Castles, Chases & Canals

After our first week down in Devon, we took the train up to Rugeley in Staffordshire (nearest big reference point is Birmingham) to meet Kirsty, Jason and Evie. It was so nice to catch up and finally meet our adorable and very entertaining niece. We spent a night at Kirsty and Jason’s before heading to nearby Lichfield to stay with Jayne and Ian for the rest of the week. In addition to time at home, we had many great outings, including crazy golf in Birmingham, a trip to the famous Lichfield Bower and plenty of dog walks.

One of our destinations was Cannock Chase, a historic woodland and designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We started out at Castle Ring which consists of the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, first occupied around 2,000 years ago. It’s also a great spot for dogs to run around (Hungarian Pulis Reggie & Rita and Barney the poodle).

After completing the ring, we headed into the woodland. The Chase is known for “beast” sightings, including Black Dogs and werewolves, and apparently even Bigfoot has been reported here. The only Black Dogs we saw were Reggie and Rita.

Barney did his best to become a black, or at least brown dog, but he was only partly successful.

Andy made sure to keep Evie entertained, or it’s just his natural state – maybe a bit of both.

It was a warm day, and Jason wisely suggested Andy take a turn carrying Evie, of course timing it just before the big hill. I think they both had a great time.

Or course, we had to get a family shot! The dogs wanted to know what all the excitement was about, but Barney clearly understood the assignment.

Evie stretched her legs, while Unky Andy played the always popular hide-and-seek.

The next day, we took advantage of decent weather (only a few passing showers) and visited Elvaston Castle Country Park in nearby Derbyshire. The pups clearly approved.

Spot the floating Rita rug.

Andy kept up his crazy uncle antics. It might take Evie a couple more years before she’s up that tree, but I reckon she’s not far off with her adventurous spirit.

The original manor house dates back to 1633, but was redesigned in the gothic revival style as today’s Elvaston Castle in the early 19th century. It’s not open to the public, but has extensive grounds and gardens, and of course a cafe.

We explored the incredible grounds, walking amongst impressive topiary and massive, centuries-old trees. There was a weird guy in there too.

Time for morning tea in the castle courtyard. I can highly recommend the sausage rolls!

After asking Evie if she’d take photos with me and getting a “no,” I tried again a bit later and got a “yes” this time. Once we got started though, she wasn’t really in the mood for an auntie-niece photoshoot. The photos still came out pretty cute – hard to have a bad one with Evie.

We stopped in to the gift shop, some of us anyway, before exploring more of the grounds.

Had to get a photo with my guy Barney, but didn’t want Andy (or the Pulis) to feel left out…

I think the stone arches must be one of the most popular attractions here. Who can resist climbing up top?

What a beautiful spot! If we were in the area, this would definitely be a popular dog-walking destination.

Before heading back to Lichfield, since it was our last full day, we stopped in the small village of Shardlow, which holds the distinction of being Jayne and Ian’s surname. It’s also pretty charming and has a great pub, where we stopped for an obligatory pint. Reggie and Rita were a popular topic of conversation.

Canals are everywhere in this part of the UK, and we enjoyed some great walks along them. I was fascinated with the canal boats and would love to spend a week on one some day. Besides the lock business, it would be very relaxing floating through the countryside, stopping in for dinner and a drink anywhere you feel like, with your accommodation already sorted. One day!

The next day, after another canal outing and some lunch, it was time to head to the train station for our next adventure, meeting my mom and dad in Edinburgh to kick off our whirlwind Scotland journey. Stay tuned!

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