“ National Park / Address: Alexandra Lodge Northern Drive Park Road Bestwood Village Nottingham NG6 8UH „
Sometimes, It's nice to get off my grotty little estate and go somewhere quiet, peaceful, and green. One of the places I like to go the clear my head is Bestwood Country Park, which is located just a few miles outside of the city centre, and just a few minutes walk from where I live .
Originally, the park was part of Royal Sherwood Forest, and was popular for hunting, with deer, rabbit, and even game birds being available. So popular was this bit of forest that a medieval hunting lodge was built, and much of the forest was enclosed to keep the commoners out! Many kings hunted here - including King Charles II, who gifted a substantial portion of the park to his mistress, Nell Gwynn, after losing a bet to he. He told her she was a lazy late sleeper, and promised that, if she could stir herself, he'd gift her with all the land she could ride around before breakfast. The next day, she got up ridiculously early, and rode all the way round, tying handkerchiefs to trees as she went!
Of course, the landscape has changed a lot since then. Whilst the area that Nell rod around remains as the park itself, many of the farms on the outskirts have long since given way to council estates - Rise Farm and Top Valley farm may no longer exists, but their names live on .
Although the medieval hunting lodge is no longer on the site, there is still plenty to see. The Bestwood Lodge Hotel, for example, is a magnificent former hunting lodge dating from 1863 . The restaurant and bar are open to the public, and rooms can be rented. It's well worth stopping in for a cold drink before setting of on a walk round the park, as there are no shops selling refreshments in the park itself. The building itself is a huge red-brick building, with formal landscaped gardens, and some lovely ironwork on the roof.
The park itself is very varied - whilst there are some wide, well cared for paths, there are also lots of little trails you could easily miss, leading off to various areas. Many of these are used by horse riders, but there aren't any limitations on where you can walk, and a little detour up one of these paths may lead you to somewhere interesting. Devils Ditch in particular can be quite thrilling to come across - a very steep dip in the ground that cyclists delight in riding up and down at breakneck speed.
One little horse trail also leads up to an interesting patch of sandstone - to once side, securely fenced off, is a disused sandstone quarry, but there is a bit you can still walk around, and it is almost like a maze, with lots of little twists and turns.
There are plenty of areas to have a picnic in the park - there are tables and chairs for sandwiches set up at both the hotel and colliery ends of the park, and more located at the mill pond part, as well as many scattered around in the shade of the trees . There is a set of public toilets in the park, next to Alexandra Lodge ( a building intended as the main formal approach to the main hunting lodge) but this seems to often be out of order as unfortunately they get vandalised a lot.
There are lots of different trees , and the park is a great place for collecting bark rubbings, leaves, and spotting different kinds of leaves. On the outskirts of the park there is a stable, and they are very happy for people to come in, have a look at the horses, stroke them and feed them the odd sneaky polo mint.
The best part of the park for me is the area nearest to Bestwood Village ( a mining village, although the mine closed down in the 60's). Not only has the old winding house been restored, but there are also plenty of information boards here about the park, it's history, and the wildlife to be found there. A short walk from this location (where there is also a carpark) and you'll be at the mill lakes area.
This particular part is wonderful - the river Leen runs through at a peaceful babble, creating a natural lake populated with swans, geese, moor-hens, and ducks. There are natural islands in the lake, surrounded by reed, where if you are lucky you'll see swarms of ducklings and signets. The ducks here are friendly and love to be fed, but the swans are absolutely massive, and can be somewhat scary, especially when protecting their young.
In summer, some parts of the pond will be bare of ducks - they'll all have been scared away by local children who love to swim and paddle in the pond, or who come here with fishing nets in the hopes of catching something interesting. Many people also walk their dogs here, and once again there are plenty of picnic tables for sandwiches and such .
Getting to and from the park is very simple- even for non drivers . A tram directly from the city centre will take you to Butlers Hill, and a quick jog over the footbridge will put you into the mill pond area of the park. There are two carparks - one near the colliery, and one at the hotel, and the park is within walking distance of Hucknall, Arnold, and Bestwood .
There are no shops or cafe's in the park, so if you plan to make a day of it, I would advise taking drinks and snacks along with you.
There are frequent events in the park- guided nature walks, history walks, pond dipping sessions . Most of these are free, and details can be found on the Nottingham city council website.
Due to the whole park being rather hilly, and many of the paths being quite narrow, accessibility for disabled users is quite limited, although there are some gates that can be opened with a RADAR key to allow better access.
I think this place is a wonderful place to take a walk, enjoy peace and quiet, and look out for interesting wildlife . There isn't an awful lot to do, and there aren't any reliable amenities, but I still like it, and it's free! 4 stars!