In 1999, following a visit to the dedicated mountain bike trails in Afan forest, Wales, Gary Galpin approached the Forestry Commission at Birches Valley to explore the possibility of building similar trails at Cannock Chase. Nothing happened for two years until Gary hooked up with Stuart Tite via an Internet forum to explore Stuart’s idea to develop a 1/4 mile circuit at Stile Cop.
By now the Forestry Commission and Swinnerton Cycles were looking at building an ambitious 30 mile loop. However, they didn’t have the skill or knowledge to do this, let alone the resources. As a result, when Gary and Stuart approached the Forestry Commission again, they were welcomed with open arms and a three way partnership was formed.
Gary and Stuart named themselves Chase Trails and the partnership set about working on the loop. However, it soon became apparent that a 30 mile loop was far too ambitious, and Chase Trails persuaded the other to let them focus on a shorter circuit of about 7 miles. Whilst planning the route, they would sometimes just follow Zak, Gary’s Jack Russell, and so Follow the Dog was born.
Things really kicked off with the first ‘Big Build Day’ in February 2003 when 60 people turned out to work in the trees above Fairoak Pools, and by mid afternoon the whole section has been ‘dug off’. Significant progress was also made with the introduction of Bob and his digger. Bob’s 40 years’ experience of working on the Chase was to prove invaluable when he was tasked with constructing the trail across the clear felled section above the Pools, despite having to learn all about mountain bike trail design.
Volunteer numbers were not to stay at anywhere near the level of the first Big Build, and progress over the following months almost ground to a halt as often no one turned up to help. Determined to succeed, Chase Trails persevered and soon developed a core group of volunteers who turn up week in, week out to build and maintain the trails. As a result, and almost against the odds, Follow the Dog was opened in March 2005.
Encouraged by the success of Follow the Dog discussions soon started about ‘Phase 2’, another 7 mile loop of more physically and technically challenging trail. After two years of planning the project took a huge step forward in 2008 after a £200,000 funding boost.
The injection of funding meant progress on ‘Phase 2’ would be significantly quicker than with Follow the Dog. Building began at the end of 2008 as contractor Hugh Clixby arrived on site and began construction of the first of the machine built sections.
Chase Trails hand built several sections of trail and added finishing touches to others. The number of bananas eaten by volunteers during its construction was to give ‘The Monkey Trail’ its new name. The trail was opened in April 2010 by Olympian Oil Beckinsale and has received great reviews from both riders and press alike.