FAQs

Which trail is for me?

All the trails at Cannock Chase use the green, blue, red, and black grading system. Each trail is signposted with coloured arrows and the Forestry Commission’s grading panels. These are as follows:

Green: Easy. Suitable for: Beginner/novice cyclists. Basic bike skills required. Most bikes and hybrids. The green route can take trailers.
Blue: Moderate. Suitable for: Intermediate cyclists/mountain bikers with basic off road riding skills. Mountain bikes or hybrids.
Red: Difficult. Suitable for: Proficient mountain bikers with good off road riding skills. Suitable for better quality off-road mountain bikes.
Black: Severe. Suitable for: Expert mountain bike users, used to physically demanding routes. Quality off-road mountain bikes.

If you’re unsure which trail to choose, pop into Swinnerton Cycles and speak to the staff there – they’ll be able to recommend the right trail for you.

What condition are the trails in?

It varies! If there’s been any rain recently, the trails will usually be wet and muddy, with a good amount of puddles scattered around. It takes about a week of no rain for them to dry out completely. In 2012/2013 we installed plenty of drainage pipes in certain locations that used to collect huge amounts of rain, so drainage has improved drastically since we did so.

Due to the high amount of traffic the trails experience, there will always be signs of wear – we do our best to keep them in tip top shape but the most obvious thing you’ll notice is braking bumps on the corners – these are a fact of life at many trail centres, and it’s made worse that our ground isn’t rocky, it’s sandy!

Can I come and help with trail building?

Yes please! We’re always on the lookout for new volunteers – anyone is welcome to join us and we meet at Swinnerton Cycles at 10am every Sunday. Our trailbuilding page has all the details.

What time does the car park close?

The car park is open until dusk – for the exact times please visit the Forestry Commission website.

How much does parking cost?

Parking costs are outlined on the Forestry Commission website.

There is no parking charge at Stile Cop, however please be aware that the car park is not owned by the Forestry Commission and is unmanned. Please take any appropriate safety and security steps – secure any valuables, don’t leave anything visible, etc.

How much does it cost to ride the trails?

The trails are free to ride – you just need to pay for car parking. If you like our trails and would like to support them either come building or join Chase Trails.

Where can I get a map?

Swinnerton Cycles stock two maps – one showing the XC mountain bike trails and another showing the green/blue walking and cycling routes. There are also information boards at the start of the trails, and all routes are signposted. In addition, you can download maps and GPX routes from our site.

Can I hire a bike? How much will they cost?

Swinnerton Cycles offer hire bikes – visit the Bike Hire page for more information. Bookings are recommended!

Is there a bike wash on site?

Yes – Swinnerton Cycles have a bike wash you can use for a small fee. It’s available daily until around 16:30 (excluding Wednesdays).

Is there a cafe?

Yes – Birches Valley Cafe serves food and drink as well as ice cream for the kids (or adults!).

What do I do in case of an emergency?

All the marker posts (usually at the start of each section and near technical features) have emergency information on them, including the grid reference, nearest hospital, and emergency contact numbers. In case of an emergency you should contact the ambulance service and, if possible, Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre. Both numbers are listed on the emergency info posts.

For the downhill trails at Stile Cop, there are marker posts located at the top and bottom of the hill – these show the same emergency information including the post codes, grid references, etc.

How can I stop my bike from being stolen?

Unfortunately we’ve had a fair few cases of bikes being stolen from Birches Valley in recent years. With some bikes costing upwards of £5000 these days, they’re a popular target, however it’s easy enough to reduce the risk of yours being stolen.

  • Never leave your bike unattended while you’re inside the bike shop, cafe, or toilets. Would you leave £10 cash unattended on a table? No? Exactly – now think how much more a bike costs!
  • Never leave your bike unattended either on the outside or inside of your car – even if it’s the middle of the day on a weekend, thieves are on the lookout.
  • Consider buying a cheap lock from your local bike shop – even a small lock can help, as it makes your bike look less appealing than the unlocked one next to it.
  • Set up a “Privacy Zone” on Strava (or similar sites) if you ever ride from home. These will mask your exact home location from the site.
  • Be aware when posting photos taken at home on social media or email – pretty much all smartphones nowadays will add the GPS co-ords to the photo. While Facebook and Twitter will strip this data from the file, other services may not. For example, Instagram have a “photo map” on your profile – tap the map icon and double check, just in case!

What facilities are available?

Birches Valley has toilets available during opening hours. There are no changing rooms or shower facilities.

Where’s the closest pub?

The two closest pubs to the XC trails are The Horns Inn and The Chase.

The closest pub to Stile Cop is The Chetwynd Arms.

Can I bring my dog on the trails?

Please don’t. Dogs are unpredictable and accidents have occurred in the past.

Is night riding allowed?

No. The main reason for this is that Cannock Chase is home to lots of nocturnal wildlife, and riding at night will disturb them.

I’m visiting from a far away land such as Barbados…or Croydon. Where can I stay?

Follow the Dog passes through Tackeroo Caravan Site, or if you’d prefer to stay in something a little more luxurious, have a look at Cannock Chase District Council‘s website for a list of nearby accommodation.

Can I go on a Skills Course? Who runs them?

There are a few skills course operators on Cannock Chase, including:

Are there any group rides – aka social rides – that I can join?

Yes! The following businesses / organisations offer social rides or shop rides – all of which are free to join – please make sure you check beforehand if they’re suitable for your level of skill/fitness:

Note: With the exception of Swinnerton Cycles, Birches Valley Cafe and the Tackeroo Caravan Site, Chase Trails and the Forestry Commission do not endorse or recommend any of these businesses, organisations, or events and the provided links are for information only.