Cannock Chase AONB
Location of Cannock Chase AONB in the UK
Cannock Chase (grid reference ) is a mixed area of countryside in the county of Staffordshire, England. The area has been designated as the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Chase gives its name to the Cannock Chase local government district. It is a former Royal forest.
Landscape, flora and fauna
Cannock Chase is located between Cannock, Lichfield, Rugeley and Stafford. It comprises a mixture of natural deciduous woodland, coniferous plantations, open heathland and the remains of early industry, such as coal mining. The landscape owes much to the underlying Triassic bunter formations. Cannock Chase was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on 16 September 1958 and is the smallest area so designated in mainland Britain, covering 68 km2 (26 sq mi). Much of the area is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Despite being relatively small in area, the chase provides a remarkable range of landscape and wildlife, including a herd of around 800 fallow deer and a number of rare and endangered birds, including migrant nightjars. A feeding station at the Marquis Drive Visitors' Centre, sponsored by the West Midland Bird Club, attracts many species, including brambling, yellowhammer and bullfinch.
Efforts are[when?] underway to increase the amount of heathland on the chase, reintroducing shrubs such as heather in some areas where bracken and birch forest have crowded out most other plants. The local flora also includes several species of Vaccinium, including the eponymous Cannock Chase berry (Vaccinium ×intermedium Ruthe). In January 2009, an outbreak of the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum was discovered on the chase, at Brocton Coppice. Various restrictions were put in place in an attempt to prevent its spread.
Visitor sites and landmarks
There are a number of visitor centres, museums and waymarked paths, including the Heart of England Way and the Staffordshire Way. There are also accessible trails to enable people to experience the health benefits of Cannock Chase, such as The Route to Health. Additionally, there are many unmarked public paths. On the Chase's north-eastern edge can be found Shugborough Hall, ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. At its southern edge are the remains of Castle Ring, an Iron Age hill fort, which is the highest point on the Chase. Several glacial erratic boulders are also found on the Chase, remnants of glaciation. One is mounted on a plinth.
The Chase has several war memorials, including German and Commonwealth war cemeteries. A memorial to the victims of the Katyn massacre was unveiled by Stefan Staniszewski, whose father Hillary Zygmunt Staniszewski (a high court judge) died in the massacre. Preserved below the memorial are phials of soil from both Warsaw and the Katyn forest. Freda, the Harlequin Great Dane mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (Earl of Liverpool's Own) is also buried on the chase marked with a memorial marble headstone.
The Chase is popular with cross-country mountain bike users. The purpose-built XC 'Follow the Dog' trail is an 11 km (6.8 mi) technically-challenging route, opened in 2005, starting and finishing at the Birches Valley Visitors/Cycle Centre. It is open to all; however, it is not recommended for beginners. A new section of XC trail was opened in April 2010. The 'Monkey Trail' (11.2 km (7.0 mi)) is a more technical trail that splits from 'Follow the Dog' at about the halfway point, then rejoins slightly further on. There are several features mountain bikers can look out for when riding on the chase, such as Kitbag Hill, Rabbit Hill, Quagmire Bridge, Roots Hall and Brocton Shorts to name a few.
Increasing popularity of the MTB trails led National Rail to install a cycle bridge in 2013 at Moors Gorse to replace the previous pedestrian level crossing where multiple near misses indicated a high risk to cyclists.
Since 2006, the forest has been used as an open-air music venue as part of the Forestry Commission nationwide Forest Tour, with acts such as The Zutons, The Feeling, Status Quo and Jools Holland playing in a forest clearing.
Cannock Chase murders
The area gained notoriety in the late 1960s when the Cannock Chase murders made national headlines; the remains of three young girls were found buried on the Chase after going missing from areas along the A34 road between there and Birmingham. Raymond Leslie Morris, a motor engineer from Walsall, was found guilty at Stafford assizes of one of the murders in 1968 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in March 2014, aged 84, after serving 45 years.
Model WW I battlefield
In September 2013 Staffordshire County Council allowed a team of local archaeologists and volunteers to excavate the World War I model battlefield near Brocton, Staffordshire, which had been constructed by German prisoners of war held in a camp on nearby Cannock Chase and guarded by soldiers of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (Earl of Liverpool's Own). The model of the village and surrounding area of Messines in Belgium, which included replica trenches and dugouts, railway lines, roads, and accurate contours of the surrounding terrain, was open to public view for a few weeks before being buried again to ensure its preservation. The excavation revealed many new details of the well-preserved 40 metre square battlefield. "Staffordshire County Council will be using laser-scanning technology to re-create the site as a 3D interactive model that can be explored online." 
In popular culture
Since the nineteenth century, sightings of Black Dogs, Werewolves, British big cats, UFOs, black-eyed children and even Bigfoot have appeared in the local press. However no conclusive evidence has ever been produced verifying these claims, and they may best be thought of as forming part of local folklore.
Cannock Chase has also achieved national notoriety for its association with the sexual practice of dogging. This occurred in March 2004 when the ex-England footballer Stan Collymore was revealed in a News of the World investigation, to have regularly engaged in the activity at a car park near Anson's Bank.
Cannock Chase also has a darker side associated with it. In 2015 a woman came out to state she had been sexually abused from the age of 6 by senior politicians and other powerful members of society, often referred to as "The Elite". She claims this took place in the woodlands of Cannock Chase, as well as other locations in the midlands. Nothing has been validated as of yet, and no case has been opened. 
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- The Route to Health
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- "Moors Gorse Bridge opening". 26 June 2013.
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- The Archaeology of the Camps
- The New Zealand Rifle Brigade
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- Kurt Bayer, Archaeologists uncover practice WW1 battlefield, New Zealand Herald, 3 September 2013
- "Brocton WWI model battlefield excavation to begin, War History Online, 2 September 2013". Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Battlefield emerges from under Cannock Chase bushes, Express & Star, 11 September 2013
- Michael Bradley, 'Brocton's lost Army 'tribute' excavated after a century,' BBC News, 11 September 2013
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- "Labi Siffre on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
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- Cannock Chase Website
- Staffordshire County Council page on Cannock Chase
- West Midland Bird Club feeding station at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 July 2009)
- Chase Trails Mountain Biking
- Chase Skills Mountain Bike Coaching at Cannock Chase
- Cannock Chase Horse Trekking
- Ramblers' Association page on Cannock Chase
- Article with photo of Katyn memorial at Cannock Chase
- Church Street Conservation Area, Cannock Chase Heritage Trail, cannockchasedc.gov.uk[permanent dead link]
- Protected Planet page for Cannock Chase