Rare Write Up and "Quiz"

I used to do this a few years ago and it was popular then so I thought I’d give it another go.

Somewhere in the following write up of today’s Muni ride in Sherwood Pines are some deliberate mistakes. These are matters of general knowledge: you should either know the facts or should be able to find out with minimal Googling. The mistakes are nothing to do with unicycling.

Please do not post the answers in a reply as it spoils it for others. PM me with your answers, I will reply individually, and in a few days I’ll post the answers and the winners.

Remember: the mistakes general knowledge, not maths, or grammar, or the directions I turned, or matters of opinion or politics. To give you an idea, in a previous write up I mentioned the oldest Christian cross in England, erected in 100 BC.

I’m just turning 58, and I’ve been riding a lot less recently in the last few years due to other hobbies and demands on my time. I know I’m putting on a bit of weight and losing fitness, and lockdown hasn’t helped. My wife says it’s just anno domini which means “a year of eating Domino’s pizza.”

With a day to myself, and too much gusty wind for sailing or road riding, I made a rare trip to Sherwood Pines today. This is an area of Sherwood Forest that is open to the public, and is criss crossed with wide tracks and narrow winding mountain bike trails.

As the name suggests, Sherwood Pines is mainly pine trees, although it is part of the old Sherwood Forest which historically was largely oak and beech. Indeed, one of Britain’s oldest trees, the Major Oak is only a few miles away in another stretch of the forest. The Major Oak is famous as the hiding place of the young prince Charles, later Charles II, as he was hunted by Parliamentary forces, giving the name to countless English pubs called The Royal Oak.

I’m off work on holiday, and I hoped that Sherwood Pines would be quiet on a damp November Tuesday during lockdown. However, I arrived to find the car park fairly full, with families and small groups of people out enjoying the countryside.

My chosen mount for the day was my KH29, with 150 mm cranks, a Rubena Kratos 2.25" tyre, and no brake. This is the unicycle I ride least often these days. I adjusted the seat down an inch, mounted first time and set off down a familiar wide track wanting to get away from the crowds before someone shouted something annoying.

For the first half mile or so, I simply span along, dialling into the balance of the 29 after my recent long rides on the KH36. It was flat at first, then there was a bit of a descent, followed by a gradual climb, just enough to get the blood pumping round.

Another descent took me down to a junction where I turned right, choosing to ignore the “red route” more or less dead ahead. There is a steep section which I can easily ride in the dry on the 24, but the combination of a slightly bigger wheel, and recent rain led me to leave it a bit longer before venturing onto the difficult stuff.

Eventually I found what I was looking for: a familiar long and moderate climb with gravel, sand, and packed mud, interrupted by occasional tree roots. I remember when it was an achievement to make it up this hill “in one” on the 24. Today on the 29 I pace myself and it only takes a reasonable amount of concentration. Soon I am at the top, and there to my right is a pond I remember from earlier visits. (This is not a deliberate mistake. There really is a pond at the top of the hill.)

After the pond, the track becomes narrower and muddier, but I am starting to get into my rhythm now and it is easy going, especially as there is a slight descent. Soon, I pop out onto a wider track and turn right. So far, I have not seen any other cyclists since I was out of sight of the car park. The forest is quiet.

A “red route” (“experienced cyclists only”) crosses here. If I turned right here, I would double back, cross the long gravel and sand ascent, and come out on the steep bit I chose to avoid earlier. I turn left, where there is a decent distance of winding track with generally gradual gradients, up and down.

With no one to challenge me for “right of way” I spin along merrily. The route is built for easy mountain biking, with berms and small drops. The rhythm of a unicycle is different. I can’t “get big air” off the small drops, and I don’t really need the berms. However, I make the most of it, choosing the most difficult line when there is a choice.

After a few minutes of this, the red route spits me out onto a wide track where I turn right. For the next quarter of an hour, I weave my way along half-remembered routes, combining wide and fast sections of crushed ballast track with slower and more interesting sections of mud and sand.

Most of my “muni” has been more by way of “cross country” and I am far more used to mud, sand and gravel than rocks or manmade obstacles. Now, I am surprised to find various humps and jumps that have been built since I last came this way" piles of rocks bound together with clay and fine grit. The tyre, which I always keep quite firm, reacts differently to this sort of surface than it does to a more yielding one such as compacted soil.

