“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” ~ John Muir
One of our favourite local places to visit is Cannock Chase, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It stretches far and wide, from Milford at it’s northern tip, Cannock in the South, it’s eastern edge falling just shy of Rugeley, and Birches Valley right at the very depths of it’s centre.
I love driving through it in any season, it’s winding roads taking you on a journey through ever changing scenery – buds and blossom in springtime, lush greens and trickling streams in summer, a riot of autumnal colours through September and October and a hauntingly bare sparseness during the winter months.
There are many, many signposted little car parks and walking trails just off the main road, several of which we visit regularly. Sometimes I take myself off for a long walk on my own, sometimes we go as a family, we’ve introduced friends to the beauty of the forest and I have a couple of favourite spots which I use as locations for my Family Adventure Session photo-shoots.
Even though we’ve visited these trails hundreds of times in the decade we’ve been living in Stafford, we’re always discovering something new – a little offshoot path that we hadn’t noticed before, a fork in the track that we hadn’t previously spotted. And sometimes we go a little bit crazy and simply choose to take a completely different direction to the way we would normally go and just see where it takes us. I know – living dangerously! I jest a little, but for someone like me who desperately craves adventure whilst secretly loving familiarity and routine, it often takes something seemingly small and insignificant (like taking a different route) to shake me out of the rut I’ve got myself into and teach me something about myself that I don’t already know.
Anyway, all the way back in half term at the start of June, which seems like an absolute age away now that we’ve just started July, the girls and I were at a bit of a loss as to what to do with ourselves. The husband was at work, we had nothing planned to keep us occupied for the afternoon, the sky was looking threatening, we’d been bickering all morning and I knew we needed to get out of the house to save everyone’s sanity (mostly mine).
Ella suggested walking to the Stepping Stones (our favourite trail) and, for once, the vote was unanimous, so we donned our hoodies and set off with the music in the car turned up loud. When we arrived, instead of setting off on our usual path I led the girls off to the right, up a steep hill immediately off the car park. I had no idea what we’d find, hoping for a decent view and maybe some trees to climb, but to my delight we discovered a clearing which was home to a single, solitary, sturdy-looking rope swing. The girls let out whoops of delight and we stayed there for ages, taking turns on the swing (me included – it felt so good to rediscover the fun side of myself that I’d almost forgotten existed), finding ‘treasures’ like pine cones and sticks, exploring the clearing and laughing non-stop.
It was a brilliant afternoon, not dampened in the slightest by the little bit of drizzle that put in an appearance part way though our adventure. The girls keep asking when we can go back and show Daddy the rope swing and I’m already looking forward to exploring further off the beaten path.
I always used to worry about getting lost, but I’m slowly learning that sometimes you need to get a little bit lost to find yourself.
Joining up with #MyFamilyAdventures with Life As Our Little Family