Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

Since I retired from my “proper” job, the one where I earned my daily crust reasonably successfully in the dog-eat-dog world of construction engineering, my old mates are convinced that I am now on some permanent holiday jaunt in The Peak District.

True enough, we are somewhere in Britain’s oldest National Park probably five or more days every week. We are out walking the paths on the moors and through the deep dales of the Limestone Country, cycling the fabulous Cycleways like Monsal, Tissington & Manifold and visiting the many and various art exhibitions and galleries to see what’s new and exciting.

We eat cakes in tea rooms from the western edge of the Park to the edges of Chesterfield and Sheffield. We spend a king’s ransom dining in pubs and eateries everywhere.

But, dear reader, this is not all pleasure – no, no, not at all! This is market research.

As can be seen on our Guest Book, many of our guests mention that they were truly grateful for the “great tips” and “tourist information” that we provided – they often say “Rob is a mine of information about places to eat and drink”.

We’d hate to be passing on duff information; information that was old and out of date, making recommendations to eat at places which have recently changed hands and “gone downhill”.

So, with this in mind, we continue our daily slog. Tea and cakes here, pan-seared sea bass there, taking in previews of paintings and sculptures and checking out visitor centre facilities.

It’s a tough job, but one we feel we just have to do with a degree of personal diligence and determination

As all rock climbers will know, the outcropping gritstone of The Roaches is fantastic "grippy" stuff to climb on. It is fractured and eroded into cracked faces, grooves and huge boulders the size of small bungalows. I've often wondered how the weird and evocative rock shapes along the edge here were formed - so here goes with a geology lesson, courtesy of good old Wiki;

Roaches Grit is a coarse sandstone which outcrops widely throughout the western part of the Peak District of northern England and gives rise to several significant landscape features in the area. Its counterpart in the eastern part of the National Park is the Ashover Grit.

The combined Roaches Grit and Ashover Grit are amongst the most widespread sandstone units within the Millstone Grit Group of the Peak District. Along with other similar sandstones, such as the immediately overlying Chatsworth Grit, it is assigned to the Marsdenian sub-stage of the Namurian stage within the Carboniferous period around 317 million years ago.

The two units which, prior to the doming and erosion of the central Peak District were once one, are interpreted as delta-top sandstones. The deposited material was brought down from a northerly source by braided rivers.

So, put simply, around 317 million years ago, a range of mountains were pushed up to the north and an immense Amazon or Mississippi sized river spread it's delta over much of what is now England (and Holland and Belgium). As the delta built itself closer, sand and grit covered the shale and limestone layers. This was a dynamic environment with tides and strong currents which often moved and re-sorted the sand banks and bars of the delta; these layers ("units of deposition") can often be seen in exposures such as the Roaches or Stanage Edge.

Most notably, up along the Roaches Ridge is an outcrop displaying a splendid example of "Crossbedding", where there exist bedding planes which seem to contradict each other - the main sedimentary layer in one plane, but interspersed with apparently randomly angled beds too. 

I've looked at several explanations of this phenomena and I'm still not convinced I understand it - but it's good to know that we have such a prime example here on our doorstep!!

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!

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!).

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?

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