By Ken Hobbs
The sun was breaking through dark clouds as a group of seven walkers, led by Ken Hobbs, set off from Gradbach Car Park on a chilly April morning. We passed by the former Youth Hostel at Gradbach Mill, before crossing Black Brook and walking briefly alongside the Dane, before climbing through Gradbach Woods.
After rounding Castle Rocks, we scrambled through the natural chasm known as Lud’s Church. This was supposedly used by the Lollards, followers of John Wycliffe, for worship in the early 15th century. Another legend is that it is the “Green Chapel” referred to in the medieval poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”.
Eventually we reached the ridge and turned south towards the fantastic rock shapes on the Roaches, at this point made eerie by swirling cloud. The cloud had dispersed by the time we had finished our coffee break, and after we passed the trig point at 505 metres we enjoyed clear views towards Hen Cloud, Tittesworth Reservoir and Leek in the distance. The eastern flank of the Roaches is still scarred by the wildfires from last summer, but there were signs of recovery. A group of schoolchildren sat at the side of the Doxey Pool, undeterred by the story of a mermaid siren that is said to live there! Finally we visited the stone plaque erected to commemorate the visit of the Prince and Princess Teck (the great grandparents of Elizabeth II) in 1872.
After descending the Roaches, we worked our way around the back of the rock formation of Hen Cloud, but there was no sign yet of the peregrine falcons that normally nest here. Our way back was along footpaths running parallel to the Roaches, through a number of fields, interesting stiles and farms with evocative names such as “Windygates”, “Pheasant’s Clough” and “Buxton Brow”, enliven by the sighting of a hare and a shower of hail!
At last we climbed back to cross the ridge at Roach End and descended back through Gradbach Woods to Black Brook, where often Dippers can be seen, but not today. Finally we passed through the Scout Camp and returned to the car park, tired but reflecting on an enjoyable nine mile ramble.