On the Chase in June

We’re heading for Cannock Chase – the weather forecast says it should stay dry (it did), while showers would affect western Shropshire in the afternoon (they did). It’s not a great day, photographically – the clouds are heavy and ominous, and there’s no real sunshine – but it’s very enjoyable to explore the heathland, which varies in appearance and feel as we make our way around. A fairly long one today – just short of 10 miles – so we’ve earned our tea and cake at the visitor centre…

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Silver Birch

…on Cannock Chase. There are forested areas, and there are wide expanses of heathland – the latter well-scattered with silver birches. On this chilly, clear and sunny January afternoon, the silver-white of the birches stands out against the blue of the sky. There are warm tones in the winter undergrowth of grasses, heather and bracken, but there’s little else – the leaves are long-gone, as are all those colourful toadstools we saw on our last visit. The bacon baps in the visitor centre are, of course, much as they were last time – just the thing for a cold day.

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Toadstool Trail

Autumn on Cannock Chase, and the toadstools are in full bloom, so to speak. They’re all over the place – there’s a magnificent fairy ring in one spot, and there are fly agarics (“Flying Erics” – the red ones with white spots, and a little door for the gnomes) in profusion. Sadly, someone has a grudge against them, and many have been kicked to the ground (who would do such a thing?), but many more have come up to replace the fallen. It’s fun up here at this time of year!

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Beech and birch…

…on Cannock Chase. It’s a perfect late-autumn morning, ideal for a walk over the Chase, to the visitor centre for lunch. We’ve earned bacon baps today, though the real reward is the colour in the remaining leaves, especially when seen against that clear blue sky. There are few left on the silver birch, but those on the many beech trees which line the edge of the coniferous forest are glowing in the sunshine.

Cannock Chase Visitor Centre

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Tackeroo toadstools

Wednesday: We’re walking the track of the Tackeroo today. The reason for the name is lost in obscurity; the track is that of the WW1 military railway built to serve camps on Cannock Chase – lifted soon after the war ended. Substantial parts of the network of lines remain as very pleasant footpaths across the moorland – along one stretch, there seem to be regular indents at right angles to the path, about as far apart as the line’s sleepers would have been. Surely not, after nearly 100 years?

Today’s weather is dull – grey and hazy – and the colours in the leaves have yet to develop. The Tackeroo toadstools are doing really well though, especially the fly agaric (“Flying Eric”, as my nephew once misheard). Sadly, many beside the path have been kicked and broken – whoever would want to do that?

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Silver birches

Thursday 5 Jan: We have to be in Wolverhampton briefly, late morning. It’s a perfect January morning – quite the wrong kind for being in Wolverhampton, so we’ll continue on to Cannock Chase, for a snack lunch in the visitor centre, followed by a walk to make the most of the weather. To do that, we’ll need to drive away again (it’s fairly densely forested there), to a more open part of the Chase, where scattered silver birches predominate, their trunks really catching the light. It’s pleasant by the Sher Brook too – in places, the water is mirror-like, the reflections perfect. We could have walked further, but that would take us into the forest, so we’ll head back to the car as the shadows lengthen.

map

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To Fairoak Pools

Early November in Staffordshire: it’s cold but it’s sunny, and there’s little wind – Cannock Chase could be good, we can have bacon rolls* for lunch at the visitor centre… We’re ringing the changes slightly – starting from one of our usual spots, we’re taking in a detour to Fairoak Pools – they look good on the map, and we can loop around them. They’re man-made – dammed, in other words – but they’re very attractive in the sunshine, the autumn leaves of birches and oaks contrasting with the dark pine forests beyond. After lunch, tall beeches glow beside the track as we head back towards the car; in the last half-mile, we look out past silver birch trunks to the grassy plateau beyond. “There could be lions” says my wife, just as the word “savanna” pops into my mind.

* We were too late. They don’t serve breakfast items after 1pm. (Have they been raided by the diet police?) The wraps and rolls, it has to be said, were pretty good, but not the same…

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