I manage to ride each of the obstacles by timing my little rush at the face, slowing to assess the steepness of the descent on the other side, and flowing as much as I am able to. This is the sort of riding that would probably look good to a spectator but I find it disapointingly easy.

The route I am taking generally descends until I reach what I know is one of the lowest points in Sherwood Pines. I know various challenging routes from here but I decide to ignore them and take a wide, straight, and fairly steep ascent to gain some gravity karma.

Minutes later, I turn left onto a long winding descent with occasional uphills. To my right, the familiar pines have given way to beech trees: a taste of what Sherwood Forest may have been like. I wonder idly whether this was the very stand of beech trees where Robin Hood made his famous “We shall fight them under the beeches” speech to his merry men when he knew the Sheriff of Nottingham was leading his forces to attack.

To my surprise, I notice a mountain bike in the distance coming towards me. This is the first bike I have seen for a couple of miles. I am about to do a short climb and the path here is very narrow, so I ride cautiously, timing it so that there is a smooth bit just to the side of the trail for me to idle on as he passes without even a nod of acknowledgement or a word of thanks. He has 2 wheels and maybe 27 gears but seems blind to the irony of having a unicyclist swerve off piste to allow him to stick to the main path.

Another T junction, another decision. I turn right and climb again, gaining a few metres of elevation. Then a couple more junctions, and I find myself on a familiar track, but going in the opposite direction to usual.

Ahead of me is a steep little hill with many exposed tree roots. It has become more difficult over the years and last time I was here I failed to ride up it. Today, I am planning to ride down it. I slow to survey my route, lose concentration for a moment and UPD: my first dismount of the ride so far. Time to sit on a tree stump and catch my breath and sip some water. I also eat into my meagre rations: a single easy peeler that I put in my pocket before leaving home.

Thus restored, I take the trickiest route down the hill, bouncing and dropping over the roots, then I swerve off the track and take an unofficial cut through onto the mud road that bisects this part of the forest. This leads under a disused railway bridge, daubed with familiar graffiti (including a poem to rude to write here). I am disappointed to see that the cast iron plaque has been removed since my last visit. It commemorated the opening of the bridge by King James I (James V of Scotland) so I hope it is in a museum somewhere, rather than melted for scrap.

I ride under the bridge and come out near what I used to call the Black Lagoon. This was once a muddy, oily and desolate pool full of abandoned cars and other detritus. The lagoon has long been filled in, and the authorities have dug deep ditches to stop the weekend rednecks and their jeeps driving off the track into the woods. However, the ditches are nearly full of household waste, illegally dumped, and the place is a mess, and there are tell tale tracks of trail bikes and quads that have made it across.

To my left is a sandy gully used by the rednecks in their 4x4s. I certainly can’t ride up it. I carry the unicycle to the top, remount and ride back down. Again, it’s the sort of thing that probably looks more difficult than it is. The biggest problem is how to avoid scratching my face on the overhanging briars.

I climb back up again, and then carry the unicycle up another steep and slippery bank onto what used to be a railway embankment. The surface is badly subsided, with muddy puddles every few yards. I’ve ridden along this many times and it is fun swooping down and up the hollows the subsidence has caused. There are occasional tricky bits where the side of the embankment has fallen away, and care is needed to ride over the narrow strip that is left.

At the end is a fairly step sandy descent. The embankment just stops here. I can only assume it was a siding used for loading. I know the railway here was used to carry sand and gravel from the nearby quarry. I ride down the descent “in one”. It is a bit trickier than the previous one. I carry the uni part way back up so it can pose for a photo.

From here, it’s a short ride, then a scramble on foot down onto the tarmac surface of what used to be a railway line but is now a cycle route. A few hundred yards of that is more than boring enough for me and I take the first opportunity to cut off down a side route and back into the forest. I take sections of “red route” (Get a grip, mountain bikers! I could ride most of this easily on my fixed gear road bike) and I head generally back towards the car park.

Apart from the occasional man-made jumps, most of the forest has a muddy floor. However, there are occasional outcrops of Bunter sandstone. I stop next to one of these for what I think (at the time!) will be my last rest and drinks break of the ride. Sherwood Pines is a few miles outside Nottingham where the castle famously sits on Castle Rock, a massive outcrop of Bunter sandstone. Less well known is that much of the county lies above a huge aquifer of the same stone, discovered by the Victorian geologist and engineer and gourmand, William “Billy” Bunter who went to the nearby Greyfriars School.

