. A long peardrop-shaped county, Nottinghamshire forms between the south and the borders of Yorkshire. At first glance Nottinghamshire may seem to be an average kind of county. Nevertheless the feeling is purely midlands, open, and though flattish, very fertile, its many fields laced with lanes and county roads connecting ordered settlements.
. The River Trent crosses the southern part diagonally, and in the main all land north of this waterway is industrial. The south however is agricultural. Here the pleasantly hilly country is part of the famous hunting country of the rolling Wolds of Leicestershire, its southern neighbour, and its fine open fields flank the River Soar. To the east the hills soften somewhat towards the Vale of Belvoir into some of the best farmland in the country stretching up as far as the market town of Newark-on-Trent.
. At Newark the north begins flatly beyond the Trent, where the river enters Lincolnshire.
Origin of name: Nottingham's original name is unfortunate - before the Danes renamed it, the small village was called Snotta, or Snot, from Old English meaning 'a place abounding with caverns or holes dug underground' and certainly prehistoric people | left such dwellings at the bottom of a steep rock under this town.
Name first recorded: 1016 as Snotlnghamscir.
County Motto: Sopienter Propciens ("Advancing wisely").
NOTTINGHAM Tower blocks and ring road do their best to disfigure this once great centre for cotton, textiles and lace. Local boy Paul Smith opened his first shop here, continuing the clothes tradition. There is a major TV studio here too.
BEESTON Home to one Jesse Boot who started work in his mother's herb shop in Nottingham and went on to create a high street phenomenon. The weir here on the Trent is very pretty.
BLIDWORTH Sherwood Forest town linked to Robin Hood lore with Will Scarlet reputedly buried here and home to Maid Marian.
EASTWOOD Birthplace of native son D.H. Lawrence in once-rural peaceful setting amid colliery area.
EDWINSTOWE in the most beautiful part of Sherwood Forest with the grand remains of the Major Oak, supposedly over 1,000 years old and the biggest oak in MANSFIELD Cotton and coal were once its staple diet, but it is now a comfortable provincial northern town with a good market and theatre, it was especially famous for its hosiery, footwear and net curtains and doilies.
NEWARK ON TRENT This town is known as the Key to the North and has an interesting connection with Lady Godiva, who presented the town as a gift to the monastery at Stow. Newark was staunchly monarchist in the Civil War, Newark Castle proving impregnable. Gladstone made his first public address from the window of he Clinton Arms. Cobblestoned marketplace and some extremely old pubs.
RETFORD Rich in early and medieval history, this is the main market town in the north of the county, its east and west sides are joined across the River idle.
SOUTHWELL Has a famous Minster visible from some 20 miles away across the Trent Valley.
WORKSOP Dating back to Saxon times it is the chief town of the area known as the Dukeries. Beautiful parks to the south being the northern reaches of Sherwood Forest.
. Arnold . Carlton . Hucknall . Kirkby in Ashfield .Mansfield Woodhouse . Radcliffe-on-Trent . Stapleford .Sutton-in-Ashfield . West Bridgford
Trent, Idle. Maun, Devon.
Strawberry Bank, Huthwaite at 650 feet.
. The Nottinghamshire County Show takes place each May.
. The Nottingham Goose Fair was a trade fair of medieval origin. Now it fills the streets of the city with amusements in the first week of October for three helter-skelter days.
. One of the great cricket grounds, Trent Bridge plays host to county and country cricket.
. Robin Hood and his men still retain a romantic appeal. At a time when the Forest Laws were savage and hunting was kept for the king alone, they supposedly robbed the rich to give to the poor.
. Without doubt the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' Lord Byron is one of the most famous sons of Nottingham. He was born at Newstead Abbey.
. D.H.Lawrence (Sons and Lovers) was born here and wrote novels recalling his childhood in the mining village of Eastwood. His house can still be seen
Although Nottingham looks after its own affairs the rest of the County of Nottinghamshire apart from its capital city is administered by a two-tier system: Nottinghamshire County Council and the seven Districts Councils of Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Broxtowe, Gedling, Mansfield, Newark & Sherwood and Rushcliffe.
SHERWOOD FOREST - ONCE the only Royal forest north of the Trent - and Robin Hood: what could be more evocative of this county or indeed of Englishness? Nottingham is a fine city with an international feel about it, compared to the other towns in this county which are provincial and veer either towards Derbyshire and Yorkshire (as with gritty Mansfield) or head towards Lincolnshire (such as historic Newark).
