Dont you just love a catchy title, so what is this all about I hear you ask! Well sit back and join me on a little jaunt into the known unknown.
Cannock Chase, barely a 20min drive from Birmingham and a place I have only just begun to explore.
Covering an area of just 26sq mi, it is the smallest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on mainland Britain and holds with in its wooded floor and heathland a large variety of fauna and flora.
It’s origins are a little sketchy with one of the earliest sites of habitation being the Castle Ring fort (Canocks chase highest point) perhaps home to the Cangi tribe and some say where the Chase acquires its name. I have recently become interested in the history of the UK and particularly pre-roman Britain, the fort and most pre-roman structures always fascinate, it is an amazing site to see, standing on what would have been the ramparts you can gaze inside and see the remains of circular impression that would have held homes, these days it tends to hold Britain’s only poisioness snake the Adder and in the warmer months they are easily spotted basking in the sun.
With a history of old mine workings, medieval abbeys, WW1 army camps, ranges and even a scale model of Messines, the Chase holds a more grizzly and alternate past, from bigfoot, large black cats, slender man, black-eyed children and even murders.
So with this in mind I thought it only right that a run within its depths would be most appropriate,visiting the WW1 ranges, camps and some old mine workings.
I set off from my usual spot of Shoal Hill, this little nature reserve is popular with dog walkers but once away from the main car park are easily avoided, Shoal Hill covers 180-acres and is currently in its 20th year of a restoration project to return some areas to Heathland, it contains a mixed mature woodland and paths zip off in all directions creating a warren of paths to explore.
I depart the car park, no puppy in tow due to recent cases of Alabama Rot and slowly climb a stoney path nestling the heath to one side and a small pond the other before entering a woodland, opting to take the non paths darting in and out of gnarled trees, making use of a mountain bike jump track before joining a path alongside Cannock Park Golf Club. Legs feel heavy as I trundle along, reaching Stafford Road, i cross quickly and enter Cavin’s Wood, the paths winds its way through the trees passing a caravan park
I follow the trail jumping mud and vaulting trees blown down in the recent storms before hitting Huntington Belt, here I spot a discarded Hilti tool bag I nose but it contains nothing but nails and along I plod.
There are many stories that spring from this area, big cats being a popular one, I can’t say I have ever seen or heard anything that would come close, don’t get me wrong there are plenty of sightings around the UK, most spring from the 1970s when owners released these animals into the wild after the introduction of government legislation on the keeping of dangerous animals. It is possible that some exist and there have been a few reported captures in the ‘wild’ but nothing conclusive has yet been discovered.
I reach Badger’s Hill’s and make use of off paths again, sneaking in and out of woodland overgrown and paths that are best left to the welly brigade, I exit the wood at the wrong part and a quick navigation recap and I follow the road over to the Commonwealth War Grave,
I take time out and wander here,taking note of the names and ages, one thing strikes me here at 37 I am the youngest here, that shocks me somewhat that most of these guys died in their mid 20s and 30s a powerful wake up call to be thankful for what we have now.
This spot contains both WW1 &WW2 graves, Cannock during the wars housed both commonwealth soldiers and a prisoner-of-war hospital and holds some 286 german graves. Worth a visit if you’re in the area.
I move on passing both woodland and heathland, saying hello to fellow runners before coming upon the rifle range
I climb the main bank and gaze back along the track, here lies a multitude of ranges here built during WW1 and trained some 40,000 men, now it houses wildlife and day visitors, it was surprisingly quiet here and I enjoyed my sit, in the distance I could make out the square grounds of what I assume were ranges. Id later learn that near this area in Sherbrook Valley is hidden WW1 practice trenches, if I had known I would have gone looking,
I took a little time and snapped some pics of the car, I kind of liked the twisted and rusted shape, before taking off back the way I came roughly retracing my steps, nipping off into the woodland to explore a little more.
On the way back I passed by Pye Green Tower, actually a relic from the cold war built as a secondary back up in case of nuclear war, inconspicuous tower host much of the ‘odd’ sightings that happen around the Chase. In particular the ‘Pig Man’.
I love this particular little story, it is what is says on the tin a mans body with a pig’s head and comes with its own little Rhyme
“When night falls, enter the woods at your peril, For inside lurks something worse than the devil. Avoid at all cost the gathering place, where at midnight the Pig-man roams on Cannock Chase….”
Now it does get even better than that, the story goes that around this area the army during ww2 and post ww2 were messing with eugenics and created a man/pig hybrid that now runs amok on the Chase, I leave that one with ya.
I didn’t see anything supernatural, but certain places have a habit of making you feel watched, the very nature of a closely planted wood creates a certain foreboding, voices can carry for miles making it appear that unearthly spirits are near. It always amazes me how vast these places are once you start exploring and there is enough space to avoid the crowds.
Slender man is also a common urban myth from many parts of the world, the likely hood that this entity exist is simply laughable, the origins were a character in a graphic novel, nothing more. Then there are also the black-eyed children which are much more frightening, there are a few different theories of the origin but in Cannock they are believed to be the victims of a diphtheria outbreak which causes eyes sockets to be sunken and black, a simple google will show a few pictures or videos. There is also a more grizzly ans saddening theory attached to this and it relates to the three bodies of girls found in the Chase in the 1960’s.
What ever your views, it is hard to denies that there is a lot going on around the chase.
So if you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone.
Only kidding get out there and have fun