Sherwood Heath, Cockglode & Rotary Wood

History of the site

There is little specific information about the history of the Heath prior to the 20th century.  The 1899 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map shows a 5-acre enclosure in the southern part of the site.  Between that and the road is shown a sand pit with a small building in it.  A gravel pit near the centre of the Heath is described as ‘old’.  This was probably used for road repairs, possibly for hundreds of years.  The track across the centre of the Heath provided access to Cockglode, which used to occupy the site of the pit tip.

1835 Sanderson - Sherwood Heath - zoomed

Above: 1835 Sanderson map showing Cockglode and the heath

The heath is likely to have been visited by the Rufford Hunt.

Beginning in the early 1900’s, the flat area next to the A616 near the car park, was used as the local cricket ground for many years and was also used by the Army as a training ground, including tanks, until the early 1950’s.

There was a major fire on the Heath in 1976, which led to the problematic birch invasion. The heath is still used as a common by the people of Ollerton for recreation, dog walking.

The Heath is now part of the Birklands and Bilhaugh Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Local Nature Reserve, Leased to Newark and Sherwood District Council and managed by the Sherwood Forest Trust.  Nottinghamshire County Council manages the woodland adjoining the heath to the west.


It is said that the Rangers of the Hays of Birklands and Bilhaugh once had a lodge on the site.  It is thought that a house was built there in 1724 by the Reverend William Stern, who leased 19 acres of land from Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, who had a dubious claim to that Crown property.  Sterne planted an impressive avenue of Scots pines.  The well-known Cockglode Hall was built in 1778 by Dr. George Aldrich, possibly incorporating Sterne’s house.  It was enlarged in 1844 but became less desirable when Thoresby Colliery opened in 1928, and was demolished in the 1950’s to make way for a new pit tip.

Cockglode House-cropped

Above: Cockglode House in watercolour

Harley’s daughter, Margaret, married the 2nd Duke of Portland, and in 1818 the Duke legally acquired Birklands and Bilhaugh from the Crown, in exchange for the advowson of St. Mary-le Bone. He then sold the land to the east of the Centre Riding (including Sherwood Heath) to Earl Manvers.  The Heath is now part of the Thoresby Estate and the adjacent woodland is owned by Notts. County Council and RJB mining.

The name probably means “Woodcock Glade”.  Alternatively, glode is the obsolete past tense of glide, so it could mean “the place where woodcock were seen to glide”.

Cockglode Wood

Cockglode Wood has ancient origins, being a remnant of the woodland that covered the area long before it became the Royal Hunting Forest of Sherwood. The bluebells and dog’s mercury that appear in the wood every spring are clues to these ancient beginnings.

Rotary Wood is the exact opposite. The native trees were planted on the restored spoil tip of Thoresby Colliery in 1998 – 1999 to celebrate the Millennium.

On a trip to Cockglode and Rotary Woods:

  • see the exotic trees and shrubs, such as false acacia and rhododendron
  • spot various butterflies, insects and ground-nesting birds that take advantage of the maturing woodland and wide grassy paths.
  • soak up the  fantastic views of the surrounding Sherwood landscape. This is easily accessed via the circular Rotary Walk from the Sherwood Heath car park just off the A614 Ollerton roundabout. From the top of Rotary Wood it is possible to see over Cockglode Wood towards Boughton Pumping Station as well as towards Sherwood Forest Country Park and the village of Edwinstowe with its prominent church spire.
Above: Cockglode and Rotary Wood

Above: Cockglode and Rotary Wood

Much of the habitat management work is done on a voluntary basis by the Friends of Sherwood Heath in conjunction with the Sherwood Forest Community Rangers.

Sherwood Heath

Sherwood Heath is a 23 hectare area of lowland heathland, acid grassland and wood pasture/woodland which is owned by the Thoresby Estates and leased to Newark & Sherwood District Council (NSDC). The site, also known as Ollerton Corner, lies between the A6075/Ollerton Road and the A616, due west of Ollerton roundabout.

As well as the nature reserve, there is a limited amount of car parking reserved for users of Sherwood Heath together with a grassed picnic area.

