With a surprise 40th Birthday Party for my Brother-in-law to attend to way up north in the wilds of the East Midlands I was granted permission to pack my bike and go for a spin around Cannock Chase on the Friday which was about an hour away from where we were staying.
Arriving at a surprisingly deserted carpark in the woods I was greeted warmly by lady who was attending the parking meter. As I pumped the £4 into the guzzling machine she obviously quickly assessed my level of riding competence.
“Which Trails are you riding” she asked nicely.
“I heard that Follow the Dog and The Monkey are good” I responded.
“Ooh, they are quite long and steep” she retorted, eyeing me up and down.
“That’s good with me, I like to try new trails when I can”.
“We had a nasty accident yesterday on The Monkey” she warned earnestly, “I’d be careful if I were you”.
“Ok, I’ll take care, thanks”. I swear she was about to go and phone the ambulance to tell them that another Middle aged MTBer was going to have to be whisked off to the local hospital shortly.
So with a tiny level of trepidation I found the entrance to Follow the Dog, and dived in. Now who ever built the trails at Swinley Forest, obviously had plenty of material left over, the hardpack is exactly the same mix of sand and pebble, which on this occasion was dry and dusty, given the lovely weather we’d be getting over the last week. But straight away it was noticeable that there are many more technical features, with rock gardens, some northshore, small jumps and drops offs coming in fairly regular intervals. I was already enjoying myself and I was only twenty minutes in.
After crossing the road that takes you over to The Monkey, the ante was pushed up another notch, although some of the climbs were steep, with many tight hairpin corners (good luck on the Geomotron Mark) the downhill sections were great, even alpineesque in places, but by god some of the gaps between the trees are tight. You can see the scars of a thousand bar ends that have eaten away at the trunks of the pines in several spots.
On the way round I caught up with a handful of other riders who were were all extremely cheerful and chatty, and happy to promote their local track. Some of the stand out downhills were ‘Pot of Gold’, Upper Cliff’, ‘The Original Monkey’ and ‘Rollercoaster’, my standout favourite though was ‘Lower Cliff’ which had a mix of open flat out speed, big berms and jumps which plunged back into trees, and with the ever present timber either side of you to keep you focussed, it felt like you were going at warp factor 3.
Beware the braking bumps in some sections, which shouldn’t really be present in some of the areas, but given the amount of traffic this place gets, it’s probably not surprising. I returned to a packed carpark and I think I just heard the voice of the little lady I met earlier, talking into her mobile “No, don’t bother now, he’s actually made it!”
I had planned to do some GoPro footage, but some muppet cleverly left aforementioned gadget lying of the sofa at home. So instead heres a Strava Report and an couple of Pics (sorry).
The verdict, excellent, probably not worth travelling specifically to for a day, but if you’re in the area, enjoy.