Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

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!

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!

Yesterday (Sunday) was a lovely day up on the Roaches.

The sun brought out zillions of visitors and the parking bays were full almost all day. This inevitably brings with it the litter which our species seems to leave a trail of, wheresoever they roam. I can cope with the occasional tissue which dropped from some person's pocket. I can deal with the corner of the plastic chocolate wrapper which fluttered away on the breeze when someone tried to open it with gloves on.

What mystifies me when I, along with many other volunteers, collect all this crap from the roadside, is; what sort of human behaviour results in the deposition of the wrappers from an entire giant family pack of Asda Onion Rings, both inner and outer packets, in the grass at Roach Road? What sort of sad, dimwitted moron buys a Chinese takeaway, eats barely anything from it, then launches it through the car window accompanied by two plastic bottles, three quarters full of Coke, Fanta or whatever? Takeaways, supermarket packet snacks and Coke - fodder for the lower eschelons of our society, where they can plough the money they don't have into profits for the large corporations who exploit their diminished decision-making capacity?

Rant ends.

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.

It's been an expensive week, this week. A tankful of heating oil, two boxes of new light bulbs and more bedding & sundries, so that we are ready for guests when they arrive next week and (at my daughter's suggestion) some toddler plates and cutlery so we are prepared for people with young families. The week culminated in the precautionary emptying of the septic tank. Thank goodness for my precautionary vision - beneath the lid lurked a giant "fatberg" exactly the same shape as the inside of the raw sewage chamber. Well done to John Howe, the septic tank man (Number One for Number Twos), who dealt with the monster without fear or fuss. He also retrieved the non-fuctioning submersible pump and discovered a vacant space where the air compressor should be! The joys of home ownership....a couple of tasty little jobs for me to get stuck into.

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