runs askew through Nottinghamshire from Gallows Nooking in the east to Broughton Lodge in the south, is one such road. Laid and re-laid, tweaked, and re-routed over the centuries to the point where in places the modern route has been altered entirely to avoid and protect Roman towns, like Margidunum.

When you see a long straight road on a map you may wonder ‘was that built by the Romans?', but how do we find out if that was the case? For some roads it is pretty straightforward. Many of our well-known Roman roads, like the Fosse Way and the road from Lindum (Lincoln) to Danum (Doncaster), are detailed in the Roman versions of road maps called ‘itineraries’. These aren’t maps in the same way we imagine them, but rather lists of places you will find along certain roads and the distance between them. This is how we can know the names of some of the deserted towns like Segelocum (Littleborough) and Crococalana (Brough).

Map of the Roman road stretching from Kirklington to Bilsthorpe

Above: Map of the Roman road stretching from Bilsthorpe to Kirklington.

But the Romans built more roads than we have itineraries for, so how can we spot the rest?

The problem with identifying Roman roads is that they were built a long time ago and nearly 2000 years has since intervened. Some routes went out of use as soon as the army didn’t need them in the early years after invasion, others when the Roman infrastructure broke down as Rome abandoned the province. Others remained in-use as long-distance highways that didn’t necessarily link places where people lived but were useful for getting around. The A46 in Nottinghamshire is a good example of this. In some cases a Roman town persisted, such as Lincoln, and the Roman roads became embedded in the later settlement structure.

People try to spot Roman roads by looking for straight ones, but they aren’t all ruler-straight, especially after 2000 years. The Romans were efficient with their road building, but not stupid, and would squiggle to avoid some things and to course-correct. If the road survived, with only sporadic local maintenance, it might wander across the landscape as it ebbed and flowed with use, much like the meandering of a river.

There are plenty of red-herrings too! Enclosure of common land, following the 1750 enclosure acts, led to the creation of new roads which were also straight and broad and often with many boundaries and roads at right-angles to them. So, there are subtle clues you have to look for to decide whether you’re likely looking at a Roman road or an enclosure one.

Without digging and finding the Roman road surface, we have to go on the ‘balance of evidence’. Does it link places of significance in Roman times? Does it appear to pre-date the other boundaries in the area? Even where we know that we are looking at a Roman road such as the A46, it was very rare that the recent dualling work uncovered anything that looked like the original road surface.

The reality is that some routes that we use today may be very old indeed, while others exist only as the ghosts of trackways appearing as cropmarks in fields. For most of them their origins will remain elusive until we have more evidence that we can piece together.

Strawberry Hill is a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (NWT) nature reserve, and up until recently, records within the nature reserve and surrounding area were scarce, with no recorded archaeological work having been carried out on site before. The scarcity of records is likely a result of the extensive mineral extraction activities which were carried out before archaeological considerations were drawn into the planning process. There is a wealth of documentary evidence that indicates Strawberry Hill was once a significant landscape feature and way-marker.

Strawberry Hill has been a significant feature in the landscape since Medieval times and it appears, under different names, on numerous historic maps as well as Medieval perambulation documents. It sits on the historic boundary between the land of the abbots of Rufford and the land of the King’s manor of Mansfield. 

Recently, as part of the Miner 2 Major Veiled Landscape project, the area was subject to an archaeological survey, where NWT volunteers and a Nottinghamshire County Council archaeologist used lidar data to help guide the on-the-ground recording of previously unrecorded archaeological features. This survey enhanced our knowledge of the presence and significance of archaeological features and resources within the woodland.

LiDAR image showing earthworks within Strawberry Hill Nature Reserve

Above: LiDAR model showing earthworks within Strawberry Hill Nature reserve.

Several hollow ways survive within the woodland, one set of which is a well-used Medieval routeway that went out of use some time in the post-Medieval period. These are sections of deeply eroded ‘U’ shaped hollow ways that almost certainly represent a Medieval routeway between Mansfield and Bilsthorpe, which passes by Inkersall on the north side of the dam. This appears on the 1637 map of the Rufford Estate drawn by Bunting. Given the significance of the hill here in the landscape, historically it is possible that some of the other recorded hollow-ways may have significant age to them.

NWT volunteers and Nottinghamshire County Council archaeologist Emily Gillott standing in the contours of the Medieval hollow way

Above: Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust volunteers and Nottinghamshire County Council archaeologist Emily Gillott standing in the contours of the Medieval hollow way.

There is also a well-preserved set of practice trenches from army training activities from the earlier 20th century This is part of a wider landscape that is characteristic of this part of Nottinghamshire, as many of the large estates turned over some of their land to military usage.  Many classic features of the trench warfare system are apparent including the classic zig-zag plan and communication lines dug to connect parallel trench sets. 

You can explore these records and the lidar survey data by searching in the database for the records below:

You can learn more information about the Veiled Landscape Project and the application of lidar here: The Veiled Landscape: Sherwood Lidar Project - Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record

In 2015, a curious bronze object was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). The PAS is managed by the British Museum and records artefacts found by members of the public. In this case, it was a coin-like token around 2.7cm in diameter and weighing 30g and found in the hinterland of a Roman town in North Nottinghamshire. It is described as having "an erotic scene depicted in relief on one side. This involves two naked figures: a young man to the left and another party of indeterminate gender to the right", while the other side is blank. It resembles a type of Roman artefact that frequently gets called a ‘brothel token’, but has the more accurate name of ‘spintria’, and may actually have little to do with brothels.

Photo of the Roman weight found in Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire

Above: Roman weight found in Bassetlaw. Image rights holder: North Lincolnshire Museum. Image taken from: Portable Antiquities Scheme (finds.org.uk) (Record ID: NLM-45C09D).

Spintriae are found across the Roman Empire and though they are remarkably similar in style and themes wherever they are found, their exact function is still unknown. One of the more reasonable interpretations is that they were tokens that were given out in return for use of a locker in public bath houses, much like lockers at the swimming baths today. This is supported by frescoes on the walls of the Suburban Baths in Pompeii that show strikingly similar scenes. The public baths at any decent-sized town in Nottinghamshire, such as at Segelocum, would likely have featured similar imagery and perhaps a locker system that used tokens.

This find from Nottinghamshire is similar to the brothel tokens but is larger and has no numerals on the reverse, so it has been interpreted as possibly being a weight. Either way, it is a glimpse into the Roman views on sexuality in the province of Britannia.

Suitability of a sexual partner in Roman times doesn’t appear to have been based on gender, but rather on a complex set of largely unwritten social factors, such as social standing of the individuals and the nature of the companionship. It is difficult to apply modern concepts of sexual orientation to the context of Rome, and Latin had no equivalent words for ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ for example. But homosexual and bisexual themes feature frequently in literature and art, and on objects such as the token above. Indeed, perception of an individual’s masculinity or virility could be enhanced considerably depending on the range of relationships and sexual interactions he involved himself in.

As with so many aspects of history, we know much more about how the social framework for homosexuality related to men than to women (not surprising wherever record-making and writing is primarily the reserve of men). Famed Roman poet, Ovid, claimed that women never long for other women, romantically or sexually. However, charms and poetic graffiti written by women would suggest this is a long way from reality.

When we see the vibrant explicit frescoes in the baths of Pompeii, and the intriguing snippets of graffiti from the town’s streets, it is not hard to imagine some of the same scenes at towns like Margidunum and Segelocum in Nottinghamshire, and tokens such as the one above represent a direct link between the Roman heartland and Britannia.