GUEST COLUMN: Timeline book tells park’s rich history, by Coun John Knight

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The fascinating history of Bestwood Country Park — a stone’s throw from Mansfield and Ashfield — with everything from visiting monarchs to mining is now available for visitors to collect in a handy timeline booklet.

This new timeline booklet highlights many of the fascinating periods of Bestwood’s history from 6,000 BC to the present day and will be a valuable resource.

The country park enjoys as colourful a history as our two other famous country parks in Nottinghamshire – Sherwood Forest and Rufford.

The booklet has been produced by the Friends of Bestwood with support from Nottinghamshire County Council.

It is now available in the Dynamo House Community Café, which is run jointly by volunteers from the Friends and Bestwood Village WI. The Cafe’s open from 10am – 1pm every Saturday.

Nottinghamshire County Council manages what is now Bestwood Country Park – a popular location with several hundred thousand visitors each year –and its history has witnessed a royal hunting lodge, visits from a string of monarchs and Bestwood Colliery.

Stone axes, flint tools and early earth works also point to people living in this area during the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages.

The booklet also carries ‘personal timelines’ from two members of the friends group with particularly strong past, present and future links to the park - Bob Gow and Charles Beauclerk.

Charles Beauclerk is a direct descendant of Nell Gwyn and son of the 14th Duke of St Albans, and now lives in London. He recently teamed up with the county council to learn more about the country park and has published works about his famous ancestress.

Originally part of the larger Royal Sherwood Forest, Bestwood was a popular and convenient hunting location for monarchs. In the 1680s, Charles II - the first king of England to allow women to act on the stage - and Nell Gwyn, England’s first ‘celebrity’ actress, became intimate. The couple enjoyed visits to Bestwood, where they lived a simple woodland life, free from the prying eyes of the court.

Charles II gifted his mistress Nell Gwyn the original Bestwood Lodge and park, and her illegitimate son became the first Duke of St Albans.

At the height of the industrial period, Bestwood Colliery would have been powered by steam from a set of Babcock water tube boilers, and these were last in use in the late 1960s. Bob Gow, as chairman of the volunteer group for the Bestwood winding engine house, and friends worked with the county council and a company called Gee Engineering to help get the electric system in place so the winding wheel can rotate and in turn the head gear pulleys can also turn within the headstocks.

The winding engine house is the last remaining part of the former colliery and is housed in a tall brick building. Its restoration of the winding engine house was helped by funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Greater Nottingham Partnership.