Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

After a slight "faux pas" this morning when I misread the calendar and almost set out to do a cottage changeover a day before the guests had finished their holiday, we found ourselves with a mostly free day to play with.

After breakfast at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, we went for a wander over the Black Brook Nature Reserve, just a mile or so east of The Roaches. This high, windswept place is not much frequented and has a wild and lonely feel to it. A wonderful place to be alone with your thoughts.

Indeed, this morning, with the air temperature at 3C and a steady 15 knot northerly wind, it felt particularly desolate.

Zoom into the picture and you can see the dusting of snow on Axe Edge (right skyline). Felt more like a winter day than we've had for quite some time.

I've written previously on these pages about how our collective quest for the idyllic rural lifestyle drives the endless popularity of "Cottage" holidays and that life in our beautifully restored ancient dwellings across all the National Parks hardly mirrors the lives of the former occupants for whom these iconic buildings were constructed hundreds of years ago.

Indeed, last year we had a lady stay here who was the last person to be born in this cottage in the early 1930s and she recounted the constant battle with the cold, the penetrating damp, the dim paraffin lamps and candles for light and fetching water from the spring along the road.

Nowadays, our cosy holiday cottages are warmed by modern underfloor heating, log-burning stoves with statutory ventilation & flue, electric heaters which require annual inspection and certification. All features to ensure maximum comfort and safety.

I was musing on this theme yesterday when we made one of our frequent dog-plods around Rudyard Lake.

In the 1950s and 60s, when I was growing up, I envied the rich business owners who had "holiday homes" in the lanes, tracks and fields around the rural fringes of my dirty northern industrial city.

A handful of these places still survive, a miniscule number as permanent homes and a few more, like the ones slowly being subsumed into the bramble thicket at the north end of the lake, as decaying relics of a bygone age. 

It was an age when, if you were upwardly mobile, you could get away from the grim weekday world and attempt slow suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from the paraffin heater and Primus stove, contracting botulism from worktops where the mice roamed on weekdays or inhaling the asbestos fibres chafing from the asbestos cement wall panels, all while sleeping under damp blankets on a mouldy mattress.

It's 2nd January 2022.

Only a couple of weeks since the shortest day of the year and already the extra 8 minutes of daylight seemed to re-invigorate the older one of us. 

It's astonishing how I always feel brighter and ready for the coming spring once the Christmas decorations have been put back into their boxes and stowed away in the attic.

This morning, we were out well before dawn for a dog walk before a day of cleaning and bed-making at Roachside Cottage.

As we came back along the west shore of Rudyard Lake, the rising sun painted the sky with gorgeous delicate colours, reflected and dancing on the surface of the water as the Dam Head crew towed the small open boats to the jetty for a queue of anglers waiting with their equipment.

This is a good way to start anyone's day! Is it surprising that Kipling's parents named him after this place?

Roachside Cottage has been mostly closed through the last couple of months while my daughter has been in hospital.

With the Covid crisis, there's been no visiting allowed, but just ferrying laundry and some of her medical supplies between home and the hospital 50 miles away has meant I've had to stay very flexible with my time. 

This afternoon, we called at the cottage to check that the heating was still running and, given that it was a spectacularly beautiful day, take a short walk over the escarpment. We were back at the cottage well before the sun went down and sat outside with a mug of coffee, reflecting on life, the universe and everything - or maybe just drinking in the wonderous view.

Just sitting there, my mind drifted and I found myself musing that we live our life very much in phases - our childhood gives way to our teenage rebellious years, then we form our adult characters and find partners. Then comes the stress of becoming a parent, followed by our "golden years" where we can focus on our careers. They're all phases of our lives.

When I left my former employer at the age of 54, I entered a new "phase", stepping out into a harsh commercial world, selling my acquired knowledge around the industry as a consultant - great fun and very personally satisfying when it went well.

A few years ago though, that exciting, "whizzing about everywhere and meeting every challenge" phase had to end when I was widowed and began yet another, slower phase, running this cottage and forging it into a thriving business.

Sitting at the picnic table this afternoon, I mused on how, in my 69th year, the next "phase" probably involves being dead!

Time for a night at the pub, I think

It's only a week since we were wandering about the Peak District in comparatively warm weather - we had breakfast in the sunshine at Alderley Edge for goodness sake!

Storm Arwen has put an abrupt stop to that! Heavy snowfall and winds oof almost 100 miles per hour have swept down from the Arctic across much of Northern Britain.

Our guests have been without electricity (and consequently water & heating too) since the early hours of Saturday morning. It's now 11:00am Monday and there are still 800+ properties without power. It came back for a short while earlier, but that's obviously revealed another pole down somewhere.

This is the full "Moorlands Winter Experience", it's the Peak District, we expect this to happen occasionally. Our guests were very resourceful - melting snow over the log burner to enable them to flush the loo, but, in the end, they had to evacuate by torchlight and head for civilisation.

We were up at Roachside in expectation of restoration this pm and whiled away an hour or two with a mini-epic "up top", where the snow had drifted and was chest deep in places.

Poor old Scout was burrowing through the snow and accumulated about her own weight in ice-balls stuck to her fur.

Cracking views though!

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