Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

With the fine weather we’ve been having up here on the Staffordshire Moorlands, the grass in the meadows is ready for making into hay and silage to feed the animals through next winter.

The local farmers have been working flat-out these past few days as the nutrient value in the grass has peaked. The fields all across the valley are changing colour by the hour as teams of tractors, mowers and trailers chase each other in ever-decreasing circuits round each field. The lanes are full of tractors and trailers hurtling back and forth between field and silage clamp. Big round bales have begun to dot the countryside, waiting to be collected and transported to farmyards.

The tractor drivers manoeuvre their enormous machines and swinging attachments perilously close to the inconsiderately parked cars of thoughtless visitors who have parked in and opposite gateways

The heady scent of new-cut grass and sun-drying hay hangs in the air and the sound of the machines runs on late into the sunset. These are long, long days for upland farming communities.

Time to take a last opportunity to walk thigh-deep in wild meadow flowers, as we wander down to the Lazy Trout for an evening meal – before the tractors arrive in the valley bottom.

After such a dry spring, the moors are pretty parched. The usually muddy parts are like baked concrete and the watercourses which run down off the moor are dry. Last night some idiot set fire to the undergrowth on the Five Clouds. Within minutes there was a fairly spectacular blaze & the sterling people from Staffordshire Fire & Rescue spent the dark hours stopping it spreading.

It was contained to a 50m circle, thank goodness, but serves to show how we all must be vigilant when the land is so uncharacteristically dry.

Really impressed by the new technology that the Fire Service use when you call 999. They ping your phone with a request for a photo or video which then transmits back to them! – Sort of gives them an “eye on site” before they even start the fire engine!

Big thank you to SFRS 🚒

When we started this little venture at Roachside, we wanted to;-

  • Own our own little bit of the Staffordshire Moorlands landscape, promote it and preserve it
  • Do something new and challenging that was way outside our previous experience – to ward off the potential degeneration of brain and soul as age takes its course and
  • Do a bit of good for others along the way

Now I’ve been a supporter of MENCAP, the charity for those with learning disabilities, for longer than I can remember – certainly 30 years at least. So, when we were getting ready to start hiring out our cottage, we toyed with the idea of raffling a week or two to raise funds for this noble cause.

It soon became apparent that this would be extremely difficult for a number of regulatory reasons. So we decided to donate the takings from the first week we had the cottage full of fee-paying guests (not the long succession of willing “guinea pig” mates, family and clients with whom I was trying to curry favour, but who all provided excellent feedback and suggestions).

Well, that week just passed. Roachside was full for 7 full nights in a row. And, because that week was made up of two short term bookings, we raised much more than we expected.

This afternoon I sent £655 winging through the banking cyberspace from the Roachside account.

As we say in North Staffordshire; “I’m reyght chuffed”.

Our “toposcope” is almost complete!

OK, what’s a “toposcope”?

It’s one of those things you sometimes see on top of hills or places with a distant view, which points to various features to help people identify what they’re looking at.

From our picnic table, when it’s clear, we can see Delamere Forest and Helsby Hill 33 miles away, Pye Green Tower on Cannock Chase 28 miles, The Wrekin in Shropshire over 40 miles and even  Breidden Hill in Powys - about 56 miles distant!

No wonder our guests have been spotted with binoculars while they’ve been eating their cornflakes!

Yesterday we had a long trip into my old stamping ground of Mid Wales, to the 40th birthday party of an old friend of my daughter’s; friends from the age of about 5 I recall.

We had a lovely day at their place near Machynlleth – the sun shone almost all day and we sat out chatting to old friends and neighbours we hadn't seen for years.

The down side was that Scout spent most of the day travelling in the back of the car – not racing about the moors. Hence, today, we were out early in the Macclesfield Forest to do an 8 mile circuit, off round Teggs Nose.

No sooner had we set off from the car, than we found that the main track down through the forest was fenced off with stout permanent fencing and large “Footpath Closed” signs. A smaller notice gave the reason as “storm-damaged trees in dangerous condition”. We detoured over Pigford Moor and re-joined the track above Trenterbanks. A hundred metres down the trail; same again – “Footpath Closed”. Thus it was on almost every main track in the forest with at least one diversion onto the “Mountain bikes only” downhill trail.

Now, in my day job, as a consultant in “high hazard engineering” (primarily gas, but also petroleum, cryogenics, construction etc), I get well remunerated to ensure installations are safe to construct, operate and ultimately to demolish. Hence, when I see the application of “health and safety” being used completely inappropriately through some misplaced aversion to risk, my reaction can vary from just annoyance at someones misunderstanding of risk analysis, to professionally seething at “Corporate pseudo-speak” – peddling an illusion of concern for Joe Public.

The risk of a storm-uprooted tree, leaning against other trees, falling onto a passer-by who's walking on a track wide enough for two quarry dumper trucks to pass, is microscopically small – probably less that the chance of being struck by lightning.

The likelihood of twisting an ankle scrabbling down a slope of loose rocks eroded by the passage of thousands of downhill mountain bikers is a few orders of magnitude greater.

The chance of suffering life-changing injury, by being hit by a couple of “downhillers” unable to stop on the loose rock is, at very least, measurable on a scale of 1000.

As my former boss, a very blunt but logical Texan, used to say; “do the math”!

Oh! and the birthday boy? He was shot through the skull with a nail gun some years ago. He is paralysed down one side, can’t walk and has no functional speech.

Now there was a job for a risk assessment….

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