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Ministering the Flock

An exploration of historic Southwell, from lofty towers to famous apples.

Distance 4.2 miles (6.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 246ft (75m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Easy tracks and field paths, but may be slippery after rain

Landscape Small, quiet town surrounded by gentle farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorers 270 Sherwood Forest; 271 Newark

Start/finish SK 703539 (on Explorer 271)

Dog friendliness Generally very good, but remember to scoop poop

Parking Free car park opposite minster on Church Street

Public toilets By car park

1 From the car park, facing the minster, turn right on to Church Street and walk up to the junction at the top, with the Saracen's Head opposite.

2 Turn right, then cross the road and turn left into Queen Street. Follow this for 350yds (320m), then turn left on to a short drive, opposite a road called The Ropewalk. At the end, continue uphill on an alleyway by a school, and at the far corner turn right along the top of the playing field. At a junction of tracks go forwards, down a few steps, and on along a path behind gardens. Eventually you cross a road and continue on a field-edge path on the far side. Where this approaches the bend of a road turn sharply right for a short path across the field. Cross the road at the far side and go through a gap in the hedge and a gate to pick up a broad track past a fruit farm (masses of strawberries are a common sight here), and an orchard on the right.

3 At a junction of tracks continue straight across, on to a firmer drive (signposted 'public footpath'). To the left is a rather grand-looking house, while to the right is a small fishing lake. This is all part of Norwood Park.

4 Walk along the drive past the golf course and at the road at the end turn right, then turn left almost immediately on to a lane indicated 'Maythorne'.

5 After a couple of bends the lane is crossed by the former Mansfield-Southwell railway line, which has been turned into a pleasant walking and cycling route known as the Southwell Trail. For a quicker and easier return to Southwell, turn right and follow its unswerving course for just under 1 mile (1.6km) to the car park at the end. Otherwise continue to the far end of the lane and go through the former mill buildings in order to turn left, across the bridge, and then veer right at a choice of paths. Go over a short footbridge and stile, and turn right for a riverside path along the River Greet (this is also the route of the waymarked Robin Hood Way).

6 After just over a mile (1.6km) you reach another converted mill building. Turn right on to Station Road and walk up past the Southwell Trail car park and Newcastle Arms pub to the crossroads. Go over this and walk across the tree-lined Burgage Green. On the right is an intimidating stone gatehouse complete with iron grid bars, all that remains of a 19th-century 'House of Correction'. At the war memorial at the far end take the side road half left, and at the end of this turn left on to Burgage Lane. Just before Hill House turn right on to a narrow alleyway called Becher's Walk which will take you all the way down to Church Street. Turn left for the minster and car park.

The small Nottinghamshire market town of Southwell is dominated by the 12th-century minster, which was technically elevated to the status of a cathedral when the new Diocese of Southwell was created in 1884. Set aside some time to explore this spacious and splendid building, with its fine Norman nave, and chapter house containing intricate 13th-century carvings of leaves, supposedly modelled on trees from the old Sherwood Forest. Outside are the ruins of an earlier archbishops' palace, while the two distinctive conical towers make the minster a recognisable landmark from several points on the walk.

A 16th-century inn in the town was originally called the King's Head. It was here that Charles I spent his last hours of freedom before surrendering to the Scottish army which was at Newark Castle. The inn's name was changed to the Saracen's Head when Charles was beheaded.

Another of Southwell's claims to fame involves the humble apple. According to the story, nurseryman Henry Merryweather took a cutting from a new and unusual apple tree in the garden of a cottage in Church Street belonging to a Matthew Bramley, some time around 1850. The propagation proved successful and the classic English cooking apple has never looked back. It's celebrated locally in the Southwell Galette, a delectable pastry confection of sultanas, hazelnuts and Bramley apples.

Norwood Park

The last surviving of four elegant parks created around Southwell for the Archbishop of York, since Southwell was originally one of three collegiate churches in the huge York Diocese (the others were Beverley and Ripon).

Where to eat and drink

Plenty of cafés and pubs in Southwell. Two to look out for are the Minster Tea Rooms (by the exhibition centre and shop on Church Street) and the Saracen's Head on Westgate.

While you're there

At Merryweather's orchards off Halam Road (west of Southwell) you will find the Bramley Apple Exhibition (open daily). Find out more about this classic English apple, and discover some new recipes to take home with you.

What to look for

On the streets adjoining the Minster are a number of highly elegant mansions known as Prebendal Houses. These were the town homes of the 16 secular canons who originally formed the Chapter of the Collegiate Church, and who were collectively called Prebendaries because they received incomes from endowed estates.


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