Newark on Trent, Lincoln and Sherwood

18-25 June – Newark on Trent – We were privileged to stay with friends we met on a cycling tour of the Danube back in 2017. Heather and Phillip very kindly offered to act as our hosts in Newark, and later, in their beautiful cottage in the Lake District. It has been the absolute highlight of our trip, not only enjoying their wonderful company, but getting an amazing tour of the surrounding Lincoln district and the Lake District. Most of all, we loved the opportunity to get a glimpse of life in England, a far different experience than being a tourist flitting from place to place. Their lovely house was spacious by any standards, but like an entire hotel to us after living in tiny apartments for a couple of months. Best of all, they had a large rear yard with a beautiful garden, so we had a sense of space that we have missed.

Newark on Trent – Newark is a delightful town, big enough to have most things one needs on a day to day basis, but small enough to make moving around easy. It was a short and picturesque walk into the centre from the house and a relaxing stroll around with many fine Georgian and Victorian buildings and even a couple of Elizabethan buildings. The town was one of the last hold-outs for King Charles against Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. When the Royalist eventually surrendered, the castle was destroyed. The ruins dominate the riverside entry into the town and were preserved as part of a park in the late 19th Century, forming an attractive feature of the town. We spent some time looking out from the ruins of the castle over the River Trent, watching a long canal boat negotiate the lock.

Newark Castle

The river was once the main source of income for the town, forming part of an important transport hub. Canal boat carried all sorts of goods and the town had a barley malting business. Phillip gave us a very insightful tour of the old canal areas and its history, something we would not have had without the knowledge of a local who has so much knowledge of heritage architecture. It would be interesting to do a canal holiday one day.

The Newark Canal and Locks

On out first evening in Newark, Phillip and Heather drove us out along the river to Fiskerton, a place that is good for a walk, but the heavens opened, so we consoled ourselves with a drink at the Bromley at Fiskerton Pub. The pubs in England just ooze character. We love them.

Newark has a central market a few times a week, with clothing stalls, some quality fresh fruit and veg, a marvellous bread stall and sometimes, a fish vendor. We did avail ourselves of the fish vendor to buy a couple of fillets of very fresh cod. Shopping in a market may not always be as cheap as a supermarket but it is a much more personal experience and very satisfying.

Newark Market

The Dukeries and Sherwood Forest – The Dukeries is an area of Nottinghamshire which encompasses Sherwood Forest and contained the seats of four dukes (Norfolk, Kingston, Portland and Newcastle). In the past, all four had large estates and ducal manors in the area, but as the cost of maintaining such properties rose, and the prospect of crippling death duties hung over them, the properties were sold or broken up and, in some cases, the manor houses partially destroyed. We visited Clumber House, admiring the remaining buildings, now owned by the National Trust.

Some of the semi-ruined manors of the Dukeries

Sherwood Forest itself is just a fraction of its former glory, but has some very beautiful stands of forest and some very fine ancient oaks. It is easy to see why men wearing green would be all but invisible a hiding in the thick canopy. We admired the magnificent Major Oak, thought to be somewhere between 800 and 1000 years old. Although links to Robin Hood are claimed, its age is such that it would have been a relatively insignificant tree in 1200 AD.

Walking in Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak

Lincoln and Bell Ringing – Phillip and Heather are bell ringers. The term for me had always conjured up images of friars tugging on ropes, making the church bell clang its single note. How wrong could I be. Bell Ringing proved to be a musical artform in its own right, highly mathematical and very complex. They have done it all their adult life, and rung the bells in many locations across Britain and beyond. The art form is mostly confined to Britain and British descendant countries, the European churches tending to use a keyboard approach to ringing clusters of bells. The English method creates a form of bell music which rather than having a melody, is a series of mathematical sequences. It is a great deal more complex than it appears.

Phillip and Heather took us to Lincoln, where they had a bell ringing practice session scheduled for the evening. We headed off in the early afternoon, giving ourselves time to explore the amazing city before going to the cathedral. The castle and cathedral are built on top of a limestone outcrop, making for a very steep climb. Before heading up, we strolled around the lower parts of the city, surrounding the River Witham. The University is a big feature of the city, occupying a big part of the southern bank of the river. Outside the rail station, we came across an interesting statue of George Boole, the mathematician who formulated Boolean Law, and Boolean Logic, and therefore the father of modern computer logic and programming.

A wonderful old bridge crosses the river and is known as the High Bridge. Built of stone in 1160, it is believed to be one of the oldest surviving stone bridges in England. It has some Elizabethan buildings on top, dating from 1540. The effect from both the river and the road is stunning. We explored the old Corn Exchange building, quite amazing upstairs and filled with portraits of key figures from the past.

