There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Monday, 20 December 2010

Cannock Chase with Snow and Ice: The Nth Annual Fish and Chip Walk

For the second year running The Chip Walk, on the last Monday before Christmas, took place in snow. This year, however, it was much colder, –13 as I drove through Sandon on my way to the Chase. I claim no great accuracy for my car’s thermometer, but this is definitely the lowest figure ever seen on it.

Sue, Alison, Mike, Francis, Brian (hiding) and Lee
Cannock Chase

Starting from Milford, I noticed that Mike was not wearing shorts. He claimed to have considered the idea but, rather wimpishly, rejected it. We walked up the Heart of England way and onto the ridge above the Sherbrook Valley. The sheltered trees below the ridge were home to a substantial colony of large thrush-like birds identified by Francis and Brian as Redwing.

Hoar frost, Cannock Chase
Higher up the trees, coated with hoar frost, stood out against the misty backdrop of the valley with a stark beauty. After stopping to watch a young male Roe Deer walk calmly along the edge of a belt of pines, we reached the Katyn Memorial, descended into the Sherbrook Valley and climbed up the other side.

Down into the snowy Sherbrook Valley
Cannock Chase

And up the other side

We had coffee by the bird feeding station in Marquis Drive. There were a dozen or so robins, fluffed up to the size of tennis balls, bullfinches - a brightly coloured male and slightly duller female - and coal tits. There were probably others I do not remember, but I was not taking notes. Lee, with customary ornithological precision, identified a pigeon. He also claims he can recognise swans, but saw none.

Robin fluffed up to the size if a (small) tennis ball
Bird feeding station, Marquis Drive, Cannock Chase

We followed Marquis Drive, crossing the railway line and the Hednesford Road, and continued below Lower Cliff, where the icy cyclocross trails looked perfect for launching riders into the frozen pond below. We reached Stile Cop where Lee had cunningly parked his car before we started.
Marquis Drive, Cannock Chase

Five minutes driving took us to the ‘Swan with Two Necks’ at Longdon for the customary fish and chips and a couple of pints of Arkell’s excellent 3B. Arkell’s web site notes that in 1860, a gallon of Arkell’s XXX cost one shilling and fourpence (12p). A pint now costs £2.90. Swapping Bs for Xs turned out expensive.

We spent a little longer in the pub than usual – well, it was warm and comfortable - but eventually reasserted self-discipline and forced ourselves out. Shandy drinker Lee drove us through Rugeley to the Seven Springs car park.
Into the Sherbrook Valley again
Cannock Chase

The 7 km walk up Abraham’s Valley, over into the Sherbrook Valley, along the brook and then up
and over to Milford may have been far shorter than the morning, but was a long drag for a very brief afternoon. Sue and Lee set a storming pace, being the youngest and fittest, while others trailed in their wake. I would have cursed them under my breath, had I breath available for cursing. The speed was necessary, though, as we reached Milford just after four as the sun was setting.

Francis walks on water
Cannock Chase
Leaving the car park I noticed the temperature had risen to a balmy –5. There had not been a breath of wind, and I had never felt cold while walking. The white and misty Chase had been a beautiful and sometimes eerie place to spend (almost) the shortest day of the year.


  1. I think the best bird at the feeding station was a nuthatch.

    A good walk and the fish, chips and mushy peas were, like the 3Bs, excellent - and superb value on the lunchtime menu.

  2. Pitty there wasn't a swan - it's one of only four birds I recognise! An excellent day - thank you all!