Every year, on the first Thursday in October, Forest Recreational Ground in Nottingham is transformed into the largest travelling fair in Europe, Goose Fair.
I bet you’ve heard of Robin Hood!? Well Nottingham forest, in the East Midlands of the UK, was his hang out. Nottingham castle, the site of which has existed since 1067, sits high atop a rock in the centre of town and now looks over a large, modern city. Nottingham boasts two universities, the National Ice Centre, two football teams, a canal AND a river. It’s true that things have moved on since Mr Hood roamed the countryside with his band of Merry Men, but some traditions still live on.
A Little History of The Fair
Dating back to the 1400’s, this fair changed dramatically from it’s meaty beginning. Over 700 years ago, the goose fair was just that; a place for Lincolnshire folk to sell geese, other edible animals and cheese to the Nottingham population. As time passed, it evolved into an annual excuse to have some fun.
The geese fell away and were replaced by attractions that were popular at the time. The fair has played host to rides, fortune tellers and circus-style side shows. It used to be held in Nottingham’s Market Square, right in the centre of town, but it was moved in the 1920’s due to the redevelopment of the square. It has survived through a lot, only being closed three times. Twice during the World Wars and once, many years previously to prevent the spread of bubonic plague.
The Fair Now
Visitors to Goose Fair can expect an 18 acre site packed to the gills with attractions. You will find 60 adult rides, and double that for the kids. Not a keen rider? You can hook ducks, toss rings and shoot arrows at over 200 game stalls. You could be lucky enough to leave the fair with a stuffed toy under each arm.
Personally, I have NO hand eye coordination but my nephew aced the hook-a-duck.
Mr Fluskey is a local boy and so I have been to Goose Fair a few times. This year we went as a big family group, Mums, Dads, sisters, husbands, and nephews. Three generations on a mission to get the most out of the fair. We took turns accompanying my nephews on the rides.
The Fluskey’s have an annual set route through the fair and so slowly, we traced their traditional path. Even when the weather took a brief turn for the worse, we “faired” along merrily.
This year (2017) saw the arrival of two new rides; huge spinning metal monsters shipped over from Dubai. The Giant Frisbee is a spinning disc that is also a swing. If you’ve ever been to Thorpe Park, it is similar to the Vortex.
You will find all of your favourite rides. There is a nice Big Wheel, huge Chair Swings, whizzing Dodgem Cars and spinning Waltzers. You can see the big rides from a long way away, and some look genuinely terrifying. The Speed XXL, a huge rotating arm that is 37m high(!) and the Reverse Bungee scare the living daylights out of me.
I adore the Waltzer and the Rotor but My Fluskey can’t handle spinning rides. Both of these rides rely on the kind of centrifugal force that can stick you to walls or pull the tears from your eyes. We went on The Rotor a few years ago and he felt too nauseated to go on any other rides! The compromise is getting him on the mouse ride. This is like a small roller coaster that you go round in a spinning Waltzer-like carriage.
Goose Fair’s oldest ride is a wonderful carousel dating from 1985. It has been coming to Nottingham for over 100 years now. Even this was a super ride, going surprisingly speedily. Its traditional pipe organ made a welcome difference from the pumping club music emanating from most of the rides.
Every year, the first Fluskey food stop is for mushy peas.
Unlike the blitzed variety served in many a chip shop down south, these peas are cooked low and slow. They are fully grown peas that are soaked before being boiled. The bright green colour is completely natural, despite looking slightly radio-active. At the fair, most people add mint sauce or vinegar.
Every few stalls you will find a booth selling chips and burgers. It can be pretty chilly on an October evening and so these greasy, savoury eats can be a welcome delight…even if its just to keep your hands warm.
Elsewhere you will find some yummy international options. We came across Chinese noodles, German bratwurst French crepes, and Spanish churros.
Finally its time to munch on some sweet treats, and you have plenty to choose from. The smell of hot doughnuts wafts across the park, tempting even the stoniest of will powers. Steaming and covered in sugar, these are the stodgier cousins of the light American version. Surrounding these stalls you can find bright pink candy floss (cotton candy), red sticky toffee apples and sweets galore.
The brandy snaps are utterly legendary. The best way to enjoy them? Buy a packet of brandy snacks. Get some squirty cream and raspberries. Stuff the brandy snap. Stuff your face!
And then there are the joyfully named “cocks on sticks”. Don’t worry, these are more chicken-shaped than phallic.
Thinking of Going to Nottingham’s Goose Fair?
- Goose Fair starts on the evening of the first Wednesday in October.
- Goose Fair runs until 23:30 three days later on the Saturday.
- Traditionally Goose Fair officially opens on the Thursday at 12:00 and is declared open by the Lord Mayor of Nottingham.
- If you are coming by car, be aware that there is no general parking at the site, but you can park nearby if you are a blue badge holder. The on street parking in the roads around the park fill up very quickly. There are park and ride buses from four or five car parks around Nottingham.
- From Nottingham city centre, you can catch a bus up Mansfield Road or take the tram which runs from the national rail train station and main Market Square.
- It will be crowded, almost a million visitors come to Goose Fair every year and so make sure you have a meeting place.
- Bring layers, it can be chilly in October.
- If you can get hold of the local paper The Nottingham Post and you can collect vouchers that will get you 0.50p off the price of a ride. It might not seem much, but over three rides, a family of four would save £6, that’s a portion of chips each!