Steep Hill at left, the High Bridge from the road and from the canal

The aptly named Steep Hill lead us upwards to the castle and cathedral. Steep it was, requiring a couple of breaks along the way. A daily traverse of this cobbled street would certainly either strengthen or kill the average person. Luckily, we survived. The castle was built in the 11th Century by William the Conqueror, as so many were. It has a large wall that has been kept intact as the castle has been repurposed over the years, including a long stint as a prison. Today, it largely serves as a museum and holds, amongst other things, a copy of the Magna Carta. We walked the perimeter via the top of the walls, climbing the square Observatory Tower to get a good view of the cathedral and Christine, who sat down below. The castle wall walk is an excellent way of seeing the layout of the city, a very beautiful place filled with amazing old buildings.

Lincoln Castle walls and view from the tower

From the castle, we headed for the cathedral. It is an imposing structure, dating from as early as 1072. In 1377 it was the World’s tallest structure, a title it held until 1548 when the main spire tumbled. We went inside, quietly and reverently, there being a service in progress. At one point, we were approached by a member of the clergy, but Phillip played the ‘volunteer’ card and we were allowed to continue our exploration. We were well removed from the actual service, the cathedral’s volume allowing us to keep to our own space, yet the wonderful tones of the choir filled the building as we wandered. It was amazing. We wandered through to the cloisters and sat for a while, soaking up the beauty of the building. Religious or not, the great cathedrals of Europe hold so much history that cannot be denied and cannot fail to affect even the most agnostic visitor. At the same time, I am often saddened to think of the enormous human effort and expense, both physical and emotional, that went into the construction of the cathedrals in medieval times.

From the cathedral, we headed for a spot of dinner, before Heather and Phillip had to return for their bell ringing practice session. One of the joys of English towns is the profusion of good, relatively cheap eateries with an interesting menu. It is rare we have a failure and on this occasion, we struck gold.

Our stomachs full, we walked back down the Steep Hill, possibly harder walking down that going up, to collect the car and drive back up to the cathedral to meet up with the other bell ringers. The climb up the spire tested Christine’s knees, already suffering after the climb up Steep Hill and the castle wall walk. She negotiated the tight stone spiral staircase in her own special way and we settled into the chamber, filled with ropes feeding through the high ceiling. We were high up, but still a long way off the actual bells themselves.

We were introduced to the other ringers, a number of whom have been to Perth and rung the Swan Bells, which are very highly regarded in the bell ringing community. As they went through their routines, we did our best to stay out of the way and listen to the musical peals of the 10 bells high above us. Phillip showed us out onto a balcony, where the ringing could be better appreciated. This was the balcony that had been used only weeks earlier for the proclamation of King Charles III. As the bells rung out, we looked down to see the people below, admiring the sound that flowed out and around the town. I followed one ringer up another steep spiral to a point above the bells (leaving Christine behind) to watch the bells in action, as they turned on their full circle mounts. It was easier to appreciate the skill of the ringers when watching the bells turn, the mathematical precision behind the routine being easy to see. It was quite a special experience, one that few people get to experience.

With the bell ringing practice done, the group headed off to a pub for a bit of cheer. Phillip and Heather count the socialisation aspect one of the best things about bell ringing. They can find a collegiate group anywhere in the World and are always welcomed. It was a very happy group and we enjoyed a session chatting about Australia and our travels.

Nottingham and The Women’s Ashes – We had a ticket booked to day two of the five day women’s test match between Australia and England at Trent Bridge. We bought the tickets as a consolation prize after failing to secure tickets to the men’s test at Edgbaston but in the end fate did us a favour.

We caught a train from Newark to Nottingham and we walked to the ground. Trent Bridge Cricket Ground is one of the prettiest we have seen, rivalling the old WACA. With a small capacity of 17,500 it would not be a great place to watch a men’s Test but the crowd of around 5000 for the Women’s game was big enough to create an atmosphere and small enough to make seating easy and buying food possible. We had seats booked, but it was unnecessary. We used our booked seats for most of the day, before the sun caught up with us and we moved to shade.

Trent Bridge Cricket Ground

The cricket was excellent. The standard of fielding from both teams was very high and there were some wonderful batting displays. The fast bowling may lack the power and speed of the men but the spin bowling made up for it. We all came away thrilled with the day’s cricket, especially since the match was pretty evenly balanced, satisfying both Heather and Phillip and us. It set us up to follow the rest of the match with a keen interest. It is disappointing to note that there is no free to air telecast of cricket in Britain. This has led to a loss of interest and a great many people we came across say they used to follow cricket but don’t really bother anymore. What possesses a sporting code to be so short sighted as to take a short-term profit over the long term benefit to the game? Australians beware!

Summary – Memories of our time in Newark will stay with us for ever, the wonderful company, the amazing house with its huge amount of space, the gardens, and the easy access to a picturesque town. Thank you so much Phillip and Heather. Hope to see you in Australia sometime soon.



  1. The bell ringing must have been amazing. Glad you got some good cricket viewing in.

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