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Friday 3 December 2021

Roaming the Roaches.

 On the Sunday of our weekend at Ingestre Pavilion we had decide to go for a walk. There are numerous routes nearby but I had thought it would be nice to drive to the Roaches. This is a line of ridges north east of Leek, and about an hours drive away, but hopefully would be a great walk on a cold and windy, but dry day.

As it was a weekend, and despite the weather, I thought that it may be busy, but once you passed the nearest places to the Leek/Buxton road it was fine and we found a nice spot to park up about half way along the length of the ridge. This is looking down Roach Road to the south and Tittesworth Reservoir.

We walked up the road to the col between The Roaches and the Back Forest ridge and then headed off north along the ridge taking us towards Allgreave. This is a good view of the northern end of the ridge. The geological feature is made of sandstone that was laid down in a river delta about 320 million years ago in the middle of the Carboniferous era. These sandstones, called Roaches Grit, dip down to the east giving the ridge where it has been eroded around it.

Halfway along this path we dropped down to the east into the Back Forest. The view takes in the valleys of the Black Brook and then the River Dane, with the village of Gradbach in the dip. In the distance is Axe Edge Moor which is the source of the River Dane. The Cat and Fiddle is a pub on the moor that is often heard on traffic reports, especially at this time of year, as it is the second highest pub in England and the road is frequently closed by snow and ice.

We threaded our way through the wood and came out at the top of Lud's Church. Rather than a church it is a geological feature. Some call it a cave, but really it is a cleft, or several clefts. It was created following the last glaciation when slight mud/shale insertions in the series of sandstone grit, along with small faults, allowed a mass of the Roaches Gritstone on the north east side to slip down the slope towards the River Dane. This left a gap an d the steep sides, sometimes 18 metres depth, are festooned with a flora all of their own. Lud's Church is also linked with a Medieval poem 'Sir Garwain and the Green Knight. Experts have concluded that the dialect it is written in is from the North West Midlands. Much research has been put in to find out where the the actual place of the Green Chapel was. The green walls of the cleft adds to the claim that Lud's Church fits the bill.

Having said it wasn't a church it has been used as such in the past. Meetings of the Lollard movement were held secretly here in the mid 1400's. The Lollard's were an early protestant movement that wanted reforms of the Catholic Church in England. The name came to mean uneducated people, at least only educated in English rather than Latin, and followed John Wycliffe the leader of the movement at the beginning. The actual word is said to come from the Dutch for mutterer or mumbler. The name Lud's Church is said to be after a Walter de Ludank who was captured at one of these services.

We followed the path around to the north towards Hanging Stone and the High Forest that once again brought us out at the place we dropped down to the Lud's Church footpath. We took it again but turned south instead of north. This took us through a wood of sessile oaks that really looked Tolkien'esq.

As we got back up to the road by the Bearstone Rock we were met with the sight of an ice cream van. There was a little bit of a lull so we had a good chat with the proprietor. He had been doing this job for five years and had given up his other job to do this. Initially it was with a friend, but unfortunately he killed himself. The bench near to the site of the van is in his memory. I rarely have Mr. Whippy style ice cream but this was excellent and made a nice break. I think he is only there at weekends in winter.

We walked up the hill to the top of the ridge, which looked far steep that it actually was in the end. The route is so popular that to prevent erosion much of the route has been 'paved' with native rock. There was much evidence of builders bags of stone and gravel being brought in by helicopter for volunteers to do this. They laid a very good surface. In some places in the Lake District this has also been done and they become real ankle breakers as it is so badly made. On the top outcrops of rocks revealed the bedding planes of the sand brought down into a delta with lines of mudstone between. The mudstone must have been laid down when there were drier times so only silt, rather than sand was brought down. 

Tittesworth Reservoir seems like a silk scarf spread out on the lawn from up on the ridge. It was opened in 1858 and drained around 7000 acres. It was hoped that it would allow the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Co to replace water to water mills in the areas rivers to allow more extraction. However it was found that with increasedc emand there was still insufficient water so it was proposed to raise the height of thee dam by 4.5 feet to increase the capacity by 500,000 gallons a day and this was completed in 1863. The reservoir is now part of Severn Trent and offers fishing and water sports.

