Boost for Staffordshire as a base for cross-country mountain biking

Cycling in Staffordshire is set to be given a big boost, as the county prepares to host mountain bike events next summer for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Cannock Chase’s reputation for world-class mountain biking helped it secure the races as part of the Birmingham Games next August – but now work is underway on creating new forest trails that will also leave a lasting cycling legacy for Staffordshire.

They are being built at Cannock Chase along with a new bike play facility aimed at families, and a regional centre of excellence to promote safe, off-road biking.

And the trails, developed by Forestry England, will not only provide top quality courses for elite mountain bikers taking part in the Commonwealth Games, but will also remain afterwards as permanent attractions for visitors.

The new funding – including a £50,000 contribution from Staffordshire County Council as well as financial support from Sport England and British Cycling – will also be used to build a ‘bike play trail’ aimed at helping younger people who want to get involved with cross-country mountain biking.

Designed in partnership with British Cycling, if the project proves a success, it could be replicated at other sites around the country in the future.

Cannock Chase already offers world-class mountain biking, with cross-country courses like ‘Follow the Dog’ and ‘The Monkey Trail’, and the ‘Stile Cop Downhill Trails’, packed with berms, booters and kickers to get a cyclist’s heart racing.

But building a more moderate trail is something forest managers have wanted to do for a while. Now, thanks to the Games, work is now underway on the new cycling facilities, with construction on the first trail section almost completed.

While mountain biking offers a real adrenaline rush, Staffordshire has plenty more on offer for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Miles of former railway lines and breathtaking natural backdrops combine to create a haven for cycling.

A sprawling network of cycle paths and greenways has replaced historic train routes like the South Staffordshire Railway and the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway, now the Manifold Track, providing ideal spots for more sedate bike rides.

There’s plenty for beginners, too, such as the Manifold Track, where you can coast along between the rural retreats of Wetton and Ilam, beside the imposing Thor’s Cave which offers superb views of the valley.

Meanwhile close to the Manifold Valley, the Oakamoor to Denstone Greenway links two of the prettiest Churnet Valley villages, passing through Staffordshire’s Little Switzerland, so-called because of its rolling green hills, woods and meadowland.

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Photo: Forestry England