I’ve made the start and finish of this route Canalside Farm in Great Haywood. They’ve got a good Cafe that’s already popular with cyclists. But I’ve also marked on the map a number of other places you can park along the way (perhaps stopping at Canalside on the way round instead!).
Out of Canalside it’s over the road and around the boatyard to your first technical challenge, a steep cobbled bridge that takes you over the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Staffordshire & Worcestershire canals. On the side you’ll ride up, the gradient isn’t too bad, but over the top it’s steep and slippy when wet (not to mention cobbly), so maybe save the heroics for later unless you’re a confident crosser.
Your next mile is all towpath until a short set of steps takes you up on to Meadow Lane where a little tarmac and a few cobbles soon see you climbing up onto Cannock Chase.
Up and away:
Miles 2-3 of the ride have the toughest climbing you’ll have to do on the loop. On Strava the segment is imaginatively known as “the long drag” and it does live up to the name, the saving grace being that after a rough start the surface smooths out and the gully up which you climb is actually really beautiful.
The top of the climb offers glimpses of some great views to the east that might distract you from the false flat you have to battle up for the next mile or so until you reach the trig point. (I’ve marked this on the map as its a nice spot to stop, sit and enjoy the view across the Sherbrook Valley) from where (finally) you get to enjoy the performance enhancing benefits of gravity.
The long descent down to Pepper Slade culminates in a water splash through the brook before more gradual descent along the valley before the short climb up to Coppice Hill, a nice climb (if there is ever such a thing) that comes with the bonus of a fun sweeping descent down to the old railway cutting and on into Milford (where you can grab coffee at Mammoth Lifestyle too)
Lord of the Manor:
The grounds of Shugborough are the last section of the ride with the main drive into the grounds giving some stunning views across the estate before you pick up the bridleway that takes you back over the Essex bridge, through Great Haywood and down the final bridleway alongside the railway that culminates just a few yards away from the starting point of your ride at Canalside.