Cannock Chase is a mixed area of countryside in the county of Staffordshire, England. The area has been designated as the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Chase gives its name to the Cannock Chase local government district.
Cannock Chase is located between Cannock, Lichfield, Rugeley and Stafford. It comprises a mixture of natural deciduous woodland, coniferous plantations, open heathland and the remains of early industry, such as coal mining. Despite being relatively small in area, the chase provides a remarkable range of landscape and wildlife, including a herd of around 800 fallow deer. The landscape owes much to the underlying Triassic bunter formations. Efforts are currently underway to increase the amount of heathland on the chase, reintroducing shrubs such as heather in some areas where bracken and birch forest have crowded out most other plants.
The Chase is home to a number of less-common and endangered birds, not least migrant Nightjars. A feeding station at the Marquis Drive Visitors' Centre, sponsored by the West Midland Bird Club, attracts many species, including Brambling, Yellowhammer and Bullfinch.
There are a number of visitor centres, museums and waymarked paths, including the Heart of England Way and the Staffordshire Way. Additionally, there are many unmarked public paths. On the Chase's north-eastern edge can be found Shugborough Hall, ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. At its southern edge are the remains of Castle Ring, an Iron Age hill fort.
The Chase is home to several memorials, including German and Commonwealth war cemeteries, and a memorial to the victims of the Katyn Massacre and was unveiled by Stefan Staniszewski whose father, Hillary Zygmunt Staniszewski (a high court judge), died in the massacre. Mr Staniszewski died in May 2008. Preserved below the Katyn memorial are phials of soil from both Warsaw and the Katyn forest.
Cannock Chase was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on 16 September 1958 and is the smallest area so designated in mainland Britain, covering 68 km² (26 square miles). Much of the area is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Chase is popular with cross-country mountain bike users. The recently opened purpose-built XC 'Follow the Dog' trail(supported by Gary Fisher) is an 11 km (7 mile) technically challenging route, starting and finishing at the Birches Valley Visitors/Cycle Centre. It is open to all, however it is not recommended for beginners.
There are no Red squirrels on the chase, the last one died in the car park near the German memorial
Since 2006, the forest has been used as an open air music venue as part of the Forestry Commission nationwide Forest Tour, with acts such as The Zutons, The Feeling, Status Quo and Jools Holland playing in a forest clearing.