Today I was required to act as chauffeur to Her Majesty, as she would be 'too relaxed to drive' after her visit to the 'Spa Resort' at Hoar Cross Hall.
I didn't mind. It gave me the chance to 'Follow the Dog'. My only previous experience of 'single-track' mountain biking was an encounter with The North Face Trail at Grisedale, a couple of years ago, as part of a longer ride.
It was a dull day, but fine for mountain biking along the forest trails of Cannock Chase. The 7 mile trail is mainly through trees.
Obviously such paths are very easy at low speeds, but if you prefer a bit of momentum they can become a bit of a tree dodging exercise. I'm reasonably used to this from cycling in Delamere Forest, where there is no bespoke 'single-track' route - you just devise your own way through the trees. In Delamere there are steep drops and deep bogs to negotiate - if you feel like leaving the broad forest tracks. But here in the Chase they have spent a fortune in sanitising the ways through the forest, resulting in an experience almost anyone - at their own speed - would enjoy. And to go really fast would indeed be challenging. It took me just over 45 minutes to get round, excluding a short break to chat to another 'biker' (yes, that's what they call us here!) who was waiting for his mate. This chap had recently been the British Mountain Biking champion. He looked at my old bike with neither suspension nor disc brakes, and suggested I take care over the next section. I didn't, but I still couldn't keep up with them. The hardest bit was actually a short section of board about two feet wide, but that was easy compared with the boggy alternative.
So it was fun, and it's a shame we have nothing like it close to home, though some of the Peak District routes I follow are far more technical in nature.
I notice that a longer route, the Altura Trail is opening up in Whinlatter Forest, so the bike will have to visit the Lake District to try that one out.
Anyway, 45 minutes doesn't make for a day out. So, suitably refreshed, I headed off along a trail marked with green numbered signs. This was logging country.
There's a large Shaggy Ink Cap in this picture, dripping with ink!
I followed the signs for over an hour - from about 115 to 167 before suddenly, after about 14 miles, finding myself back at number 127 for the run back to the Forest Centre. These tracks were quick, easy and enjoyable.
I was envious of another cyclist (sorry, 'biker') who was on a ride out from his home in Rugeley. It's a shame that the facilities weren't there when we were children in this area.
But all was not entirely as it should have been. This was meant to be a picture of a deer, but the animal moved to fast for the camera!
After a fine cheese and pickle buttie and a flask of tea - whilst Sue was enjoying fine food at her Spa - I set off again, this time on foot.
Woodpeckers were pecking, squirrels were - well, running everywhere - and coachloads of youths were pretending to be apes. The newly opened 'Go Ape' course did look good fun, if very similar to the one at Delamere.
The path seemed to be taking me on 'The Route to Health'.
This wildlife did remain still enough to be photographed.
And these made me feel as if I may be in an aquarium rather than a forest!
I didn't know what to make of this!
Maybe Weird Darren had built it to support his tarp whilst in the area, modelling for this:
There were some nice 'textures' to be captured as well.
I was back at the car by 3 o'clock, when it started raining.
That was a fine excuse for a lazy afternoon reading the selection of fine literature I carry around for such occasions and admiring the wildlife at Blithfield Reservoir.
And then it was time for my chauffering duties. Her Majesty enjoyed a lovely sunset whilst my eyes were glued to the road as we cruised up the slippery M6 in Friday evening traffic at a steady 20 mph.