The Roaches (or Roches) is a wind-carved outcrop of gritstone rocks straddling the parishes of Leekfrith and Heathylee in the Peak District National Park about 4 miles north of Leek, Staffordshire and 8 miles south of Buxton, Derbyshire.
The name Roaches has evolved recently from 'Roches' as the area used to be known only 100 years (or less) ago. 'Roches' is the french word for rocks.
To get to the Roaches take the A53 road from Leek, Staffordshire towards Buxton. After about 4 miles and about half a mile past the Three Horseshoes pub take a left turn signposted Upper Hulme. After a hundred metres take the left fork. Follow this road for about one and a half miles.
The only two centres of a sparse population are the Villages of Meerbrook and Upper Hulme. Facilities include a tea room, a village hall, holiday cottages, furniture maker, vehicle repair and a visitor centre.
The Roaches are particularly popular with climbers because of the diversity of the climbing routes there. Also there are many miles of paths to explore.
The Roaches area includes Hen Cloud, so named because with a little imagination it looks like a roosting hen. The name could also have been derived from the Anglo -Saxon 'Henge Clud' meaning steep cliff.
Also Ramshaw Rocks which includes the weird rock formation called the Winking Man.
For many years, from the 1930's to the early 2000s, a fairly large group of Wallabies roamed the Roaches. We believe only one is left now. They had been released from a private zoo. 3 Yaks were also released at the same time but they died out in the 1950's.
Lud Church is a chasm about 15m(50ft) deep and about 100m long.
There are many legends linked with Lud Church but it does seem that it was associated with the Lollards.
The Lollards were the first recognised critics of the established church since the Fifth Century” according to historian, Mike Ibeji. "They were founded by John Wyclif, in the 1370s, and quickly found themselves victims of persecution from the Catholic Church, and the monarchy. In 1410, Henry IV gave royal assent to a statute which legitimised the burning of heretics, 'De haeretico comburendo'; the Lollards were victims of this aggression, because of their radical policies. Their belief that the Catholic Church was corrupt threatened the privileged position enjoyed by the priests and monasteries of England."
"About 1862 the landowner, Philip Brocklehurst of Swythamley, in Heaton, placed a ship's figurehead in the form of a woman at the entrance of the ravine. It was apparently intended to commemorate the supposed martyrdom of the daughter of a Lollard preacher, and it was still there in 1914."
As can be seen from this picture, which was taken in 1930, the figurehead was still there but moved up into a niche in the rock face. There have been reports from the 1960's of the figurehead rotting in the mud at the bottom of the chasm. So in all it was there for about 90-100 years.
The Winking Man
The Winking Man Rock formation can be seen from the Leek- Buxton road (A53) about 5miles outside Leek. It is part of Ramshaw rocks. It looks like a face sticking out of the hillside. As you travel past in a car the 'eye' appears to wink as a pinacle of rock passes behind the face as a consequence of parallax.
You can get to the rock formation by driving from Leek towards Buxton on the A53. After about 3 miles you pass through Blackshaw moor with the Threehorseshoes Inn on your left. Continue on up the steep hill known as Cat Torr, when the gradient eases you come to a house on the left which used to be a toll point - turn left here. Park sensibly towards the top of the hill. Walk across the heath under the rocks parallel with the A53 until you reach the Winking Man.
Dains Mill was a corn and flour mill powered by water from the Roaches and Ramshaw. The building became a mill in circa 1600 - there are records back to this time.
Previously it had been associated with a religious order and possibly dates back to 1100.
A mill was constructed here by a Thomas Gent of Upper Hulme in 1560. However, in 1599 there was a dispute when the owner of Upper Hulme Mill downstream claimed that it was stealing their water. Gent’s Mill as it was known then was subsequently demolished. However, only a couple of years later another mill was built on the same site by John Hind and his brother William who later let the property to a tenant named Robert Deane. Over the years the new mill became known as Deans, then Danes and finally Dains Mill. Then in 1946 a thunderstorm and deluge burst the dam around one of the ponds, while the owner was in hospital. No-one opened the sluice gates to protect the pond.
After this accident the mill fell into disrepair.
Although it ceased operating in 1946, between 2004 and 2006 a costly and painstaking refurbishment has been effected. Further development is planned to make a "green" holiday centre for example using the water wheel to provide about 2kw of electicity and heat pumps upgraging heat from the mill stream and a waterwheel can be seen behind a strong metal grill.
Access to the mill can be made on foot from the ford at Upperhulme.
Stone Carving on Roach Ridge
A Stone Carving has recently been revealed on Roach Ridge about 2 minutes walk or 200metres to the south of the Trig Point. Until a couple of years ago it was hidden under a blanket of heather, but the wind blew the growth back and the carving was rediscovered in 2004.
The carving is very close to the edge of a cliff and consists of an area about 3 metres by 2 metres which has been levelled. A 36inch diameter circle has been carved in the middle of the levelled area. In the centre of the circle is a carved cup shape.
