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Cannock Chase

Cannock Chase is a National Landscape (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in Staffordshire, UK. It covers approximately 26 square miles of land between the towns of Cannock, Stafford, and Rugeley. The landscapes of Cannock Chase include forests of deciduous trees (that lose their leaves in winter), forests of coniferous trees (which don't) - which were planted to be cut down and re-planted for wood - and valleys which are covered in heather and other plants, known as heathland. There's even an Iron Age hill fort at its highest point.

Some of the plants, animals, and fungi which can be found on Cannock Chase include:

  • Fallow deer

  • Tawny owls

  • Nightjars

  • Grey squirrels

  • Ancient sessile oaks

  • Birch

  • Hawthorn

  • Fly agaric toadstools

  • Parasol mushrooms

  • Ringlet butterflies

  • Cuckoos

  • Adders

and absolutely loads more!

A path running alongside trees. A heath is on the other side and the sun is setting.

Cannock Chase History

The area which became Cannock Chase National Landscape has been used by humans for centuries. It is called Cannock 'Chase' because it was used as a royal hunting forest in medieval times, where the king would come to hunt for deer and other animals. Over centuries, the land changed hands, first to the regional Bishop, then to local landowners. They recognised that the land could be used for monetary gain, so they started grazing cattle, mining, and managing the woodland so the trees could be cut down for wood. For many centuries people lived off the land of Cannock Chase.

In the twentieth century, the world changed quickly with the start of World War I in 1914. As Britain was going to war, it needed to train its men to become soldiers. The Earl of Lichfield, who owned much of Cannock Chase at the time, lent his land to the army so it could build two training camps - one at Brocton, near Stafford, and one near Rugeley - where men came from all over the country before they went to fight on the continent.

Sometimes they had specialist instructors. The New Zealand Rifle Brigade were a highly-trained unit who had seen many battles in wars in the nineteenth century. They came to train men in the camps on Cannock Chase and brought their mascot, a Great Dane named Freda, with them. When she died, they buried her on the Chase, and you can still see her grave today. They also built a miniature model of a village in Belgium called Messines, which they had captured, to show the trainees how they did it. This was uncovered in 2013, and has been reburied to protect it. 


 On the other side of Cannock Chase, in an area called 'Brindley Heath', the army built a hospital for soldiers returning from fighting in World War I. Some of them had physical injuries but mostly they were men suffering from what was known at the time as 'shell shock' - what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

After the war, the local coal board bought the hospital and converted it into living quarters for their miners and their families. By this time there were many mines in the area as the land is coal-rich. Many families had many happy years in 'Brindley Village', before they were relocated in the 1950s, just before Cannock Chase became protected land. You can watch a documentary film about the residents of Brindley Village here. 

Today, there are still signs of Cannock Chase's history if you look hard enough. You'll see the remains of buildings, trenches, and rifle ranges at the sites of the camps, memorials to residents at Brindley Village, and even some of the training camp huts have been preserved at Marquis Drive Visitor Centre, and at Brocton, as their village hall. There's also a German Military Cemetery and a Commonwealth War Cemetery, both on Camp Road.

Here are some more helpful resources about the history of Cannock Chase:


Building Remains.jpg

Visiting Cannock Chase

Cannock Chase is a very loved and very delicate landscape. Some parts are under special scientific protection. That means that if you visit, you need to follow some rules to make sure you don't cause the plants and animals any harm, such as parking in a dedicated car park, keeping to paths, and not having fires or BBQs. The Cannock Chase National Landscape team have published some guidance for visiting the area. Visit each of the links below for further information.

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