The Forestry Commission's health-push is called Active Woods and is backed by the British Heart Foundation. Cycling plays a key role in forest recreation plans. A good example of how provision leads to demand will be seen with the 13th March opening of Follow the Dog, a 7-mile Gary Fisher-sponsored XC MTB route in Cannock Chase Forest, near Rugeley, Staffs. This has been constructed by Chase Trails, a group of local enthusiasts working in partnership with Swinnerton Cycles and the Forestry Commission.

Tree org wants fatties off sofas and into woods

A Jack Russell called Zak is set to be immortalised with the opening of the West Midland’s first ever purpose-built cross country mountain bike route in Cannock Chase Forest, near Rugeley, Staffs. The seven mile trail, called Follow the Dog, will give riders a chance to enjoy a ride through the 8700 acre beauty spot, while protecting sensitive terrain elsewhere in the Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The route will be officially opened on Sunday 13 March, with demonstration rides, trade stands, displays, music, a hog roast (note, not dog roast) and the rider to cut the ribbon will be Gary Fisher, one of the founding fathers of mountain biking.

Georgina High, Forestry Commission Recreation Ranger, said: "Building the route has taken two years and is an enormous achievement, especially on the part of volunteers who have invested thousands of hours of hard labour. All the partners share the same vision of creating world class, sustainable, biking facilities in Cannock Chase Forest. With over one million people visiting each year, such trails will allow us to balance the needs of all woodland users, ensuring bikers can enjoy high quality rides away from sensitive sites.

"And of course, it gives people chance to put into practise our Active Woods message that a few hours in the saddle can put years on your life."

The Follow the Dog trail is the brainchild of Gary Galpin, from Milford, and Stuart Tite, from Rugeley, who formed Chase Trails and recruited a small army of like-minded enthusiasts to help them build the route, inspired by similar trails in Wales. They worked alongside Forestry Commission engineers, building bridges, clearing trees and surfacing the route with local materials. Even Galpin’s mutt lent a paw. At one stage, when faced with a host of possible routes for the trail to go, they opted to forge ahead in the pooch’s paw marks, hence the name Follow the Dog.

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