Saturday, 24 June 2017

24/06/17 - Heart of England Way - Stage 3 - Cannock Chase Visitors Centre

Distance - 8.15 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Pub - The Bridge, Hednesford, Otter Summer Light
Previous Stages - Stage 1, Stage 2

Stage 2 of the Heart of England Way ended up with us bumping into Don Goodman in the centre of Penkridge.  It seemed quite fitting that we start Stage 3 and instantly bump into another former Albion Player, Saido Berahino.  At least I think it was Saido.  Mrs M fully noticed the trio of three fit men walking towards us but is dubious on account of not noticing any body art.   I am convinced and I was looking at their faces, rather than at their rather toned torsi.  So my vote wins.

I've checked his twitter feed and as to what he would have been up to on Cannock Chase remains inconclusive.

On with the walk.   This is the 3rd month in a row I've been on the Chase and that's enough for any walker.   Yes, its an area of Outstanding Beauty.  Yes, its got decent paths.  But No, there is nothing to look at and its all very "samey".  Throw in annoying gits on bikes who like to show off their little bells and you've got a recipe for boredom, with a smattering of slight annoyance.

Marquis's Drive is a forest track that takes us West to East from the Visitors Centre, crossing railway lines and the A460.   Nowt to see, but the walking is pleasant and route finding easy.

Off Marquis Drive
View from Maquis's Drive
Through more woods in Beaudesert Old Park and the HOEW turns South towards Castle Ring.   This marks the Southern extremity of Cannock Chase.  At least next time, we will be walking in different terrain.

Castle Ring is an old Hill Fort but today its covered in bracken.  I may explore it more in the next leg.  There's also the first Geocache of the Day.   June 24th marks one of only four days in the year that I haven't found a Geocache and I'm keen to fill in my grid.  And you've guessed it.  After a 15 minute hunt, with Mrs M waiting patiently on a nearby bench, I've come up with nowt.  I return and explain the situation.  After answering my predicament with a "Why do you want to fill in your Grid?", she comes to help.   And unusually, she cannot find it either.

Annual Grid
The four missing days of Geocaching.  Will June 24th be completed today?

Back to the walk.  The return is the same as the outbound, heading through woods, skirting the edge of Beaudesert Golf Course and following similar paths/terrain to the way out.   The views are slightly better.

Views looking back
Looking over Beaudesert Old Park
There is one additional cache near the Visitors centre a quick dive into the woods results in a quick find and the swap over of a couple of travel bugs.

Hoorah - the day is saved.  Well, filled in on an on-line grid.

And by the time we are back at the visitors centre, everyone is dressed in WW1 gear, with little camp fires, a medical tent, warnings about the Hun, soldiers in battle dress and a Bi-Plane.

WW1 Re-enactment
Bi Planes and Bikes
All that remains is the post walk refreshment.

The Bridge, Hednesford, Otter Summer Light

In addition to the walking, I've been struggling with the post walk refreshments in this part of the world.  Stage 1 involved stumbling into a very chainy "Eating Inn" pub in Milford.  Stage 2, we forsook the immediate area and went to Penkridge (bumping into the Don).

Today, I have inspiration from another blog.  A man that knows more about the pubs of this country than anyone.

Surprisingly, Hednesford has an entry in the 2017 Good Beer Guide.   A quick investigation through Google Maps showed that it didn't look like the sort of place Mrs M would like.  I'm not 100% sure. It proclaims real ale and then has the logos for Carling and Coors.

The Bridges, Hednesford
If there was a prize for most "Estatey Looking Pub"?
Whatever its like, its not going to be worse than the Eating Inn.

We head in.  The place is massive.  Area for a live band.  Area for a pool table.  Many seats setup for dining.   Ian Dury blasting out of the jukebox.

We head to the bar.  Six real ales on.  A few choices from Banks but around the corner is where the gold dust lies.   A never before spotted member of the Otter Tribe.  Otter Summer Light.   That new, it isn't even referenced on the Otter Web Site.  It actually had a hand written sign on the pump, so for a moment, I thought they may have confused it with Otter Bright.  Untapped App confirmed that indeed, the beer is real and correctly named.

And like everything from Otter, it was delicious.

Otter Summer Light
The newest Otter in the Bevy
And the beer is only part of the story.   For £3.25, you can get a handmade burger.  Add 50p, you get a slice of cheese.  Add £2 and you get triple cooked chips.

Never has a post walk lunch been so tasty, filling and cheap.

Mrs M vowed never again to judge a book by its cover.  A cracking boozer.

We may be back following the Stage 4 walk.

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