About fifteen years ago my friend Marc and I enjoyed a very memorable walk at The Roaches in Staffordshire. It was on a bright but icy cold day in January and I vividly remember thinking that my ears were going to freeze off as I’d neglected to bring a hat along with me.
On October 29th 2011 we set off to recreate that walk. We might have been fifteen years older than last time around but we were going to prove to the world that such numbers mean nothing. Indeed we planned to walk a few miles further than we had done on our previous visit. Although I did once again neglect to bring a hat with me…
We parked up just below the imposing profile of Hen Cloud and started upon our ascent of the ridge which rises to an altitude of 505 meters (1,656 feet). The Roaches is a popular location for rock climbers and we passed several groups crawling spider like up the cliff faces as we made our own way to the top.
We did enjoy a few minutes in the sunshine to admire the views from the top of the ridge but ominous clouds were already massing to the north, threatening an imminent change of weather. As we made our way along the path to the northwest, towards Doxey Pool the sun vanished for pretty much the rest of the day.
I was quite surprised by the number of walkers up on the ridge. We had planned to stop and take photos by the triangulation point as this has become something of a tradition during our walks together. However the trig point was surrounded by a walking party I can only describe as a herd, so we walked on by and decided to take those photos during the return leg of our walk.
Soon after passing the trig point we were dropping down towards Roach End and then heading north towards Gradbach Wood which contains the next objective of our walk : Lud’s Church.
Lud’s Church is a deep, naturally formed chasm running for around 100 meters through the forest floor and reaching a depth of 18 meters (around 60 feet) in places. The rocky sides of the fissure are covered in thick, verdant moss and the place is associated with legends of the Green Man and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Small trees cling precariously to the rocks above your head as you walk the length of this dank passage.
Fifteen years ago this had been the final destination of our walk. This time around we had determined that we would head onwards out of the forest to the west, heading towards Danebridge.
At Danebridge we only had to walk for a few yards along the road to reach the path we intended to take which would lead us up the Dane Valley and back towards The Roaches. However as we made our way down towards the River Dane I spotted a building on the opposite side of the river which sported the word “brewery”. It was our duty as walkers and connoisseurs of Real Ale to investigate. And it was only a very short walk away.
What we discovered was the Wincle Brewery which had moved to this location just a matter of five months previously. There was a brewery shop which was open to the public offering bottles and kegs of beer for sale along with free samples to taste. We each bought a single bottle of ale and I am drinking my bottle of “Old Hag” as I type. It would have been good to buy a little more, but liquids weigh quite a bit, there is only so much space in a rucksack and it’s possibly not the best idea to be carrying around too many pressurised glass bottles in a situation where you could easily slip over and smash the lot.
After a few minutes sampling the delights on offer from the Wincle Beer Co. we headed back to the river and continued our trek up the valley. After a little while we reached the edge of Gradbach Wood once again and soon had quite a steep climb to head back up towards The Roaches.
The light was fading fast and the cloud had descended upon The Roaches as we made our way back up onto the ridge. The flocks of walkers observed earlier in the day had more sense than we did, they’d all gone back home, or to the nearest pub by the time we were trudging back along the cold, wet and windy path. We did make time to take a few photos including our planned shots at the trig point. Following that it was time to put the camera away, put on the gloves and make our way along the ridge at a fairly brisk pace before it got totally dark.
Eventually, with perfect timing, we made it back down from the ridge just as darkness descended for the night. It had been another wonderful walk on The Roaches and the day was ended by a visit to “Ye Olde Rocks Inn” at Upper Hulme for some pub grub and a pint. It’s amazing how good a mixed grill and a glass of ale can taste when you’ve really earned it.