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The Roaches and Lud’s Church round

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Staffordshire abbreviated Staffs is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It adjoins the counties of Cheshire to the north-west, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the west, Warwickshire to the south east, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south and Shropshire to the west. Staffordshire’s largest city is Stoke-on-Trent which is administered separately from the rest of the county and Lichfield is a smaller cathedral city.  Its county town is Stafford and other major towns include Burton upon Trent, Cannock, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Leek and Tamworth. In the north and in the south the county is hilly with wild moorlands. In the far north are the uplands of the Peak District and to the south Cannock Chase an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The middle regions are low with a gradual rolling landscape and throughout the county there are vast and important coalfields. The county’s largest river is the Trent which rises north of Stoke then flows through Stone and Rugeley to leave at Burton. The River Dove which joins the Trent just north of Burton forms the boundary with Derbyshire. The town of Stafford sits on the River Sow which joins the Trent south east of the town. The village of Flash in the Staffordshire Moorlands is the highest village in Britain standing at 463 metres (1518 ft) above sea level and the highest point in Staffordshire is Cheeks Point on Cheeks Hill which forms part of the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The Staffordshire bull terrier also known as staffs, staffies or nanny dogs was bread in this county for hunting purposes.

The Peak District is made up of two areas The White Peak which is a limestone plateau of green fields with rolling hills and many dales and The Dark Peak (or High Peak) which is a series of higher, wilder and boggier grit stone moorlands. The Peak District is also known as the Derbyshire Peak District and covers areas of Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, Cheshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. Although there are no prominent boundaries the central and most rural areas of the Peaks lie within the Peak District National Park. The National Park, the first to be set up in Britain, covers 555 square miles three quarters of which lie within Derbyshire and the other quarter in parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire and 12% of the park is owned by the National Trust a charity which aims to conserve historic and natural landscapes and does not receive government funding. The Peak District National Park Authority provides public facilities such as car parks, public toilets, visitor centres and also maintains the rural nature of the park although most of the land is still owned by the traditional landlords.

The Roaches is a prominent rugged and steep gritstone ridge in the Peak District National Park loved by both hikers and climbers. The ridge which rises to 505m above Leek and Tittesworth Reservoir has two main outcrops, Ramshaw Rocks famous for the Winking Man rock formation and Hen Cloud offering stunning panoramic views which on a clear day you can see much of Cheshire, Winter Hill in Lancashire and even Snowden in Wales. The Roaches are the most prominent part of a curving ridge which extends for several miles from Hen Cloud in the south to Black Forest and Hangingstone in the northwest. At the top there is a small pool called Doxey Pool which according to legend is inhabited by a mermaid or Blue Nymph called Jenny Greenteeth who waits just under the surface ready to grab anyone who passes, by the ankles and pulls them down to a watery grave. The Winking Man rock formation also known as Winky can be seen from the Leek to Buxton road (A35). It looks like a face sticking out of the hillside and as you travel towards Buxton the eye appears to wink as a pinnacle of rock passes behind the face. The working class revolution in climbing took place on these crags in the 1950’s. In 2008 a pair of peregrine falcons successfully bred on the Roaches causing climbing on part of the rock face to be suspended for a period. The Roaches Estate which includes Hen Cloud was purchased by the Peak District National Park Authority in the 1980’s to safeguard the area from adverse development then from May 2013 Staffordshire Wildlife Trust took the management of the Roaches Estate.

Lud’s Church, a deep moss clad gritstone chasm created by a massive landslip on the hillside above Gradbach, is located in Black Forest wood at the northern end of The Roaches. The chasm is 100 metres long and 18 metres deep, all but the upper third of the slope has slipped forward towards the River Dane. It is mossy and over grown, wet and cool even on the hottest of days. Lud’s Church is filled with just as much myth and legend as Doxy Pool. The legend is the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Knight on horseback, cloaked entirely in green, gatecrashed a feast at Camelot and challenged the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Gawain rose to the challenge and beheaded the Green Knight but the latter retrieved his head and laughingly challenged Sir Gawain to meet with him again in a year’s time at the Green Chapel, this being Lud’s Church and it was here that Sir Gawain met the Green Knight resulting in that the ghostly knight lost his head for a second time.

