STAFFORDSHIRE’S cyclists can mix spooks with spokes this Halloween by exploring some of the county’s eeriest cycle routes.
Criss-crossing Staffordshire are miles of cycle lanes and national cycleways all of which are used every day by the county’s cycling community.
But some routes are shrouded in legend and ghostly encounters and can add a new thrill to an already scenic cycle ride.
Some of Staffordshire’s creepiest bike rides include:
- Cannock Chase – as well as miles of cycle paths, picturesque countryside and mountain-biking trails, Staffordshire’s piece of the National Forest is home to dozens of myths and spine-tingling local legends. Keep an eye out for hovering UFOs, the dreaded Pig Man or the sinister Black Eyed Child of Cannock Chase crossing your path.
- Tamworth Castle – Supposedly one of the most haunted places in Staffordshire is also a perfect cycling location with off road routes taking riders right to the door of the medieval castle. A lady in white roams the battlements weeping and wailing for her murdered lover – or so say the ghost hunters who in 1949 took a photo of a hooded figure descending the stairs.
- Lichfield Cathedral and town – With too many legends to mention at once, Lichfield hosts the Gruesome and Ghostly tours in a city that has a massive cycling network, good parking and local provision too. The walk is rounded off with a visit to a local pub for a glass of mulled wine and a sausage roll to settle the nerves.
- Gentleshaw – These woods may be home to one of the world’s most iconic myths – Bigfoot himself. A group of teenagers sitting in a car once spotted a sasquatch creature approaching them through the treeline. As they sped off, it chased them through the forest before they lost it. Other reports say a large wild cat stalks the woods.
- Chained Oak – the Denstone to Oakamoor cycling trail passes by Alton and the Earl of Shrewsbury’s Chained Oak. Legends say the Earl was cursed to have a family member die for every branch that fell off the old oak on his estate at Alton Towers, so he ordered for it to be chained up. The chains hang on the tree to this day.
- Stafford Castle – Rumours of a headless horseman thundering across the grounds of Stafford Castle have been reported on a number of occasions – although investigations later proved this to be just an escaped cow. But the undoubtedly spooky castle is close to the NCN 55 route and is a scenic route to enjoy the town.
- The Roaches – Good challenging cycling territory, with many stories surrounding the eerie hills leading from Leek into the Peak District. The climactic battle of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight took place in the rocky chasm known as Lud’s Church, while next to Castor’s Bridge are the remains of a house where in the 17th century police arrested a whole family of cannibals.
- Bobbington – This Womborne village has the story of a monk-like hooded man crossing in front of a couple’s car on the road before disappearing into the fields. Riders should be safe though on the nearby Railway Walk route, which has no roads and features several picnic hotspots.
- Hanchurch Woods – this private estate near Stoke-on-Trent also has a challenging six mile mountain bike trail. Pedal quickly, though – many paranormal investigators have reported a sense of being watched while staying the night in the woods.
Helen Fisher, Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways at Staffordshire County Council said: “Staffordshire is truly a wonderful county for cycling, whether it’s purely leisure or for getting to and from work. But if you’re looking for something more out of your bike ride, these spooky spots are great to add some spine-tingling fun.
“Whether it’s relaxing rides along our canal network, extreme rides through the beautiful Cannock Chase or safer off-road cycleways we’ll have something for everyone. And, remember if you’re out on your bike when it’s dark, please make sure you have lights and reflectors on your bike and that you are wearing bright or high-vis clothing to ensure you can be seen.”
To find these routes, along with advice on cycling at night and being seen, visit www.staffordshire.gov.uk/cycling. Cyclists can also plot safer, customisable routes with the Staffordshire County Council cycle route planner at http://cyclemap.staffordshire.gov.uk/