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Deep in the Dumbles

The hidden dells of Lambley's Dumbles make Nottingham seem far away.

Distance 6.3 miles (10.1km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 508ft (155m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Undulating paths and green lanes, over 20 stiles

Landscape Rolling farmland, pockets of woodland and villages

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 260 Nottingham

Start/finish SK 627452

Dog friendliness Close supervision around livestock, note stiles

Parking Recreation ground car park behind school (opposite Nags Head, on Catfoot Lane)

Public toilets Floralands Garden Village, 1 mile (1.6km) up Catfoot Lane

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1 From the Nags Head pub walk down Main Street into the centre of the village. In 220yds (210m) go right for a public footpath between houses and around the edge of a fenced field. Turn left at the end and go over successive stiles (at the second take the left-hand choice of two) for a path behind houses. Turn left through a gate to drop down, cross the road, and enter Reed Pond Nature Reserve.

2 Veer left to reach the gate in the far left corner. Turn right and out along the bottom of several large fields, cutting across the lower part of the second. When you reach the opening to a large field (straight ahead) by a copse, turn left.

3 Follow the wide track uphill to the left of the hedge. In the far corner of the third field, with a grassy airstrip along its middle, turn left (not the footpath straight on) and walk along the field edge.

4 Just before it ends go right and, following the direction of the footpath post (not the bridleway), aim half left across the next field then bear left across pasture. Drop down the hillside, aiming for the stile beyond the wooden enclosure in the far corner by the road.

5 Turn right and walk along the roadside verge past Wood Barn Farm to the sharp right-hand bend. Go left across the top of successive fields to reach the wooded track on the far side, and here turn left and follow it all the way back to the junction with Lingwood Lane.

6 Turn right, cross a field (aiming half left), then follow the waymarks down through three fields into the woodland at the bottom. Go straight on via a footbridge, left into a field on the far side, then almost immediately right and walk up through a field to the top. Turn left on to the road for 100yds (91m), then go right beside a bungalow to drop down diagonally right across ridged fields to the football pitch.

7 At the far corner continue on a popular (and obvious) path to walk through a newly planted woodland area known as Bonney Doles. Go over a footbridge, turn left, and follow the field edge to the corner.

8 Here a short path with a handrail ventures into the bumpy wooded dell for a short way. Ignore this and continue around to cross another footbridge. Turn left and follow the path through the woods then field bottom along the south side of Lambley Dumble, eventually turning left on to Spring Lane to return to the car park.

Dumble is a local term for a small wooded dell through which streams have carved out twisting and steep-sided gullies. The main one is simply called Lambley Dumble, and is visited at the end of this walk. From a distance the snaking line of trees and bushes looks like a narrow copse or old field boundary, but often they disguise deep channels filled with gurgling brooks. Lambley is tucked away at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by a rolling patchwork quilt of fields and clumps of woodland. 'Lambley' derives from Lambs' Lea - an enclosure for the grazing of sheep - although much of the surrounding land is now given over to arable production.

Altogether the rural scene laid out before you is one of such total peace and tranquillity that it comes as a bit of a shock to discover that the bustling city of Nottingham is only 8 miles (12.9km) away.

Lambley was once well known in this part of Nottinghamshire because of its wild flowers, and to this day its symbol remains the cowslip. The first Sunday of May was traditionally known as Cowslip Sunday, when crowds would come to the dumbles around Lambley to gather cowslips for wine making. (Incidentally, did you know that many wild and garden flowers - including dandelion, elderflower, marigold, wallflower and rose petals - are still used in country wine making?) Over the years, the Cowslip Sunday gathering grew to become a huge annual event, often attracting thousands of people from the working-class areas of Nottingham. Stalls of food and drink were set up in the main street, and the festivities lasted all day.

Sadly, and rather inevitably, the cowslips themselves didn't last too long, for although the roots may not be disturbed the actual picking of the flowers prevents seeds ripening and scattering, and so the colony does not renew itself. Although they are now protected by law - it is illegal to pick them - the tubular yellow flowers of the cowslip are becoming scarcer still, since the demise of Cowslip Sunday in the mid-1900s was also a result of the increased ploughing of the old pasture where they used to thrive.

Hope springs eternal, as they say, and to the north of Lambley Dumble, just beyond the playing field, is an example of how the countryside can be changed for the better. With the help of the Woodland Trust, Bonney Doles was planted in a day by local people in December 1998. Apart from the new woods, a large area of traditional meadow has been retained, and it is hoped that, by careful annual mowing, cowslips and other wild flowers will be encouraged to recolonise the area.

What to look for

Bonney Doles is one of over 200 new Community Woods created by the Woodland Trust as part of the successful Millennium Commission-funded 'Woods on your Doorstep' project. Founded in 1972, the Woodland Trust is Britain's leading woodland conservation charity, and so far it has planted over five million trees and established nearly 700 new woods. For more details about their work visit www.woodland-trust.org.uk

While you're there

A mile (1.6km) up Catfoot Lane is Floralands Garden Village, a vast and engrossing site that includes specialist equestrian, camping, aquatic and garden suppliers. There's a well-stocked little coffee shop at the back of the main garden centre, plus public toilets near the top of the huge car park.

Where to eat and drink

For food, the pick of the three village pubs is the Wood Lark Inn near the top of Church Street, and for beer the Robin Hood and Little John on Main Street. The Nags Head has decent outside seating. Cold drinks and ice creams are available at the post office stores on Main Street. Floralands Garden Village on Catfoot Lane has a coffee shop.

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