Leek is a traditional historic market town on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Situated on the River Churnet the town clustered round a stone cobbled market square has a reputation for unusual shops, antiques, good food and award winning teashops. Known as the “Queen of the Staffordshire Moorlands” Leek is a former textile town with a long and fascinating history. It’s well preserved architecture and historical links with the Napoleonic Wars and the Arts and Crafts movement makes the town a popular destination for an interesting town walk. The writer, artist, designer and founder of the Arts and Crafts movement William Morris who lived and worked in Leek studied dyeing and printing techniques in the 1870’s with Thomas Wardle the owner of the dyeworks in the town. Leek was also the home of James Brindley the 18th century canal engineer who built a water powered corn mill in 1752. The watermill has been restored and is now maintained and operated as a working museum. The Brindley Watermill and Museum is a Scheduled Monument and a Grade II Listed Building.

The Walk

From the car park areas we head back towards Upper Hulme and turn left at the Roaches Hall sign then follow the track which bears right. Immediately after passing Roaches Hall we go through the gate on the left and keep following the path uphill. We pass an old quarry and continue bearing left to the remains of an old wall. We now climb steeply uphill on the stones to the top of Hen Cloud. At the top we bear right and soon start dropping down into the valley bottom then head forward over the field towards The Roaches and continue steeply uphill through the middle of two outcrops. We keep heading forward until we come to a crossroads we turn right uphill to the ridge of The Roaches. We now turn left and continue to follow the stony track passing Doxey Pool on our right until we reach the beacon. We keep heading forward and soon start to drop downhill to meet the road, you can turn left here for a shorter walk and follow the road back to the car park, but we cross straight over and continue ahead following the wall on the left. When the path splits we fork right uphill and follow the path until we come to a crossroads of paths, you can turn right here for a short cut to Lud’s Church, but we head forward through the wall and continue uphill with the wall on our right. The path soon drops down to a gate in a wall we turn right here with the wall on our left and follow the sign for Gradbach. At the end of the wall we keep heading forward. At the next signpost we fork right slightly uphill towards Lud’s Church. We head forward through the trees and very soon on our right we see the entrance. We walk through the church to the far end then up the steps back on to the path and continue forward on the walk boards and through the trees. At the signpost we turn left for the Roaches and when we come to a second signpost we turn right for the Roaches. We keep heading forward through the wood and at the next signpost for the Roaches we turn right uphill on a stony path. When we come out into the open we keep heading uphill until we reach the road which we crossed over earlier on in the walk. We now turn right over the cattle grid and continue on the very minor road back to the car park.

Terrain

This is a moderate walk on distinct gravel and stony paths/tracks with some steep inclines and declines.

Elevation: approx lowest point 307m (1008ft) approx highest point 501m (1,645ft) approx ascent 675m (2,216ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 8.25 miles allow 3½ to 4½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL24, The Peak District, White Peak area. This walk is done in a figure of eight starting anti-clockwise and can be made into shorter walks. Hen Cloud and The Roaches to Roach End approx 5 miles allow 2½ to 3 hours. Hen Cloud, The Roaches and the short cut to Lud’s Church approx 7.5 miles allow 3 to 4 hours.

Start point: parking area at the side of the road just after passing Paddock Farm on the left.

Location

The Roaches are in the Staffordshire part of the Peak District between Leek and Buxton.

Directions and Parking

Travelling north from Leek or south from Buxton, on the A53, take the minor road to Upper Hulme. At the church take the little road downhill and follow the dog leg round to the left. Continue ahead and the parking areas are on the right.

Parking: in the parking areas at the side of the road.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets the nearest ones are in Leek. For refreshments there is The Roaches Tearoom at Paddock Farm open daily in the summer and Wednesday to Sunday in the winter but closed January and February. There are a few pubs along the A35 otherwise the next nearest refreshments are at Leek just over 4 miles away or at Buxton about 8 miles away.

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