Park at the Go Ape – Pay and Display.
As a child, my parents use to spend all weekend at the sailing club on the Cannock Chase reservoir, also known as Chasewater. Nowadays, when I go back to visit family in Stafford, we head for the Birches Valley Forest Centre, which is the starting point for all the bike trails. See these maps for the other car parks and amenities.
So far, I have only tried Birches Valley, located at WS15 2UQ. Make sure you have change for the parking meter – it’s around £4 for the day (December 2015). I usually meet my friends Kate and Joao in the cafe. A keen mountain biker, it was Joao who first introduced me to Birches Valley. He’s so into it that he puts a camera on his handlebars and then puts the recordings to music and watches them back at home. I am thinking of getting a harness for Betty and recording the view from her perspective.
We usually start off in the cafe for a spot of lunch. The menu is made up of carbs with various fillings – jacket potatoes, cold sandwiches and paninis. They also do great espresso-based coffee drinks and hot chocolate. Dogs are allowed in the cafe, away from the food counter and, if the weather is nice, there are picnic benches outside and water bowls that you can fill from the outside tap. The toilet facilities aren’t bad either.
Looking at the maps, we’ve followed parts of the Fairoak and Health Trail, where you can sit on chairs belonging to The Three Bears and leave notes for the fairies that live in the tree.
After we’ve had an hour or so of walking, we head back to the cafe for a cappuccino and slice of cake. In the winter, the light is only good until around 4pm, so that’s generally it for the day. I am looking forward to heading back during the summer months. Apparently, the other cafe has an area where you can take your own barbecue.