Last weekend I was down in the Midlands visiting relatives and did a short walk over Cannock Chase.This was close to where I was born and it was where I first discovered the joys of rambling over 60 years ago. It was a beautiful morning, a bit chilly at 4 degrees but the sun was out and the sky seemed huge.
I parked my car near the White house and set off along the Heart Of England Way.
This is one of the Long Distance Footpaths that runs almost 100 miles from Milford on the northern tip of Cannock Chase to Bourton-on-the-water in the Cotswolds.
I was soon passed by some people on mountain bikes as I headed down towards Sherbrook Valley.
To my left was a fenced off area which is part of the Cannock Chase lowland heath restoration project. Until the outbreak of World War One, the heathland of Cannock Chase was grazed by Cannock Grey Faced sheep who, kept the scrub at bay and allowed the heath to flourish. Hardy breed cattle and ponies are now being introduced to do a similar job. It will help to control the scrub and bracken and allow the growth of heathland plants. A similar project is underway in the dunes near Formby. We like to think of the Lake District as being natural but of course that too is managed and without the Herdwick sheep is would revert to scrubland.
As I reached Sherbrook Valley I came to a sign for The Two Saint’s Way. This is 92 mile long distance footpath between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield.
I turned right to walk down Sherbrook Valley. There were some lovely Silver Birch trees framed against the sky.
It has become a very popular recreational area for people on horseback and on mountain bikes.
I met a couple coming the other way walking their dog and greeted them with a cheerful “Hello”
“Hawdoo” he replied
“Beautiful day to be out walking” I said.
“Arrh yo cor beat it, it’s bostin”
It made me smile, the local accent. Had I really used to speak like that? The accent can be so broad that even people in neighbouring villages can hardly understand each other.
I continued along to the stepping stones where the track from Pepper Slade came in from the right. A biker went through but I did not attempt to cross. The log stepping stones looked treacherous.
I left the valley and walked across the heath towards the Glacial Boulder joining the Staffordshire Way en route. The Glacial Boulder was transported to, this location during the last Ice Age. I was surprised at how small it was. Perhaps it just seemed larger when I was young.
Nearby was a trig point, marking the highest point on Cannock Chase but still only a modest 194 metres.
I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see that I had been out for over an hour. I had promised my wife that I would only be about two hours and yet I was now a good couple of miles away from my car. Time to get a move on.
It was getting s bit chilly and the sky was clouding over.
On the way back I made a short diversion to see the Katyn Memorial.
Twenty thousand Polish Officers and leading intellectuals had been taken prisoner after the invasion of Poland by Russia in 1940 and transported to Katyn in April and May of that year.
They were led to believe that they were being set free, but instead they were taken into the forest and shot in cold blood by the NKVD Secret Police. For many years, the Soviets tried to cover up their involvement in the massacre by insisting that the Nazis were to blame for the crime, but recently they have acknowledged their involvement.
I then followed the Heart of England Way back towards my car, pausing to view another memorial. The Bremen 25 Stone.This refers to the 25 Oak Trees planted in the nearby German Military Cemetery in 1987.
I covered almost 5 miles in just under 2 hours. No wonder I felt tired.
We drove home up the M6 through Cheshire and into Merseyside. I have lived up here for almost 40 years but have not really picked up the Scouse accent, just a few of the local expressions. It had been a great day.
I was “Made up”