‘Follow the Dog & The Monkey Trail’, Cannock Chase
Follow The Dog is a 12km loop starting at Birches Valley Visitors Centre, however the trail can be joined from various locations along the route which is a good idea during weekends as the visitors centre gets very busy with bikers, walkers and people taking part in the “Go Ape Tree Top Adventure”.
The trail is Red graded with plenty of berms, small drop offs and board walks to tackle. However, due to the very sandy ground and volume of traffic during the weekends, the trail has eroded quite severely in places. Winter riding here takes its toll on your machine, no matter how well maintained it is.
The Monkey Trail was introduced more recently and can be joined from the Dog at kit bag hill! (something to look forward to on the way back). Combined, the trail covers around 24km. After crossing the railway track and the A449, take a sharp right where the signs can be clearly seen. The Monkey is much more of an uphill slog than the Dog, however the technical stages are much more rewarding especially the two down hill sections at the end. Plenty of airtime to be had depending on your skill levels and bravery. By the way, the air ambulance can often be heard hovering about during the weekend. So next time you see someone shaking the collection tin remember it may be your taxi home one day!
Again, due to the soft ground and popularity, the Monkey trail is becoming less fun to ride compared to the fast flowing sections that were available when it first opened. The exposed tree routes and polished stones will test out your riding skills. There is also a Black route with tight switchbacks and steep, rocky sections which is best ridden with a lowered seat, pads and a full face helmet are also recommended. Lowered tyre pressure will help with the grip on the more slippery parts; do take care of tyre pinch on the few rocky sections though.
I have had the pleasure of introducing quite a few friends into mountain biking over the years, some more keen than others. Cannock Chase is a great place to start whatever your level, with plenty of Blue fire track routes to try before attempting any technical stuff. To add to the excitement you can always try night riding. It totally transforms the trials even after riding at least three times a week for the past few years. The dark makes it much more interesting, especially when you come across the free roaming deer that want to take back their territory at night. A good time to ride if you prefer less traffic.
For a local ride it is great to have on your doorstep. However, it does not compare to the Welsh trails, where a mixed selection of riding styles can be practised including pump and free ride areas which encourages the younger generation to get out and ride!
There is plenty of space on Cannock Chase to introduce new cross-country and skills areas, let’s hope we see some new trails in the future.
For more information on the Cannock Chase trails, please visit http://chasetrails.co.uk/
If you’ve ridden the Cannock Chase trails, we would love to hear from you.