Above: Guided walk on a summer's evening

Above: Guided walk on a summer’s evening

In 1987 Newark & Sherwood District Council declared the Reserve as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and in August 2001 English Nature designated the Reserve as a Site of Special Scientific Interest SSSI (and is part of the Birklands West and Ollerton Corner SSSI which includes parcels of land owned by and on the Thoresby estate).  The Reserve contains tracts of unimproved acid grassland and lowland heaths which are distinctive semi-natural habitats associated with the lowland heaths of the East Midlands. They form one of the largest examples if this habitat type in the county and are ecologically linked to the larger heaths of the adjoining Birklands and Bilhaugh SSSI.

Sherwood Forest Trust manage the site for its habitat value on behalf of Newark & Sherwood District Council, a management plan was produced by SFT in 2007, and NSDC entered into a Higher Level Stewardship to help manage the site and ensure that the value of the site is seen by many generations to come.


It is a remnant of the heathland of the ancient Sherwood Forest, on which the flora and fauna typical of heathland have, until recently, been in decline.  It has been designated as a Local Nature Reserve so that it can be preserved and managed in such a way as to bring back heather and the other plants of traditional heathland, and their associated animals, especially invertebrates.



The aim is to restore the site to traditional heathland, with its associated flora and fauna, and maintain it as a semi-natural area, while permitting access to the site by the local community and visiting public.


Some of the work you will see in progress on the site may look destructive but it is all necessary in order to improve the quality of the heath and will help to increase the diversity of plants and animals.

  • Bracken Control

Bracken is an invasive species, which has limited use to wildlife but crowds out the desirable heathland plants, greatly reducing the diversity of flora and fauna.  It used to be controlled by the traditional practices of grazing the heath and cutting bracken for fuel and bedding.

It is desired to greatly reduce the amount of bracken to improve conditions for heather to grow.  This is difficult to achieve because the bracken fronds over a large area are actually all part of one plant, joined by underground stems called rhizomes, which store nutrients that enable new fronds to grow when existing fronds are killed.

One of the most effective ways of reducing bracken, without using ecologically unfriendly chemicals, is to crush the fronds when they have just fully unfurled and have used up many of the nutrients in the rhizomes.  Some of the most troublesome stands of bracken are rolled each July with a special roller called a “bracken breaker”, which, it is hoped, over a period of several years, will remove most of the bracken from those areas.  Other areas are not treated, in order to compare them with the rolled areas to gauge the effectiveness of the rolling.  After two years the rolling has already caused a great reduction in the size and number of bracken fronds.

  • Birch Control

Birch is a pioneer species – one of the first trees to colonise an open area.  Countryside managers call it invasive because it grows quickly and soon covers large areas if it is not controlled, causing the heath to become woodland.  This is an example of ecological succession.  Therefore to protect the heath, birch seedlings and saplings must be regularly removed.  Traditionally this was done by grazing animals but that is not compatible with public access to the heath.  Therefore it is usually done by using brushcutters, or, if they have been allowed to grow too big, by chainsaw.

  • Heather Restoration

Heather species are an essential component of heathland.  Because traditional management has not been carried out for a long time, succession has resulted in much heather being replaced by birch, bracken or acid grassland.  Heather grows best in soil with low nutrient value.  Therefore to promote the growth of heather, and discourage more aggressive plants, the topsoil created by decomposition of plants and tree leaves is scraped off and removed.  This looks messy for a year or two but the final result is worth it.

Sometimes there are heather seeds lying dormant in the lower layers of soil.  This is called a seed bank, and when uncovered the seeds can germinate even after as long as 40 years.  Here at Sherwood Heath there is no seed bank in some places because it was disturbed a long time ago.  Therefore heather in seed is cut from other areas of the site, spread in the scraped areas, and covered with birch branches to hold it down until the seeds grow.  Some of the heather can be seen in rather unnatural looking rectangular plots.  These were planted with new seed as a trial, to determine which kind of preparation would give the best growth of heather.

Above: Yellowhammer on gorse

Above: Yellowhammer on gorse

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