Like its close neighbour, the city of Derby, the county capital of Nottingham sits in the very south of the county It is a large town, sprawling over the plain, and at first sight not very appealing, but appearances in this case are deceptive. It is a vital centre of trade and has made its money on knitting (it once had a third of Britain's looms), boots and shoes which I always think of, and the famous Nottingham lace (there's a lace centre by the castle). Its historic roots go back to very ancient origins when it was a small settlement around a high rock on which stood a fearsome castle. This stronghold, the scene of many sieges, especially in the Civil War, pre-dated the Norman Conquest and the Normans rebuilt it. Several kings lived here. It is now no more, replaced with a 19th- century mansion (now a museum), though the houses still press up against the rock and old tunnels, such as Mortimer's Hole, bore right into its heart. (A 17th-century pub, the Trip to Jerusalem, is built up against its cliffy height.) In a park in the suburbs rises the great Tudor pile of Wollaton Hall, described as one of the finest of Elizabethan Renaissance mansions. Its great hall is dramatic, and its otherwise rather drab interior now houses the Nottingham Natural History Museum with collections of exotic butterflies, birds and fossils. Roses are cultivated southeast of the city.
For a place much struggled over in history, the city does not have many monuments although there is an imposing domed Council House, and an ornate Victorian Theatre Royal, as well as the smaller Nottingham Playhouse. Another 'monument' is Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, founded in 1841, who play at Trent Bridge in the city. It is also one of the five test ground 'homes' of England.
Going from south to north, Nottinghamshire possesses many pretty villages. Ratcliffe on Soar is one such and nearby is Thrumpton Hall, a Jacobean house, once home of the Byrons and with many mementoes of the poet as well as antiques and paintings. The place more associated with Byron is Newstead Abbey, just north of Nottingham, near the village of Papplewick. The mock gothic abbey has grounds with rare trees and still contains an impressive ruined facade of the original priory. The poet sold the family home in 1818, to pay debts, but it contains some of his possessions.
Nearby Southwell (pronounced Suthall) has many historical associations, including an inn where Charles I set off for Nottingham to signal the start of the Civil War, as well as charming gardens. It also has a rarity, a spacious, towered Norman church that contains sculpture unique to the British Isles. The early English choir stalls are renowned for their oak carving and there is an elegant chapter house, with yet more carving. The marching round arched columns lead to four holding up the tower; the capitals are noted for their sculpted scenes. Newark-on-Trent possesses one of the great churches of the county. Its tall spire stands over a fine, well-furnished interior and besides a splendid great east window there is other early glass. The castle, a royal stronghold in the Civil War, was reduced to a ruin but this fortress with so many memories still offers much to see. In the town there are old inns and Tudor houses with oversailing storeys, and the Magnus Grammar School now houses a museum with Civil War relics.
Towards the northwest are the coalfields. Across the county are mining villages, marked with ugly slag heaps, still straightforward workaday settlements despite the decline of the pits. There will be local sports events, gardens and many a dog and pigeon fancier here. There's also the chance to try a local delicacy at Mansfield. Mansfield Pudding is a brandy-flavoured suet sponge pudding, served sprinkled with caster sugar. Mines surround Mansfield, which has a local museum and art gallery. Nearby Thoresby Hall is a palatial house with a lake and grounds containing part of Sherwood Forest enclosed by the Earl of Kingston 300 years ago. In Worksop's town library is a museum of natural and local history. There's also a surprise - a piece of marble sculpture in relief, part of the altar of the Temple of Pergamon, most of which is in the Berlin Museum.
Nottinghamshire stands on the important Roman Fosse way which ran from Exeter to Lincoln. Later it was taken by the Vikings who approached it down the Humber, and made it a stronghold against the southern Saxons. Although the northwest of the county is largely industrial, yet there are patches of quite high country with low folds of hills achieving their heights near Blidworth, the highest being by Sutton in Ashfield, the Robin Hood Hills. These of course take their name from the famous medieval bandit who lived in Sherwood Forest. In the Dukeries (the estates of dumber, Thoresby and Welbeck) a part of the once vast stretch of trees and heath remains, and there are still impressive remnants, although the Forest once covered a fifth of the county and ran from Nottingham to Worksop.
In the county two fortresses stood long and strong against invaders. Newark's, known as the Key to the North, still broods but of Nottingham's once great citadel where the doomed King Charles I announced the start of the Civil War, only the rock and a much later great house remain from the once stern castle that pre-dated even the Norman invasion.
Newark's museum has two hoards of 17th century coins and part of a Roman helmet, as well as archaeological and local history exhibits. Roman coins have been unearthed at the camp in Mansfield.
From 1350 Nottingham was a centre of alabaster carving and a sample can be seen at the Castle Museum, a virgin and child uncovered at nearby Flawford. Alabaster reliefs from the workshops here were sent all over Europe. At Laxton is a unique survival of medieval farming. Here the then common custom of farming open fields in long strips which started with the Saxons can still be seen.