Beyond Sherwood Forest and sheriffs and a first-class cricket team, Nottinghamshire doesn’t get to bathe in much limelight. Surprisingly little is written about this county, which is just a few miles northeast of the centre of England.
It’s a coalmining region and this has obviously had an impact on its natural beauty, though there’s something impressive about the huge slag heaps (now mined themselves) and the gaunt pitheads.
But there are gems in this county and none more sparkling than the part-Tudor country house of Hodsock Priory, particularly in early spring. The word ‘priory’ is an affectation added when the house was largely rebuilt in the 19th century – save for the magnificent Tudor gatehouse. Although the architecture is impressive, it is a sideshow for the main event – the crisp carpet of snowdrops that sweep from the gardens and the old moat through untamed dells to beech glades frosted by the tiny white flowers.
The wood is carefully coppiced to allow sunlight to stream through the trees and the snowdrops clearly relish these perfect conditions. The coppiced wood is burned on a welcome bonfire in a clearing in the heart of the snowdrop empire – and there’s even a shack nearby selling tasty bacon butties. For many visitors, heading up from Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Doncaster, it is a place of pilgrimage – the snowdrops are up, spring is on the way for another year, and all’s right with the world. In 2012, Hodsock celebrates its 21st anniversary of snowdrops at the priory. You can enjoy five wonderful acres of snowdrops and it’s a stunningly beautiful sight.
Back at the house, warm yourself up with a pot of tea and a slice of unbelievably delicious fruitcake and admire the Tudor gatehouse.
You can also stay at Hodsock, which makes a good base for exploring this part of England. Head over the border into South Yorks and the posh little market towns of Bawtry or Tickhill, or settle into a local pie and a pint in the handsome village of Blyth – which seems to have more pubs and hotels than private houses. More than anything, this region offers a sense of adventure – you’re exploring a countryside off the tourist map where you can make extraordinary discoveries of your own.
HOW TO GET THERE
Follow brown tourist signs for Hodsock’s snowdrops taking the B6045 between Worksop and Blyth. The nearest train station is Retford, a 15 minute drive.
FIND OUT MORE
Nottinghamshire S81 0TY
Hodsock and its grounds are almost entirely accessible by wheelchair.
The Angel Inn
Worksop S81 8HG
Perfect village pub with fine home-cooked fare.
Huge traditional market with 400 stands.
One of the hidden joys of Nottinghamshire, with a deer park, café, farm shop, gallery and School of Artisan Food.