Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

I was sitting in the kitchen here on Sunday, after having been over the moor very early to watch a beautiful sunrise, when a chap knocked at the door enquiring if he could park his car on the verge outside Roachside Cottage.

It being a really lovely morning with the forecast for the sun lasting all day, people from miles about had flocked up to the Roaches for a day out. Now, I should explain that 99% of the time, you could lie down on the road outside here and sleep for hours before anything came along and disturbed you; we regularly walk the two miles to Roach End & back, walking along the middle of the road & never see a car.
Come a sunny weekend day or bank holiday, like every other beauty spot in the country, everyone wants to come here. That’s great, people getting out and enjoying the countryside. No matter how many cars are rammed into the parking bays along here, walk a mile from the gate and you’ll scarcely see a soul. However, the wise old National Park Authority have had to step in to control the indiscriminate parking which used to cause major headaches for the local farmers. Some people just don’t seem to have any appreciation of how difficult it is to manoeuvre a tractor carrying rotary hay bale or mounted with a fertiliser hopper. Or, for that matter, the daily milk tanker.

Hence, the marked parking bays all along the road and the parking restriction signs.

Back to Sunday morning and the red-faced chap at the door; “I’m afraid you can’t” said I, “parking anywhere outside the marked bays is prohibited and the prohibition is enforced by traffic wardens who patrol the road throughout the day”.

He glowered at me.

“I’m sorry” I offered.

He glowered some more.

“You can park there as far as I’m concerned, but I’m fairly sure you’ll be issued with a parking fine if you do. You may have seen the Traffic Wardens as you drove up the road – they’ll be in a small red van”.

The glowering had now turned into full-on hostile stare – reading his thoughts, I could see “I hate you” and “you officious scroat” trying to make their way to his mouth. Fortunately he thought better of it, spun round, climbed back into his BMW and slammed the door. The engine started up and he almost collided with a VW camper as he lurched off down the road.

Safe to say, most visitors up here seem to understand the need for parking control.

Given the lovely weather this afternoon, we've had the kitchen door wide open again.

We've spent a lot of time here over the last 8 weeks and today was time to get everywhere cleaned up and ready for guests who will arrive on Friday. Yes, we have to go home now for quite a spell (and do some of the work that earns the money to keep this place!).

With the sun streaming in though the door and the occasional babble of passing walker's chatter, it was almost pleasurable to be dusting and scrubbing the floor. When we came to close everywhere up tonight, I noticed a dark patch in the corner of the kitchen window frame - about the size of my thumb. Right, tight, into the corner, between the thick stone wall and the curtain rail bracket. 

Close examination revealed this to be a cluster of hibernating ladybirds. Probably about 50 or 60 of them clumped tightly together. Now do I try to shift them? The bug-hoover won't fit into the gap. If I get the tools out and dismantle the curtain rail bracket, I'll almost certainly crush quite a few of them. Maybe a court eviction order?

What did I say about a couple of ladybirds in the house being cute?

The slightly dreary autumn weather continues to bring bands of drizzle across the moorlands. Don't get me wrong, we have had some lovely days recently (see earlier blog posts), but it's undeniable that we haven't had two good days in succession. Yesterday, we set out with our good friend Jane for an afternoon blast round the Goyt Valley. (Jane walks very fast!).

The Goyt Valley, just 10 or 15 minutes up the road, has the feel of somewhere much more remote. There are no houses or farms in the valley at all. It's a wild place, home to grouse and pheasant and sometimes a curlew. It was sunny as I left Mow Cop, a little less bright in Leek and by the time we parked the car at Derbyshire Bridge, the western sky was wearing one of those "glowering frowns" which are a feature of westward views on the Moorlands.

Off we set and, within a quarter of an hour, the drizzle started. Coats on, we headed down the main valley on the path which contours above the infant river Goyt, getting wetter and wetter as we pushed through the bracken which has now started to collapse into it's winter dormancy. I can't bear overtrousers, I can't bear the sweaty condensing atmosphere of them. I can't bear the hissing rustle which occludes my impaired hearing. So, very soon my legs were soaked and my saturated trouser legs flapped and clung to my skin and started to feed water into my socks. Walking here in autumn isn't everyone's idea of fun - hence, we met not a soul until we reached the dam.

A brief spell of sunlight broke through for a few minutes as we headed back up the valley from the Errwood dam. Off with coat & into rucksac. A hundred yards later, the sun vanished and the drizzle returned.

That's how it sometimes is in the Peak District. It's what makes this landscape what it is - wild, lonely and elemental. Love it to bits!

In a cottage upwards of 200 years old, one has to come to an accommodation with the occasional creepy-crawly wandering across the window sill. After all, it can be cold and wet out there on the moor. Much more comfortable to squeeze in through the gap round the window and move in with the humans. This last few weeks we have  spotted a number of those little wandering woodlice. They are such great explorers! I have no idea if these ancient little chaps figure in our direct evolutionary path from the primeval slime, but their instinct to "seek out new worlds and boldly go ........" seems not unlike that of mankind.

They don't need a big supporting expedition. They don't require porters and mules. They just get on their (however many) feet and off they go. Off on their own, to seek their fortunes in a new world. They seem to fascinate Scout. She watches them intently as they climb vertical walls of lime plaster, perhaps marveling at this ability to cling to upright surfaces. Woodlice are pretty flattish in profile, so dogs just can't get their teeth round them. Obviously, as the legal owners of the cottage, we can't countenance potential squatters and when spotted, these plucky little rebels have to be vacuumed up into our hand-held bug hoover and set loose into the bracken outside. We are nothing if not humane!

Last week, one a sunny afternoon (not many of those about this autumn), we opened up the kitchen door to let the light flood in. Jammed (if that's the right expression) in the door jamb were literally hundreds of small ladybirds, crammed together all round the door frame. Probably just settled in for their winter hibernation - before some bloke with a dog shattered their plans.

They have been persuaded to move on.  One or two ladybirds; cute. Three or four hundred, not quite what we like to see in the house!

Yesterday morning (Tuesday), we were wide awake at 5 o'clock. I had lots of things on my mind and a long list of jobs which needed attending to. So, in order that young Scout had at least some exercise, we set off from Roaches Gate about 6 as the sky was just showing the first sign of the return of daylight and the stars were becoming less prominent.

As we traversed across the top of the Upper Tier, the daylight grew stronger and the magic of a cloud inversion became clear. By the time we reached the trig point at 06:45, the sun was just breaking cover on the eastern horizon and flushing the white sea of mist in the valleys with subtle pastel shades of blue, green and pink.

Out to the west, the dark bulk of the The Cloud (Bosley Cloud to some), Mow Cop and, to the southwest, way out in the distance 40 miles away; The Wrekin, sat like islands in this slowly undulating sea. Nothing at all was visible of the lower land. These lofty crags resplendent in the brilliance of the sunrise. Breathtaking!

Blow! The camera wasn't in my coat pocket! I have dozens of inversion photos taken from home at Mow Cop, but the view from there doesn't match the view from the top of the Roaches - because the presence of Mow Cop in the view adds scale and depth to the vista.

I guess there will be other similar views in the years to come, but, if not, this one is burned into my memory now. We sat alone, soaking up the experience - well Scout was actually snuffling around after young pheasants. She has very little in the way of aesthetic appreciation outside the showy flash of the plumage of young pheasants.

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