Cannock Chase AONB
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A Guide to the Cannock Chase AONB

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The Cannock Chase AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) can often be overlooked when it comes to locations for weekend adventures. With the Peak District an hour to the north, the Malvern Hills an hour south, and the Shropshire Hills an hour to the west, this small forest in Staffordshire is often passed by in favour of those hills and peaks. However, Cannock Chase has plenty to offer, and as the locals know, it shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

Here’s our guide to the Cannock Chase AONB and why you should be planning to explore it sometime soon.

Mountain Biking at the Cannock Chase AONB

If there’s one thing that Cannock Chase is well known for it is mountain biking.

Over the last couple of decades, Cannock Chase has established itself as one of the best places to go mountain biking in England. From the humble beginnings of the first trails being built by a group of volunteers, mountain biking has grown and grown to the point that Cannock Chase was chosen to host the mountain bike events for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

There are trails to suit all abilities and even the most experienced of riders will find something to enjoy here.

Cannock Chase AONB

Perry’s Trail

Perry’s Trail is the newest trail at Cannock Chase. Built as part of the Commonwealth Games investment in the area, this trail is aimed at beginners and serves as a great introduction to ‘real’ mountain biking.

Expect smooth, fast-flowing trails with berms and rollers to enjoy.

The trail begins and ends at the Birches Valley Visitor Centre and it’s a great trail to enjoy if you’re new to mountain biking or a great way to warm up if you’re about to tackle the longer, more advanced trails.

Follow the Dog

Follow the Dog was the first official trail at Cannock Chase AONB and is probably the most well-known and best-loved.

This is a red-graded trail and is aimed at mountain bikers with a decent level of fitness and a good degree of experience and competence on a mountain bike.

The route features steep climbs, fast descents and unavoidable obstacles such as drops, roots and rocks.

Like Perry’s Trail, Follow the Dog begins and ends at the Birches Valley Visitor Centre.

The Monkey Trail

The Monkey Trail serves as an extension to Follow the Dog and is usually tackled as part of a figure-of-eight loop that takes in both trails.

The Monkey Trail is red-graded but also features some small black-graded sections to challenge riders. This trail is a step up from Follow the Dog and you can expect steeper climbs, faster downhill sections and some more challenging and technical terrain.

The Birches Valley Trail Centre

For the three cross-country mountain biking trails -Perry’s Trail, Follow the Dog and the Monkey Trail – parking and facilities can be found at the Birches Valley Visitor Center.

There are useful facilities here too, including a cafe, toilets and a bike shop.

Parking at Birches Valley: Use postcode WS15 2UQ

Walking Trails at the Cannock Chase AONB

When ITV broadcast ‘Britain’s 100 Favourite Walks‘ a couple of years ago, it was no surprise that Cannock Chase made the top 100 and featured at 79. There are dozens and dozens of routes that can be taken, with trails linking together all over the forest.

Amongst the most popular routes is the Sherbrook Valley Trail, a 7.5-mile route that begins and ends at the Marquis Drive car park and visitor centre. The route is a mixture of both woodland and open heathland, with the return section of the loop following the brook as it meanders through the valley.

The Stepping Stones area is a great spot to stop for a rest or to enjoy a picnic and you might be lucky enough to spot some fallow deer as the views open up over the heathland.

There are also several points of interest that can be seen by linking routes together, including the Glacial Boulder, and Castle Ring, an Iron Age hill fort at the highest point of the Cannock Chase AONB.

For longer, more challenging walking routes, the Ordnance Survey website has plenty of options. For shorter, more family-friendly options, the Forestry England website has some great short walks.

Cannock Chase Map

Cannock Chase and Chasewater

OS Explorer Maps:  

  • 1:25 000 scale (4 cm to 1 km – 2½ inches to 1 mile). 
  • Great for walkers, hikers, cyclists, families, dog walkers, and horse riders. 
  • Includes roads, rights of way, permissive paths and bridleways, plus essential visitor information. 
  • Free digital download included. 

Things to Do at Cannock Chase

There’s plenty to do at Cannock Chase aside from walking and biking. There are two main visitor centres – Birches Valley and Marquis Drive – both with a variety of things to do. From playgrounds to picnic areas, barbecues and cafes.

Go Ape

At Birches Valley, there is a Go Ape Centre, offering treetop adventures to those brave enough to give it a go. Expect obstacles and zip lines as you venture from tree to tree on one of Go Apes’ largest adventure courses.

Segway

The Go Ape Centre at Cannock Chase also offers segway tours around the forest. This one-hour experience runs through the spring and summer months and is a great way to explore the area.

Trail Running

For those who love to explore at a good pace, there are several designated trail running routes around the Cannock Chase AONB. For beginners, there are 3km and 5km routes, and for those with a good level of fitness, there are 7.5km and 10km routes.

The trails are waymarked and colour-coded, making them easy to follow so you can forget about navigation and focus on your running.

Parking and Facilities

For the mountain biking trails, Go Ape, and some of the walking routes, the best place to park is at the Birches Valley Forest Centre, near Rugeley.

Birches Valley, Rugeley WS15 2UQ

There are useful facilities here too, including a cafe, toilets and a bike shop.

Make it a Weekend Adventure

There’s more than enough to do here to make it a weekend of adventure, and there are plenty of hotels nearby. You can use the interactive map below to search nearby hotels when you plan to visit.

Booking.com

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