Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Roaches – (Staffordshire) – 24/07/10 – 8.5 Miles – Helen (Luther and Molly)

This walk was a little bit further out then we normally venture, but given how Helen had never been to the Roaches (me neither), it was well worth the hour’s drive. Our template for this one being ‘route cut out No 12’ from the Spring 2008 issue of Country Walking.

Naturally enough for us we started off on the wrong path, heading up towards the very exclusive looking Roaches Hotel. We weren’t unduly concerned however as we knew we were coming round the back of Hen Cloud. In fact we were even able to pick out Jodrell Bank (or someones overachieving Sky dish) in the distance. However by the time we came round the side of Hen Cloud, facing towards the Roaches, we went into usual confusion mode, deciding not to visit the top but instead make a straight line for the Roaches themselves. This involved smashing and stumbling our way through a field of heather, all the whilst disturbing the feathered wildlife in the process. Not our finest moment, especially after later reading a notice on the gate requesting that you don’t do things like that. Anyway as if to have its revenge, a tangle of bramble wrapped itself around my leg and ripped it up as best it could.

So finally we began our climb onto the roaches, with a large group of lunching walkers who were sitting on the first part of the rocks staring down at us, and suggesting that we weren’t going to have the place to ourselves. However the Roaches is really a haven for the rock climbing fraternity, and there were plenty of them up there, clanking away with all their metal hooks attached. We decided we were going to have lunch as soon as we were near the summit (giving us an excellent view), whilst Molly and a dog belonging to some nearby climbers (also eating) tried to work out their differences as only dogs can. Luther for his part seemed fairly non-plussed.

Moving off again we made our way to the top and followed the path along, being passed by one guy who Helen described as being ‘dressed like he was on the way to the office’. The weather was closing in a bit at this point which meant for the second time in two days, Helen hogging my £8 National Trust umbrella. Not that I minded as having made our way past the trig point and then down from the Roaches on a perfectly laid out path, she bought me an ice cream (which in truth had been promised 24 hours back), from the cleverly parked van at the bottom.

We then crossed through the stile and headed off, initially taking the path to Danesbridge, before taking a right turn at a fingerpost pointing to Gradbach. In the process of which Luther managed to spook a Japanese girl sitting on the edge of a precipice having her photo taken, and in conjunction with Molly charm another little girl who was leading a party of adults coming in the opposite direction. What was slightly disturbing was in the process of this section of the walk, we came across two dead sheep, as well as assorted lumps of wool scattered about. We didn’t dwell on that too long however, and instead found our way to the entrance of Luds Church. Now ‘Lud's Church (sometimes written as Ludchurch) is a deep chasm penetrating the Millstone Grit bedrock created by a massive landslip on the hillside above Gradbach’ (well rather I meant to say all that, but instead just copied and pasted it from Wikipedia). Anyway the four of us ventured down and along it, wondering why we couldn’t find any altars or crosses. There was also a slight sea air smell within the chasm.

Retracing our steps out of it, we began a long and gradual climb, all the while looking out for a stream that we needed to cross. When we eventually saw the stile and ice cream van we came through earlier, we decided to stop and finish off what was left of our sandwiches (well in my case a sausage roll). There Luther and Molly proceeded to show us up, by a disgraceful piece of bullying of a smaller dog coming the other way. However in best Helen tradition, she pointed out to its owners that it was really their fault, because their dog was on a lead.

So after resisting the request to buy me another ice cream from the van, Helen, myself, and dogs in disgrace, climbed back up to the top of the Roaches. In this case it literally was the top, as we discovered we had passed the path we had taken up from the lower level earlier, and had to retrace our steps to find it. All the while along here I found myself being victimised by some sort of wasp making circles around me, which Helen incorrectly pointed out was all in my imagination. This return part of the walk along the Roaches went very quickly and we soon found ourselves heading down from there and facing Hen Cloud. The route cut out suggests you extend the walk by heading up to the top of it, but having been round the side of it already, we passed on that one. However having come to the bottom, we couldn’t decide should we do a right at the gate, or go through that and take a right at the next gate. I was overruled on this one, but although we found a path down to the layby, the gate there to get out onto the road was locked (guess my choice was the right one after all). Anyway I somersalted over the gate, whilst Helen and dogs took a diversion through some nettles to come out further along. Thus having made our way back to the car, Luther for his part was near out on his feet and had to be assisted with his leap into the back. Poor old boy, no such tiredness however, with me, Helen and Molly (right !).

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