For this Bassetlaw walk 17 of us, including John Ollerton, a welcome guest, gathered expectantly in the pleasant sunshine outside St Giles Church in Elkesley.
The pre-walk briefing by Ash Wilson, our esteemed and experienced leader, was a model of its kind – short, succinct and almost Shakespearean in its poetic content and dramatic delivery. Promptly, at the first stroke of the peal of bells for 10 o’clock, we set off with no fewer than three back markers. Passing some local citizens who kindly waved at us and cheered us on, we headed west, towards the River Poulter where, at a ford and bridge, we had a brief but polished re-enactment of scenes from “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.” Little John and Robin Hood (Rob and Duggy) “fought” each other with staffs and appropriate sound-effects. Who won or lost, not even the participants cared: it was the taking part that counted and that faint possibility that a Hollywood producer might be passing. Turning south, and ignoring a number of semi-fearsome, barking hounds we subsequently stopped in sunny Bothamsall for “elevenses”, exchanging pleasantries with a few villagers while taking advantage of the local topography around Our Lady and St Peter’s Church and a nearby bus shelter with seating.
As we left Bothamsall, large numbers of motor-bikes passed by, causing some of us, who don’t get out much, to stop, trying to count them but already, others, at the front, had found something even more interesting – a bush laden with little red apples at the end of a bridge. Faces and rucksacks were soon filled and, as we eventually resumed our ramble, our trail was littered with the remains of apple cores. Not quite Hansel and Gretel, but you can see how folklore begins. Passing more rivers (Meden, Maun and Whitewater) and bridges, we joined Robin Hood Way and walked through some lovely woods with abundant hedgerows where various blackberry foragers had ripe pickings. Navigation was easy too because, to their credit, Nottinghamshire Council had erected such large numbers of waymarks that no one could get lost. By lunchtime, we had reached Walesby Sports and Social Club and their pleasing picnic tables. To the added surprise and delight of many (who had still turned up for the ramble knowing there was no pub stop), the Club also had a small bar where thirsts could be quenched and having completed seven sunny miles, some were very thirsty indeed.
The return leg of our journey, about four miles, was mostly north. Taking in further stretches of Robin Hood Way and, in continuous sunshine, we soon encountered a field of maize, with ripening sweet corn and this proved too tempting for a couple of incorrigibles. Then we had the delights of a brief series of flypasts by a Spitfire and Hurricane. Next, among various long walls and sculptures of hay/straw bales, we saw, as we looked towards a tented village, what we concluded was a horse-ploughing competition, the start of the colourful, three-day Bank Holiday Festival of the National Vintage Tractor and Engine Club, with horses, perhaps, being among the most vintage of tractors? Our always considerate leader paused for a mid-afternoon drinks stop, after which there was a short pooh-sticks contest, followed by further ferreting among the hedgerows to pocket whatever fresh bounty was on offer. All too soon, we found we had returned through Elkesley Wood to Elkesley and our vehicles. A great walk, Ash. Thank you very much.