Facts and figures

Cannock Chase area

Cannock Chase is mainland England’s smallest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and covers:

  • 69 square kilometres
  • 26 square miles
  • 6,900 hectares or
  • 17,000 acres

Width (west to east): 11 kilometres (6.8 miles)

Length (north to south): 13.5 kilometres (8.4 miles)

Most easterly point: Grand Lodge, Beaudesert New Park

Most westerly point: Hatherton Hall, Hatherton

Most northerly point: Tixall Farm, Tixall

Most southerly point: Hatherton, near Cannock

  • 64% of the AONB is owned by 7 public bodies and charities.
  • The AONB includes Cannock Chase Country Park, managed by Staffordshire County Council – at 1,300 hectares one of the largest in the country.
  • The AONB includes Cannock Chase Forest, its 2,700 hectares managed by Forestry England in a sustainable way to produce 19,000 tonnes of timber each year.
  • The whole of the AONB is Green Belt.

Elevation

  • The highest point on Cannock Chase is Castle Ring at 242 metres (794 feet)
  • The lowest point on Cannock Chase is Tixall Broad in the Sow Valley at 71 metres (233 feet)

Land cover

  • 63% is forest and heath
  • 37% is farmland and other uses

Population

  • 9,200 people live within the boundary of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • 2 million people live within 30 kilometres of the AONB boundary

Employment

  • 25 full time jobs employed in forestry/timber related activities (2020)
  • 53 full time /part time jobs employed in agriculture (2016)

Tourism

  • Cannock Chase receives an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year
  • The density of visitor usage on Cannock Chase is between 4-5 times greater than the density of visitors to the Lake District National Park

Access

  • 3387 hectares of public access land (58% of the AONB)
  • 157 kilometres (97.5 miles) of public rights of way
  • Sections of 4 long distance footpaths

Natural heritage

  • 1 Special Area of Conservation, covering 1244 hectares (18% of the AONB)
  • 5 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, covering 1392 hectares (20% of the AONB)
  • 3 Local Nature Reserves
  • 3 Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Reserves
  • 21 County Wildlife Sites
  • 5 Geological Sites

Cultural heritage

  • Over 600 cultural heritage assets (designated and non-designated)
  • 2 Registered parks and gardens
  • 66 Listed buildings and structures
  • 7 Scheduled monuments
  • 5 Conservation areas covering historic villages and canals

Some key dates

10,000 – 8,000 BCE (Mesolithic Period): flint knapping tools provide the earliest known human activity at Cannock Wood to the south of the area now known as Cannock Chase.

2,500 – 800 BC: evidence of Bronze Age activity on Cannock Chase can be seen in a number of surviving burnt mounds near the Rising Brook and the Stafford Brook near Wolseley Park. These have been interpreted as the remains of sweat lodges, as being associated with food or beer production, or related to industrial activity such as leather or wood working.

500 BC – 100 AD: Castle Ring Iron Age hillfort occupied.

1066-1087: the royal hunting forest of Cannock Forest is created in the reign of William the Conqueror.

1290: the area we now know as Cannock Chase was carved out of the forest and formally granted by the king to the Bishop of Lichfield as a private chase.

1200-1300: glass working is operational around Wolseley Park.

1298: first record of coal mining on Cannock Chase.

1500s: iron is being produced in the valley of the Rising Brook.

1546: the Chase is passed to Sir William Paget, whose family resided at Beaudesert Hall (most of which is now demolished). The Paget family are accredited with introducing the first blast furnace to the Midlands in the 1560s.

1600s: most of the oak woodland on Cannock Chase has been cut down for charcoal production and turned over to sheep grazing, creating the heathlands we see today.

1750s: enclosures of parts of the Chase for farming rabbits resulted in the ‘rabbit riots’ when warrens were attacked and damaged by local commoners.

1873: large scale military manoeuvres carried out by the Regular Army.

1914: the first of two huge military training camps is constructed, each housing 20,000 men, with associated infrastructure, such as, roads, rail lines, power station and water supply.

1921: the Forest Commission establish Cannock Chase Forest, making it one of the older national public forests, eventually covering some 2,500 hectares (9 square miles) of plantations.

1938/39: RAF Hednesford training camp constructed.

1957: the third Earl Lichfield gifts over 2,000 acres of the Chase to Staffordshire County Council, creating the largest country park in England.

1958: Cannock Chase is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

1990s: last sighting of red squirrels.

1993: seven hundred years of coal production on Cannock Chase comes to an end with the closure of the Littleton Colliery.

2001: Cannock Chase AONB Partnership is established.

2004: The first Management Plan for Cannock Chase AONB is published.

Want to know more?

The State of the AONB Report includes more statistics and information about the environment, society and economy of Cannock Chase.

For facts and figures about other AONBs, check out Landscapes for Life, the website of the National Association for AONBs.