Refreshed, I remount, and a few hundred yards later I pass a small group of cyclists. No comments from them, just a friendly nod. I smile back and turn off onto one more section of red route, which climbs more steeply and is genuinely challenging on one wheel. I manage two consecutive sections without a fall then come out onto a smooth level surface at the top and UPD for no reason. The two cyclists arrive a minute or two later and we exchange small talk. I let them set off ahead of me.

The last meaningful obstacle of the day, apart from the gauntlet of crowds near the carpark, is what I used to refer to as Root Hill: a long and gradual climb between pines, with many exposed routes. It used to be one of those 90% hills: I would make it up without a UPD 9 times out of 10. However, forestry vehicles have driven across it leaving deep wheel ruts. I fail badly the first time, and walk back to the bottom and rest for a few minutes before giving it another try. I UPD at exactly the same spot. I’m now too tired to put much effort in, and I take the easiest route back to the car.

I was only out for under 2 hours, but this was one of the most physically demanding rides I’ve done for some years. Ever since I married and moved out to Lincolnshire, most of my riding has been on roads and easy far tracks.

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I did not do enough research to note any deliberate mistakes but I do wonder if the reason you did not see Robin Hood was because this local creature ate him. I don’t know……


Didn’t know the Gruffalo comes from those woods :slight_smile:

Well, things have changed! I used to get a dozen entries with some right and wrong answers and plenty of banter. I’ve received only one entry this time, @saskatchewanian. Here are the answers:

More of a play on words than a “deliberate mistake” but anno domini is “year of our Lord” and is often used a euphemism for the effects of advancing age.

Mixing two famous stories here. The Major Oak is really one of Britain’s oldest/largest oak trees. It is hollow, and is popularly associated with being a hideout for Robin Hood. However, if Robin Hood really existed, the Major Oak would have been a young tree of normal size at the time.

The story of Charles and the Royal Oak, and the pubs named after the incident, is associated with different oak tree.

There is no such speech in the stories of Robin Hood. Centuries later, Winston Churchill made his “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech.

@saskatchewanian did PM me to pointed these out. King James I of England was King James VI of Scotland and died in 1625. Railways (and therefore railway bridges) only came into existence about 200 years later in the 1800s.

Nottingham really does have aquifers of bunter sandstone, but it is not named after Billy Bunter of Greyfriars, who was a fictional character: an overweight and greedy boy. He appeared in various books, comics and TV series.

So, by default for being the only entrant, and spotting the King James discrepancy, the winner is @saskatchewanian

@saskatchewanian Congratulation!!!

I wanted to say with your Major Oak, that it could also already be a big oak in the time of Robin Hood, but after some research on Google, oaks generally live up to 300 years, but in some US national park there is one that is between 800 and 1500 years. Doubtful that that kind of oak would grow in the UK. Also since RH lived between 12th and 13th century, will make this quite an old oak already, so ur prolly right that it couldn’t have been a big oak in his age.

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As it stands today, artificially supported with wooden props, chains, ropes and so on, it is about big enough inside to be a rather conspicuous hideout for a handful of very close friends with good personal hygiene.

It is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old. The earliest written references to Robin Hood go back about 760 years. If he existed at all, the tree would have been a “mere” couple of hundred years old, give or take. At that age, it would have been a fairly average mature oak during his lifetime.

In double checking the dates today I just read the tree has been vandalised this year.

vandalised by the police, because too many people were hugging closely together, which goes against COVID regulations. :smiley:

Woo HOo, I don’t think I’ve won before. :slight_smile:

On the vandalization of the Major Oak I think the word vandalization is wrong. I went to find an article referring to it and it sounds more like unintentional damage. Not intending to do something when you should know better doesn’t change the fact that people should be responsible for their actions, but I was afraid when I read that vandals removed three feet of bark that perhaps they girdled the tree causing major damage.

I like old trees.

It’s fenced off. No one should be close enough to touch the tree. You can’t accidentally cross a fence and accidentally remove a big patch of bark.

There are several other hollow oaks nearby for those who want to play Robin Hood.

That said, when I was a kid in the late 60s/early 70s, you could go into the Major Oak without restrictions. You could also wander freely between the stones at Stonehenge and touch them. Different times.