Seeing the stars at night is no easy task when surrounded by the bright lights of the capital.
But just three hours from our north London home, there we were enjoying the celestial landscape from a luxury lodge in the forest – as well as air that was decidedly fresher than the A406.
Our accommodation for the weekend was Sherwood Hideaway, a woodland retreat nestled deep within Sherwood Forest, on the site of the Thoresby Estate.
We stayed in a rustic two-bedroom (our friends had a traditional three-bed) lodge with all mod-cons, including microwave, dishwasher, power shower, iPod docking station, log effect fire and central heating throughout – barbeque facilities and complimentary toiletries by Molton Brown.
The pièce de resistance was the private outdoor hot tub – we were in for an exceedingly comfortable stay.
The Sherwood Hideaway was named Holiday Village of the Year in the recent Nottinghamshire Tourism Awards and is a finalist in next year’s Visit England Awards for Excellence.
The lodges (some of which are dog-friendly) are all self-catered, so we made sure to bring up enough food for the evening.
As we heated up our dinner, the children played ball outside, all of us marvelling at the sense of space. Indeed, while the other cabins were occupied over the weekend, we barely saw anyone.
After a very good night’s sleep in our four-poster bed, we had a quick breakfast on the decking before setting off to the nearby Sherwood Visitor Centre, at Edwinstowe, 17 miles north of Nottingham, in the 450-acre country park.
There are different paths to follow, for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The legend of Robin Hood is, of course what Sherwood Forest – a royal hunting preserve in the 10th century and a tourist attraction since Victorian times – is best known for.
Robin and his band of ‘merry men’ are said to have robbed the rich to help the poor, hiding from the Sheriff of Nottingham in the forest’s famous oak trees.
We followed the red waymarked trail – the Birklands Ramble – walking among the leafy glades, pointing out old oak trees – of which there are nearly 1,000 – and birch trees (Birklands is the Viking word meaning ‘Birch Land’).
The 800-year-old famous Major Oak, the branches of which spread to over 28 metres, was voted England’s tree of the year in 2014.
Sherwood Forest Country Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve, so we couldn’t help but spot other interesting trees – some of which the children were able to play on and inside – fungus, including what looked decidedly like the bright red and white capped Fly Agaric, and other wildlife.
We were struck by how clean the area was – exactly as you would hope, but might not necessarily expect.
More than half a million people visit the forest every year and different events are held to inform the public about aspects of nature (a small fee is sometimes charged).
We had missed the Fungi Foray, in search of common and not-so-common specimens, but there was an upcoming Seed Hunt Sunday, with a ranger-led walk to collect acorns, with a view to taking them home to grow and then returning them as saplings in a couple of years for replanting in the wider Sherwood area.
Also planned is a woodland one-hour hawk walk through the forest with the opportunity to handle and fly a bird of prey while learning about how the birds survive in their natural habitat.
Other birds to look out for all year round include nuthatches, jays, woodpeckers and redstarts as well as other species such as invertebrates and spiders.
At the visitor centre, we watched a group of colourfully-dressed Rattlejag morris dancers, who dance to their own style developed after research material collected in East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, who were accompanied by other morris dancing groups.
For their ‘Day of Dance’, Rattlejag were celebrating their 15th anniversary, and the kids particularly enjoyed joining in with the refrain, ‘Poor old horse!’
When the children were tired of walking, we took them to the playground, where they timed themselves on the rope ‘assault course’ and running laps, and then enjoyed expending even more energy by rolling down the hills.
Back at the lodge, they jumped straight in the hot tub, while a couple of us walked the woodland path, exploring the nearby trails, spotting squirrels and sweet chestnuts. There were a number of trails not accessible to guests of Sherwood Hideaways, but no matter as there were plenty of others.
Sherwood Hideaway and Go Active falconry experts have joined up to offer one-hour woodland hawk walks though Sherwood Forest on Sundays for an additional fee. Guests can fly Harris hawks in the forest and learn how to call them back so they perch on their arms.
Sadly we weren’t there long enough, but the lodges are also an ideal base from which to explore Nottinghamshire, including the Thoresby Hall estate (where there is a spa – discounts are available to guests of Sherwood Hideaways), Nottingham Castle, which dates back to the 17th century and is set in the grounds of the original medieval castle built by William the Conqueror, and the Edwardian mansions of Wollaton Hall, set within 500 acres of gardens and parkland and containing Nottingham’s Industrial Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Nottingham is also home to modestly-sized Jewish community, one that has been established in the area for more than 800 years.
The Nottingham Hebrew Congregation, a modern Orthodox community, was established in 1823, while Liberal Jews are also represented via the Liberal Synagogue based in Sherwood.
According to UJS, Nottingham is also home to one of the largest Jewish student populations in the country.
Alex stayed at The Sherwood Hideaway, where prices start from £484, based on up to four people sharing a traditional lodge for three nights. For latest prices and winter breaks, visit www.sherwoodhideaway.com or call 01623 824594.