Cannock Chase is a large Forestry commission woodland, with tens of car parks, coffee stops, camp sites and even a war cemetery. There are SO many walking routes, cycle paths, and bridleways to choose from. This route starts from the Punchbowl in Milford, away from the hustle and bustle of Birches Valley, and on to the Cannock Chase stepping stones.
We also tried to find Dick Slee’s Cave, which is written on OSMaps, but we failed to find a cave like structure. I shall explain more later on!
Parking At The Punchbowl
We started at Punchbowl car park, which is completely free to park on, and a decent size to be honest. It can get a bit muddy, so make sure you’re able to get out safely. Postcode ST17 0XA.
From there, take the path at the back of the car park, starting with a metal gate. It inclines straight away, so those muscles will be shocked if you’ve brought your bikes along! It’s not too long before it evens out and the first part of the walk is straight, with different types of trees framing the edges. We did this walk in early November, and it was VERY muddy. As it is a route for all modes of transport, the paths get churned up quite a lot. Definitely one for wellies or walking boots.
Cannock Chase Stepping Stones
This part of the walk is absolutely fine for walkers, cyclists, horses (we saw many pairs of riders) and pushchairs/wheelchairs if you are happy with muddy wheels. Walk along with Harts Hill to your left, on what forms part of the Staffordshire Way. At your first fork, make a left and head down on the Sherbrook Valley trail. At the end of this part is the Stepping Stones. I would estimate it is only a 20 minute walk from the car park; about 3/4 of a mile.
There are picnic benches around the water for you to have a seat while the kids splash away. I noticed that the tables and benches are metal. Perfect for in the winter, as I find the wooden ones are constantly wet. The day we came, it was cold, but the seats were perfectly fine to sit on! The ford is fed from the the Sher Brook, and is perfect for welly stomps, testing out new waterproof gear, cycling through at speed and general wading around. Kids and water are a brilliant mix and I guarantee that this will keep them entertained for a while.
Hop, skip and jump across the stepping stones and make your way up and straight ahead. We wanted to scope out Dick Slee’s Cave, as the kids are massive cave fans, and it just makes the walk sometimes. I already had a premonition that it wasn’t an actual cave, but, here’s hoping!
Dick Slee’s Cave
The route we took is pictured down below, and you can open it in OS Maps here. We carried on along the path from the stones until we reached a triangle in the path. Take the right path. Follow this until you notice a bike track that comes from the left to right, and heads quite steeply downhill to the right. Downhill is where you want to go.
Now, this is not very suitable for pushchairs, and it is very slippy. You could always carry on down the Sherbrook Valley way and come back up on yourself, if you have wheels. Once down the slope, turn left and head towards the open copse of the woodland. Here is roughly where we thought the ‘cave’ may actually be.
I figure, it is where the small ‘viewpoint’ symbol is on the map. Head straight on from where you came off the track and into the open space, then right by the tree that stands out. There is a small trail marked out in the foliage. Ahead of you there is a drop and a view that radiates out over the other side of the Chase. We said a ‘Hello’ to Dick from here and started back towards the car.
Who Was Dick Slee?
Legend has it, Dick Slee was a hermit, who, as a shy and retiring character, just wanted to live on the Chase. He befriended a hare, and lived quite happily in a hand made turf hut, with a small garden and a spring nearby. The hare was killed one day, by greyhounds, which sent Dick into a melancholic state. He penned a small poem, dedicated to his little friend.
Poor Bess, alas, is dead!Dick Slee
Nought but bad luck for me;
She had no soul to save,
Yet Bess I lov’d to see.
Each day she did around
My humble cot attend,
She was my sole companion,
And my silent friend.
Unfortunately there is nothing much left of his ‘cave’, save for a hollow in the ground.
Walk back out to the tree that stands out and turn left. There is an opening in the trees. Follow on straight and take the second left*. At the crossroads, go straight on and past the picnic bench. Slip and slide down here until you meet the main trail. Turn left and you will end up back at the stepping stones.
*(If you end up taking the first left, this brings you to a trail where you need to turn right, back to the stepping stones. I’m just marking out the route that we took, but it was very easy to take the wrong turning!)
From the stepping stones, retrace your steps by turning right, then right again at the next T junction – back to the car park.
There are no facilities at the Punchbowl, but if you drive out to Milford Common, approx 2 minutes away, there are toilets, parking, and picnic benches. There is also a Wimpy burger chain, which I haven’t seen in YEARS, so we will definitely be making a return trip!
The route we took is approx 4.5k long (about 2.7 miles) and should take just over an hour, maybe more for branch walking and stone hopping!