You have done well to follow me this far. I have done well to get this far. There are no churches to bore you with today!
I have a dilemma — an extra and not particularly inspiring 4 miles from Stafford to reach Cannock Chase which I’ve done before on other occasions. A bus goes to Milford every hour. Dilemma solved, I take the pilgrim’s bus.
This section over Cannock Chase brings back memories of when I completed it in reverse with my mate Mel 20 years ago. I’ve just returned from his delayed wake, he died in the middle of lockdown, April 2020. We were finishing The Heart of England Way back then, having walked from Lichfield to Stafford. As was our custom before travelling to our respective homes, we would have a few beers and a meal. We were in some dingy curry house in Stafford, Mel ordered a Chicken Jalfrezi, a fairly hot dish. When it arrived there must have been 30 whole chillis in it, I don’t know if there was any chicken. Mel managed a good three quarters of his meal. He was sweating profusely when the waiter came for the dishes, seeing the remains of his meal the waiter turned to Mel and said “so you don’t like chillies?” This was met by much guffawing from Mel, he was still laughing about it years later. Great times.
There are tracks all over the common at Milford, it must have been a nightmare during busy times in lockdown. Today it was mainly dog walkers parking up. Once in the trees the tracks can become confusing, I took the first compass bearing of the trip to get me into the Sherbrook Valley. There are numerous named LDWs coming through here. As the clouds were down on the tops I thought the valley route would be more attractive and so it turned out. Hands in pockets type walking, whistling a tune.
Having dallied with The Staffordshire Way, I joined The Heart of England Way, which led me to a visitor centre where I enjoyed a coffee and cheese slice. This was timed well, as it had started to rain. The car parks were full to overflowing, and yet the area is so vast that people soon thin out.
The area around the visitor centre was RAF Hednesford in WW2 and has an interesting history worth reading. There are remains of huts scattered around and a Burma Star Memorial.
This area is popular with mountain bikers and there are several demanding loops heading into the trees and hills. The railway is crossed by an elaborate footbridge, which I don’t think was here the last time. More mountain bikers were parked up just off the main road.
The main track I was using undulates through the forest and gradually climbs up to pass by an Iron Age Castle Ring Fort. This is the highest point on Cannock Chase at 801ft. The bracken growth at this time of year tends to hide the features, and the views weren’t good today.
There is a pub just down the road, but as was the case of many, it was closed and looking unkempt. I set off to walk the lanes but came across a pub that was open, The Rag. A pint and crisps were welcome and there happened to be a bus stop almost outside which would get me to my B and B on the edge of Cannock. The bus driver was surprised to get a passenger from this out of the way place. It was soup and sandwiches in my room tonight.