Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

Peak District National Park - Upper Hulme, Nr Leek ST13 8UB

Joe Brown died this week at the age of 89.
Joe and his climbing partner Don Whillans (after whom the Whillans Climbing hut, just above Roachside, is named) were two of the greatest rock climbers Britain produced in the Golden Age of  rock climbing. Their exploits in the 1950s and 60s took British climbing to a new, unprecedented level.

They were my childhood heroes - as important to climbing as Bobby Charlton was to football or Stirling Moss to motor racing. A "kid from Manchester's slums" Joe once described himself as.

Joe and Don were very much working class Manchester men, both with the characteristic, no nonsense, laconic humour and accent and absolutely synonymous with The Roaches. It was where they originally met and developed their individual skills.

In an age where climbing was very much a sport for University chaps & medical students, they upturned the world. I think that's why my climbing mates and I idolised them - they actually sounded like us and the people we knew. Joe could reputedly roll a cigarette with one hand, while clinging to the rock with the other, pondering the next move. I credit Joe with being influential in my taking up smoking when I was a teenager "wannabe" rock jockey!

Don went on to design serious mountaineering equipment (and die early through heavy smoking), Joe set up a climbing gear manufacturing company and chain of outdoor shops which still bear his name. Rest in peace Joe.

The photo shows Joe climbing on Hen Cloud

It's probably needless to say, but Roachside Cottage is currently "mothballed" for the duration of the emergency measures to combat the current pandemic.

All bookings through April have been cancelled and we expect to have to cancel bookings in future months too, as the situation unfolds.

We will continue to monitor the situation and we will be led by the official Government advice and we will ensure that the cottage is maintained in tip-top condition, so that it's available just as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Let's all stay safe out there!

Those of you who follow our random witterings on these pages will know that Scout and I love to walk. We walk all over the Peak District National Park and many of the attractive spots which fall just outside it's boundaries.

One such spot is Alderley Edge (yes, we know it's the home of many of the glitterati and soccer stars of Manchester) where heavily wooded valleys and ravines cut down through the gritstone which effectively forms a great swathe of the National Park.

From the tops of it's cliffs, you can look down over Manchester and it's airport - a landscape far removed from the Arthurian legend for which The Edge is known.

The story goes that the Wizard of Alderley Edge looks after and maintains the "Sleepers Hall", wherein King Arthur's knights wait on England's call - a story reinforced by the presence, beneath the woods, of miles of tunnels and chambers hewn out by generations of miners since before the Roman occupation.

What better place than this mysterious Wizardly landscape then, to film a new futuristic fantasy for TV.

Thus it has been for the last two weeks; dozens of trucks and vans, hundreds of technicians, lighting crews, make-up studios and accommodation caravans have been camped on two immense car parks made of roll-out roadway. Paths have been taped-off and security staff with two-way radios intercept and turn away would be "previewers" (and possibly autograph hunters).

It's all very exciting of course & we're properly "chuffed" that Sky TV has chosen The Edge for the star role in their new series "Intergalactic". If I had Sky TV, I might have even tuned in....

In reality though, we cant wait for it to be all "wrapped" & the weird silver pods and giant geodesic domes, which have sprouted like toadstools under the beech trees, to be "beamed away" & leave our woodland to us "regulars"!

And no more explosion please!

The "garden" at Roachside is more than 170 metres long and, at most, 7 metres wide. I use the quotation marks because "garden" doesn't exactly describe the humpy, bumpy, bracken and bramble covered strip of moorland grass and heather quite adequately. I'm sure that it could be made into a very attractive cottage garden. I might even have attempted it myself when I was much younger (my garden at home was hewn by effort of pick and shovel from a rocky hilltop at the same elevation as Roachside).

Be that as it may, I'm too old now to start another garden project in such a challenging location.

However, that's not to say that I'm leaving our strip of moorland to develop as a hotbed of bracken and bramble infestation. I'd much rather see it with native heather and planted with native tree species into the future. Hence, the last two summers, we've been hacking back the undergrowth, bit by bit. We still have a long way to go of course, but the results have been that plants which were hidden beneath the bracken canopy have re-emerged into the light.

Last month we had a small patch of snowdrops. Just now, we have native daffodils popping up all over the place and in a couple of months time there will be a blue haze of bluebells.

Make you feel like spring is round the corner and yearn to get clearing a bit more scrub!

Whenever there are no guests staying at Roachside, we like to have a night or two here ourselves. Hence, last night Scout and I were ensconced by the log fire and one of us was reading this week's Private Eye and sipping a wee dram  of Glenlivet. (The other was dreaming of Pheasants and Grouse)

There was just a skittering of wet snow left from yesterday's snowfall, but by this morning it had been supplemented significantly and, at dawn, the wind had dropped to just a breeze. 

Now, up here, 1100 feet above sea level, we have been far removed from the devastation of the flooding elsewhere in the country, but we've had a fair share of wind. It's barely stopped "blowing a hoolie" for nearly three weeks now.

So, just after dawn, wellies on, and we were off to Roach End for a clockwise circuit, back over the ridge path.

Near the Trig Point, we suddenly encountered footprints in the snow. There had been none along the track up from the road - these footprints just came straight out of the heather. Odd!

We plodded along as the sun started to burn through the fog, occasionally we could see down into the valley below as holes started to appear in the murk.

The footprints continued, past the cross-bedding outcrop, past Doxey Pool & down the cleft at the end of the Upper Tier. Just as we dropped down towards Roachside, we caught up with the makers of those footprints - a young couple with rucksacks and sleeping bags. They told us that they'd spent the night camped near the summit!

I guess I used to do things like that when I was young. - But that was a very long time ago.


         The early morning sunlight plays on the snow below the Upper Tier

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