Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

Well! They've done it.....our Swallow chicks have fledged. (See earlier blogpost)

Our little squatter family has survived and it appears that all four chicks have made it through the "leap out of the nest and stick your wings out" stage.

When we arrived here this afternoon, the nest was empty and there were several swallows whirling about the cottage in the pouring rain. No sign of casualties or crash landings.

Good luck little Swallows - you're going to need it on the great journey that you'll be starting shortly. Off to South Africa - an epic six week journey packed with danger for young birds.

Lets hope we see you all next summer

(Time to clean up all the Swallow poo in the log shed!).

Scout’s 4-wheel drive "mobile kennel" had to go into the garage for repairs this week. This is the mobile kennel built by Aktiebolaget Volvo shortly after the last Viking stopped pillaging  his neighbours and hung up his skeggøx, started composing catchy popular songs, designing flatpack furniture and building semi-armoured family estate cars.

It was expected to be "a biggish job"!

Hence, we had a couple of days on foot, roaming the countryside closer to home than usual.

I guess that not everyone drops the car off at the garage about a mile from home and then walks back via a great loop, ten miles long, taking in several miles of canal towpath and almost as many of very wet Cheshire agricultural fields.

The dreary summer weather that we’ve had this year has meant two things for footpaths;

1) The foliage growth along the paths has been extraordinary
2) Hardly anyone has been out walking to trample the foliage growth

Hence, one of us got very wet all the way to mid-chest height, the other looked like a drowned rat! Nevertheless, dogs need exercise, especially Working Cockers like Scout.

Not far from home, our route passed through the grounds of Little Moreton Hall, one of the pearls of the National Trust’s portfolio of properties in our locale – all of which are often on the itinerary of guests at Roachside.

Little Moreton is a classic, possibly THE classic example of a Tudor gentleman farmer’s residence. Built in stages between about 1503 and 1610, its appearance is straight out of a fairy story – a sort of “gingerbread house”, with its upper stories overhanging the ground floor plan at crazy angles which make one wonder how it has stood for 500 years without toppling over into it’s own moat.

When I was a child, it was a classic Cheshire “black & white” building – that was until the conservators realised that the Victorian practice of painting all the oak timber with pitch or bitumen wasn’t really helping to preserve the structure. Now, with the black coating stripped off, the timbers are returning to the silvery, heavily grained texture that they had for the first 350 years of their life.

Just imagine, when the builders moved in to start work on Little Moreton, Henry VIII hadn't yet come to the throne and Columbus had barely come back from discovering land on the other side of the world!

With it's high elevation above the Churnet Valley and the surrounding countryside, The Roaches offers the opportunity for photographers, both expert and novice, to capture some stunning sunrises, sunsets and skyscapes. Indeed, there is keen competition amongst some of our very talented local photographers to capture that perfect image, which they then post on the facebook page of the Roaches Appreciation Society for all to enjoy.

These are very dedicated camera-people, out before the sunrise, staying long after the sun has set behind a gathering cloudbank, just waiting for that fleeting moment when a sunbeam splits the sky and edges the clouds with silver and gold.

These people are impervious to cold and rain. Frost and snow and howling wind are but mere discomforts.

The majestic lone oak, which sits prominently on a mound in a field, just along the road from Roachside Cottage, has been photographed against the setting sun (and painted) countless thousands of times, but probably never better than in this image captured by Mark Sharratt just a few nights ago.

Not all of us have this kind of dedication of course, but keeping your camera handy and your eyes open is a good start - even I have a few snaps that I'm quite proud of!

My very warm thanks to Mark for allowing me to share this picture.
I'm sure he's justly proud of it

Last summer, when we built the new log shed at the rear of the cottage, we expected that it would soon be colonised by the local wildlife. With it's lean-to roof and ventilated ends, it's not hard to see how attractive it is. After all, if you lived on a grouse moor, lashed by rain & wind, shrouded in mist & where snow lingers longer than in the valleys, you'd probably always be looking for somewhere sheltered and safe from harm.

We expected the first colonisers to be either bats - since they are frequently seen whirling about the sky here at dusk, or owls - since we have all five British varieties living along the edge of The Roaches.

Instead, sitting atop the vent pipe, in a beautifully crafted but tiny nest, we have Swallows!

Yes, I know the photo just looks like a sort of fluffy ball - but look again closely and count the little yellow beaks of the chicks.....

Yes, there are 4 of them, all squashed in like so many sardines in a tin!

In just a few weeks time, they'll fledge and, soon after, commence the perilous journey to Africa.

I wonder how may of our little family will survive to return here next spring?

Those of you who have followed our blog (?) for the last few weeks will know that yours truly has taken up cycling. 

Not the kind of cycling that requires slithering into a lycra bodysuit & the really dark sunglasses that serious cyclists wear to visit tea rooms, but plain and simple bicycling in the countryside, nice and easy, on the cycleways of the Peak District. No traffic, virtually no gradient and passing through mile after glorious mile of stunning scenery. Interrupted only at intervals of a few miles by opportunity for a sandwich or cake and coffee or just occasionally a beer.

In the past few weeks we've done several trips on the Tissington Trail, The Manifold Trail, The Monsal Trail and other less well known routes. Last week, it was time to hit the High Peak Trail.

I'd walked a few tiny stretches of this over the years, where walking routes intersected with The Trail for short distances, so I knew it passed through the Derbyshire Dales at a high elevation and thus had commanding views over the countryside, but I was more than surprised when we cycled it's full length over two Sunday evenings.

It's brilliant! Like the other cycleways, it follows the track of a long defunct railway, but what a railway! Whoever engineered a steam railway passing so high on the fells, where there is no natural water to replenish thirsty locomotives, was;
a) Ambitious in the extreme
b) An engineer of some considerable talent and
c) Backed by someone with access to unlimited funds
d) Possibly verging on insane

Built in stages between 1830 and 1857, at the very start of the railway era and before the economics and reliability of steam locomotion were widely accepted, it was a staggering feat. It's summit at Ladmanlowe is 30m higher than the famous Settle-Carlisle railway, itself branded the "impossible railway"!

The last operational train ran on the considerably foreshortened route in 1967.

As a railway, it couldn't sustain enough traffic to stay open. As a cycleway, it's a masterpiece.

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