15 August 2014 by Walking Class Hero
Maybe it’s just me but you’ve got to love a place that’s named after a Saxon chief called Snot. In Anglo-Saxon times Nottingham was part of the Kingdom of Mercia. When it fell under the rule of Snot it became known as Snotingaham - the homestead of Snot's people (Inga = the people of and Ham = homestead). Snot brought together his people in an area now known as the Lace Market.
Talking of names, not far from Nottingham is an attractive green belt village called Gotham. The village is most famed for the stories of the Wise Men of Gotham. These depict the people of the village as being stupid. However, the reason for the behaviour is believed to be that the villagers wished to feign madness in order to avoid a Royal Highway being built through the village, as they would then be expected to build and maintain this route. Madness was believed at the time to be highly contagious, and when King John’s knights saw the villagers behaving as if insane, the knights swiftly withdrew and the King's road was re-routed to avoid the village. One of the mad deeds seen by the knights was a group of villagers fencing off a small tree in order to keep a cuckoo captive from the sheriff of Nottingham. One of the three pubs in the village is known as The Cuckoo Bush Inn.
Reminded of the foolish ingenuity of Gotham's residents, Washington Irving gave the name "Gotham" to New York City in his Salmagundi Papers (1807). In turn, Bob Kane named the pastiche New York home of Batman – Gotham City. In Cityscape, in Batman Chronicles #6 it is revealed that Gotham was initially built for the purpose of housing the criminally insane, and Robin reads a journal that tells of how Gotham got its name: "I even have a name for it. We could call it 'Gotham' after a village in England - where, according to common belief, all are bereft of their wits."
I found myself in Nottingham for day 2 of the England V India Test match – the weather was glorious, the cricket soporific – and then at the weekend I was scheduled to do the introductions on a Ramblers Volunteer Development Day. That meant I had a day in between to explore the city and surrounding area. I know this isn’t lots of peoples’ idea of a good day’s walking but I love it. For me there’s nothing like a little bit of exploring and a lot of what seems like aimless poking about and it’s even better if the sun is shining.
I started in the old part of town, near the statue of Robin Hood – there’s no avoiding this fella in Nottingham. I headed down to the canal and turned off this onto the Trent when I got to the various Nottingham sports stadiums (or stadia?). It was still blissfully hot and the bleached lawns and gardens of the houses had a vaguely un-English feel about them. With the accompanying distant ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from a packed Trent Bridge cricket ground (it was day 3 of the Test match) I might have been in ancient Rome with a full Colesseum nearby. There was plenty of street art tucked away (or in 1 case filling the whole side of a house) to consider as well.
The city is currently doing a lot of work to extend its tram system. At the moment it terminates in Hucknall (another famous name – damn you Simply Red) in the north but there are plans to have a Robin Hood line to Mansfield. Whilst south of the city they plan to go to Clifton and walking around the Wilford Toll Bridge you can see the work is well advanced. Of course years ago the only way to cross the Trent here was on a ferry and you won’t be surprised to know there’s a very pleasant pub close by called The Ferry Inn which I popped into for a quick pint of locally brewed Castle Rock Harvest Pale.
I headed back across the Trent to the city centre and finished up near my start point where I rounded the walk off with another pint, this time, in Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. This pub bills itself as ‘the oldest inn in England’ dating from 1189 AD. Leaving aside the clunky ‘inn in’ conjunction and the fact there isn’t a shred of documentary proof to support 1189 AD it is certainly old. I reckon I’ve drunk in a few of ‘the oldest inns’ in my time, indeed there are 2 others in Nottingham itself that claim this distinction but it was relatively easy to imagine crusaders meeting here. I didn’t go that extra mile (see what I did there) and check out the other ‘olde’ pubs as there’s a world of difference between a 2 pint walk and a 4 pint walk.
My Saturday started with a tram ride and very pleasant, modern and efficient it was too. And without wanting to belabour the obvious the Ramblers Volunteer Development Day did exactly what it said on the tin. These development days are run throughout the UK and I wholeheartedly recommend them to any Ramblers member wanting to do a bit more. Topics as diverse as making the most of social media, through researching a Ramblers route to the intricacies of your right to walk are on offer, delivered by highly skilled, enthusiastic trainers. You also get to meet other walkers and in my experience everybody learns something from the day and comes away enthused. I certainly do and it is privilege to play a small part in these development days.
Walking class hero’s playlist:
Gentlemen and Players – The Duckworth Lewis Method
Robin (The Hooded Man) - Remastered 2003 – Clannad
Gotham – Ten Walls
River Trent – Clair Brennan
Step It Up – Richie Sosa
Don't Think Twice – Dolly Parton
Ramblin' On My Mind - Robert Johnson Sessions – Simply Red
The Olde Trip To Jerusalem – Mekons
Walking Class Hero is a regular blog contributor. Find out more about him, including his previous blog posts, and follow him on twitter @walkngclasshero.