Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

My goodness, we’ve had a busy day today – most of it dog-centred!

Intending to have a night at Roachside ourselves, in between guests, we spent a couple of hours at Rudyard this morning. The sun was shining and we set off without a coat, but the stiff northerly wind pushing waves down the lake meant that one of us needed to stride out pretty damned fast to stay warm! (The other has a fur coat)

Having found that our departing guests had left the cottage clean and tidy, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and have a scamper cross-country to avoid the hoards of walkers also taking advantage of the fine weather. We romped over The Five Clouds and along the lower side of the wood to Roach End, down to Swythamley and back via the Hanging Stone, a walk we do often.

We sat by the Hanging Stone for a while and contemplated the inscriptions on it:

The dedication on the side of the rock, to Burke, the Squire’s faithful dog, is well known. Indeed it’s text adorns countless bottles of “Burke’s Special”, product of the Wincle Brewery.

The other inscription is the plaque in memory of Lt Col Henry Courtney Brocklehurst, younger brother of Sir Phillip who was squire of Swythamley until the late 1970s. Set high on the west face, it is becoming rather weathered and is difficult to read now, but it is a commemoration of a life of service and adventure, such that could only have happened to those dashing young blades of the late Victorian & early Edwardian period:





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.


Nowadays, I suppose we’d shrink back from such public display of a man’s clear love for his brother and display such emotions by posting an emoji on Facebook and Twitter.


Early this morning we went for one of our regular circuits round Rudyard Lake, in the valley beyond Gun Hill from Roachside. It’s a lovely walk at any time of the year and on a freezing cold March morning with more than a hint of rain on a blustery northerly wind, it’s perfect for a spaniel with boundless energy and an old bloke with things to think about.

As we stomped along the old railway track which forms the east side of the lake, an “Eight” came into view, slicing through white capped waves whipped up on the icy wind and driving rain.

Eight young women heaving on their oars at the call of a cox sitting, wrapped up like a homeless person, an inch or two above the waterline.

It set me thinking;

  • How do 9 adults (albeit very trim young ladies) perch in what is effectively a length of plastic guttering pinched-off at both ends, not turn over in a 20 knot headwind and waves almost a foot high? And
  • Although I can understand that the physical effort of rowing produces significant amounts of body heat, how do these young women avoid hypothermia while preparing their boat and simply getting the thing oriented in the right direction (a truly laborious process), before they’ve got up a “head of steam” hurtling two miles along the lake?

Another two of life’s great mysteries……


We had a brief interlude of winter weather last week. The snow transforms the countryside  - I suppose that’s true of everywhere, but here on the moorlands and crags of the Peak District it has a special quality. I can’t express it better than that master of the English (and Middle English) language; Simon Armitage:

The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma. Snow, like water asleep, a coded muteness to baffle all noise, to stall movement, still time.

What can it mean that colourless water can dream such depth of white? We should make the most of the light. Stars snag on its crystal points. The odd, unnatural pheasant struts and slides. Snow, snow, snow is how the snow speaks, is how its clean page reads.

Then it wakes, and thaws, and weeps.                      ©Simon Armitage 2010


Roachside Cottage (top left) seen from Roaches Hall driveway



We’ve just completed our first twelve months hiring out Roachside Cottage to holiday guests!

It wasn’t exactly the easiest year to start in the business of running a holiday cottage. No sooner had we had our first fee-paying guests last February, when the “Beast from the East” blew in and we had air temperatures of minus 15°C, combined with a 55 knot wind – just enough to freeze the tank in our little pumping station down in the fields where our water comes from. A 250 litre ice cube! It took three days with three camping stoves in the pump-house to thaw it out fully.

Of course, the obverse of this winter blast was the fabulous spring and summer that followed. Again, even that wasn’t without impact. We had a fire in the heather behind the cottage in May, lit by four idiots who were seen running away. This was quite quickly contained by the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service before it got completely out of control.

But then, as the drought wore on into mid-summer, catastrophe struck when the wood and subsequently the moor caught fire and burned out of control for almost four weeks. The roads were closed and visitors were warned to stay away while the combined Fire teams of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire worked tirelessly and tanker lorries trundled round The Roaches in a continuous one-way parade.

Have we survived? Yes.

And we’ve enjoyed every minute of the challenge. At the end of our first year, despite the setbacks, we’ve hosted 129 visitors (and 11 dogs) over 111 nights. I’ve lost count of the number of sheets and duvet covers I’ve ironed. We wore out both our washing machine and the dryer.

Roachside is showing glimmering signs of transitioning from “expensive hobby” to a possibly sustainable business (or at least a less expensive hobby!).

Along the way, we’ve met lots of new friends, fitted in some serious decorating when the fire closed us to business in the summer, added a number of additional facilities and even raised £655 for charity when we had our MENCAP week.

I’ll settle for that as a first year score!

Well, what a day yesterday! Wall-to-wall sunshine from dawn ‘til dusk!

We’d stayed up at Roachside on Sunday night, after our last guests had departed, and the BBC weather lady had forecast a really good day for Monday. So, with nothing really pressing at home, we opted to have a day out in the sunshine.

Before the sun came up we were along at Roach End and coming back over the ridge path, squinting and shading our eyes against a brilliant sunrise bursting into a cloudless sky. We encountered only one other soul witnessing this spectacle.

We lunched down in Leek at the White Hart Café (dog friendly – you can even get a doggie breakfast here for £1), did a bit of shopping and then did the Swythamley – Hanging Stone circuit in the late afternoon, returning to Roachside as the sun was dropping over Gun Hill Top. The power of the sun has begun to return now the days are getting longer. The dishes, which were standing up on the draining board by the window, were noticeably warm to the touch where the sun had been streaming in through the glass all afternoon. It felt like spring may be just around the corner.