About two thirds the stegasurus's spine of the Roaches is the Doxey Pool. It is a mere 49' x 33'. This is another place of myth and legend. The pool lies on the top of the ridge but is always there, never evaporates. It is said to be bottomless, or connected by underground passages to Blake Mere about 3 miles away. In fact it is about 2 ft deep and at around 1600 feet above sea level. The myth is that it is home to a malicious mermaid, or blue nymph called Jenny Greenteeth, and in fact a Miss Florence Pettit saw a weird creature emerge from the pool just before she was to take a swim in 1949. It does a bleak location that could easily get the imagination doing overtime. The name doxey refers to a woman of ill repute and is still used in africa apparently. I am imputing nothing by the presence of these two ladies in the photo!

As we start to descend there are good views once again and the boulders near the steep edge again start to look like a Si-Fi movie. It is beautiful really and would be stunning on a nice sunny day, and without the biting wind we had.

We dropped down from the ridge via some stone steps to just below the rocks and crags of the scarp face are home to climbers most weekends and in fact was the first areas in England where mountaineering took place after WWI and the area was used for training for many big expeditions. This chap was going over an overhang and into a narrow gully. Soon after this picture he fell off as when he pulled himself over the overhand is top caught on a rock and he was pulled off. I didn't take a picture of the fall in case some thing bad happened bu his belays held and he was also held by a young woman on his rope below.

As we decsended the hill we got could vies of Hen Cloud that is another crag  to the south of the Roaches ridge. It is all part of the same system of rocks, but an east/west fault means the southern end was separated to form Hen Cloud. Just the other side of the hill is Roaches Hall where there was a private zoo before WWII. At the time of the war it was the home of Henry Courtney Brocklehurst. He had joined Ernest Shacklton on his ill fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1914 and was the survyor/mapmaker. He returned to help with the war which he survived. He went out to Africa and became a game warden in Sudan, and founded Kartoum Zoo. When he got divorced he came home to start a secong zoo, here at Roaches Hall. All types of animals escaped. Llamas and yaks seemed to have survived for several years, until the early 1950's, but five wallabies, Bennets or red necked depending what you read lasted through until at least 2009. The re are often reports of sightings today but is said the last two, a mother and daughter were lost in the terrible snows of 2010.

Just below this commemorative carved 'plaque' in a rock is a carved seat out of a boulder. There are also holes drilled in other boulders where the refreshment tent for the gathering were anchored as well as for the anchoring of a small canon to give a salute. The royal couple were invited by Brocklehurst's father. The Princess was a grand daughter of George III, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. She was unmarried at 30. Queen Victoria is said to have matched her up with an impoverished Austrian Count. He could not inherit as his parents had married for love, but were not of equal class so the children could not inherit. (Oh, the good old days eh!). Their first daughter was Victoria Mary (May) who later married and became consort to George V., but only after becoming engaged to his younger brother who promptly died six weeks later and then hooking up with George. The Hecks lived in England and loved to party. In fact they had to flee the country in 1883 to avoid debts. When they returned they devoted their life to charity.

This photo is from the Graphic Magazine and shows the royal party on the Roaches. The flag is the Royal Standard and the carved plaque is on the hump to the left of it.

At the foot of the face is this atmospheric building. Originally there was just a cave made by a fall of boulders. A hermit women lived here with two rooms. Her daughter lived with her for a while too. By the early 1800's she had died. It was 1862 that this building was erected by the Swythamley Estate for a gamekeeper to be on site. One is said to have brought up 12 children here. The estate was sold off in the 1970's and this place was bought by Doug and Annie Moller who wanted to get away from modern life. Doug was a 'bit of a character', and he later became known as the Lord, and later King of the Roaches. There were clashes with walkers and climbers and unpleasantness on both sides before accommodation was reached. The Moller's remained there until 1990 when the Peak Forest Park managed to find anew house for them that was equally isolated but had mod cons for them in the older age. A partnership was then entered into between the Park and the British Mountaineering Council and it was 'done up' as a climbing hut hostel for the Council. It was opened in 1993 and named the Don Whillan Hut after the famous climber. After his death a fund had been started to purchase a place in Chamonix in France, but this proved impossible so they plumbed for this. It seemed appropriate as it was here, along with his friend and climbing partner Joe Brown where they first started out together, and where Don met his wife Audrey too. It was opened in 1993. In the garden is a large boulder with steps cut into it. Doug Moller always said this was a preaching stone for a religious sect. In the top was a hole for a pole of flag that the preacher could hold on to.

We drove back to Ingestre Pavilion and had a lovely meal in front of the fire and finished the jigsaw we had brought as there was no radio or television. The next day, on the way home we stopped off at the Alrewas Arboretum as Amy hadn't been before.

Sorry for the long post but there wwre too many nice photos and too many little stories too.