Stoke Archaeology Society have put forward the idea that this is perhaps a mill-stone in the making. To release the stone the mason would have to cut out underneath. It seems a pretty inaccessible place to fashion a millstone being almost as high as you can go and part-made millstones can be found in the quarries much further down the valley. These millstones are made from boulders which seems to be a much less arduous and obvious way of making them.
Archeologists John Barnett and Adam Russell have suggested that it could possibly be where a Victorian telescope was mounted.
Irene Kirkpatrick, a local historian, has found a reference to the carving in Sir Philip Brocklehurst's book 'Swythamley and It's Neighbourhood' published in 1874. This is the reference "a few yards from the rocking stone is a circular cutting, level with the ground, about which many conjectures have been raised: it is in the solid rock, but why or wherefore it was made is still a mystery."
The Queens Chair
The Queen's Chair is a seat hewn out of a boulder precariously set on the edge of a cliff above Rock Hall. Above the seat is a plaque carved in the rock declaring that the Prince and Princess of Teck visited this site on Aug 23rd 1872.
Sir Phillip Brocklehurst of Swythamley invited the royal pair. The Prince was a minor german aristocrat and the Princess was the mother of Queen Mary wife of George V of England.
Roachend farm at Roachend is a rather unusual derelict cottage.
It is unusual because it has the shippon where the cows were kept underneath the house. This had the great advantage that it heated the house in winter because cows give off an incredible amount of heat. This property is at 1500ft so this layout would be a distinct advantage.
The story goes that the coal fire smoked very badly, which is not unusual for houses located under the lip of a hill. It was so bad that that the resident -a Mr Kirkham- decided to solve the problem by hand digging a trench up the field to the back left of the building up to the wall at the top of the field. He lined the trench with stone flags to make a pipe and back filled the trench. He built an outlet into the dry stone wall. Come the day to try the fire using his new chimney the fire smoked just as badly. However all was not lost when the chimney warmed up it did work, but he had to keep a fire going 24 hours a day or it would cool down and smoke again. The outlet can still be seen in the wall above the house.
On access land on the north west slopes of the Roaches is an artifact of the quarrying which was a major industry in the valley. This small building - now with no roof- is thought to be a workman's hut and also to be an exercise for the apprentices who were being educated at the quarry. Within living memory the roof was still on and of heather.
The slabs of stone involved are huge and it makes you wonder how the lads lifted and moved them without the assistance of machines.
The Hanging Stone
Hanging Stone is a precarious rock outcrop on Back Forest Ridge overlooking Swythamley Hall, which was the home of the Brocklehurst family who owned the Roaches estate until the death of the last in line in 1978. You can get to Hanging Stone along back Forest Ridge.
The Rock is extra special not just for it's weird aspect but because it has two inscriptions one for a much loved dog and the other for Lt Col Courtney Brocklehurst - the man responsible for the presence of the wallabies on the Roaches.
The inscription for the dog is professionally carved into the rock and says :
"Beneath this Rock
August 1st 1874
a noble mastiff black and tan
faithful as woman
braver than man
a gun and a ramble
his hearts desire
with the friend of his life
the Swythamley squire"
The squire obviously loved his dog!
The other inscription is a plaque with an epitaph to the Lt Colonel and a poem in the handwriting of Courntney's brother Philip Brocklehurst.
The inscription reads :
LT COL HENRY COURTNEY BROCKLEHURST 10TH ROYAL HUSSARS
AND PILOT IN THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS 1916-1918
GAME WARDEN OF THE SUDAN
BORN AT SWYTHAMLEY MAY 27TH 1888
KILLED ON ACTIVE SERVICE IN BURMA
ON COMMANDO JUNE 1942
"Horses he loved and laughter, the sun, with spaces and the open air.
The trust of all dumb living things he won and never knew the luck too good to share.
His were the simple heart and open hand and honest faults he never strove to hide.
Problems of life he could not understand but as a man would wish to die, he died.
Now though he will not ride with us again, his merry spirit seems our comrade yet,
Freed from the power of weariness and pain, forbidding us to mourn or to forget....
Erected by his devoted brother 1949"
Obviously Courtney was an adventerer as was his brother Philip. Unfortunately the epitaph to the dog looks as though it will outlast that of the soldier even with the 75year head start.
The Bawdstone is a boulder balanced on three rocks situated between Hen Cloud and the Roaches.
The Bawdstone could be man made - a dolmen.
It is thought to have healing powers, you just have to touch it. People used to crawl underneath it to get the devil off their backs! At some point the reverence of the stone was thought to be unchristian so it was whitewashed to purify it.
Directions-take the path from Roaches gate to Hen Cloud after about 300m go through the gate in the wall with Hen cloud facing you. Go across the field and through the next gate. The Bawdstone is to your left about 50m away.