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The History of Sherwood Pines

It’s a dense, hot summer’s day at Clipstone Camp. The strengthening sun pushes higher into the cloudless sky and forces beads of sweat to chase down the heavy woollen military uniforms of the men waiting in anticipation.

Four uniformed soldiers stand astride their noble steeds, Neddy, Jimmy, Joey and Harry. The silence is deafening. The sound of instructions delivered in the background slipped into obscurity with the sounds of the forest, and unbeknown to the others, they each recognised their heart beating louder and louder.

Without speaking a word, the men exchange looks that say more than anything they can articulate. Each knows they’re preparing to ride into an experience they’ll never forget…only it’s not 1914, and these men aren’t on horseback training ahead of deployment in the Great War.

It’s 2022, and Clipstone Camp is now called Sherwood Pines. Each man stands upon a Go Ape Forest Segway, and whilst they’re in for an unforgettable hour, it’s completely different to anything those brave soldiers experienced over 100 years ago.

These four men are re-enactors from Frontline Living History, a group dedicated to communicating the past in an engaging, immersive and fun and are at Sherwood Forest as part of an Archaeology Festival.

little boy running through the trenches at sherwood pines

Photo credit: @Sherwood_Pines_

At Go Ape, we’re a massive fan of forests and trees, they make our courses possible, but we don’t often appreciate how this landscape was created. Nor the rich history in our surroundings. The festival of Archaeology aimed to remedy this and give an insight into the history of Sherwood Pines.

We talked to Forestry England Learning and Recreation Ranger Lindsey McCulloch-Howe, to discover more about one of the homes for our Go Ape adventures.

Owned by the Duke of Portland, the land Sherwood Pines sits on was gifted to the British army at the outbreak of WW1 and was used as a training camp to prepare soldiers for the upcoming conflict. The entire area shifted from untouched land next to a small town to an army encampment area surrounded by barracks.

“Clipstone Camp was one of four major training camps in the country, and, at any one time, there could be up to thirty thousand soldiers in this 5.5 square mile area.

Ordinary men would learn and practice digging trenches, handling guns and would prepare as much as they could before they were shipped off. We have a replica trench onsite where one may have been dug.”

Lindsey McCulloch-Howe

The replica trench is a life-size recreation of a trenches system that visitors can explore. People can walk down and investigate the trench, foxholes and read the wealth of information on display. It’s a thought-provoking project which offers an insight into the tough conditions endured by hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the 1914-18 war.

On the day of the archaeology, festival re-enactors were also on hand to teach people about the daily life of a Tommy and demonstrate some of the skills they learnt at the camp. There were live demonstrations – with no live ammunition – and an information stand. One re-enactor is also an expert in World War One medicine and advises on authentic medicines and props used in film and TV.

Clipstone camp was closed down in the 1920s, and the land was leased to the Forestry Commission (now Forestry England). The decimated space was used to grow trees due to the increased demand for wood post WW1, as much of the wood had been shipped out to France during the war for trench building and repairs, and there was then a need for timber for the coal industry, house building and industry in general.

The environment continued to shift and change over the century to become the family-friendly place it is today. Still, it is important to remember the different incarnations of our landscapes. Next time you’re at Go Ape Sherwood Pines, be aware that some of the trees around you were planted way back in 1925 and, perhaps, appreciate how times have changed.

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