Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

The "garden" at Roachside is more than 170 metres long and, at most, 7 metres wide. I use the quotation marks because "garden" doesn't exactly describe the humpy, bumpy, bracken and bramble covered strip of moorland grass and heather quite adequately. I'm sure that it could be made into a very attractive cottage garden. I might even have attempted it myself when I was much younger (my garden at home was hewn by effort of pick and shovel from a rocky hilltop at the same elevation as Roachside).

Be that as it may, I'm too old now to start another garden project in such a challenging location.

However, that's not to say that I'm leaving our strip of moorland to develop as a hotbed of bracken and bramble infestation. I'd much rather see it with native heather and planted with native tree species into the future. Hence, the last two summers, we've been hacking back the undergrowth, bit by bit. We still have a long way to go of course, but the results have been that plants which were hidden beneath the bracken canopy have re-emerged into the light.

Last month we had a small patch of snowdrops. Just now, we have native daffodils popping up all over the place and in a couple of months time there will be a blue haze of bluebells.

Make you feel like spring is round the corner and yearn to get clearing a bit more scrub!

Those of you who follow our random witterings on these pages will know that Scout and I love to walk. We walk all over the Peak District National Park and many of the attractive spots which fall just outside it's boundaries.

One such spot is Alderley Edge (yes, we know it's the home of many of the glitterati and soccer stars of Manchester) where heavily wooded valleys and ravines cut down through the gritstone which effectively forms a great swathe of the National Park.

From the tops of it's cliffs, you can look down over Manchester and it's airport - a landscape far removed from the Arthurian legend for which The Edge is known.

The story goes that the Wizard of Alderley Edge looks after and maintains the "Sleepers Hall", wherein King Arthur's knights wait on England's call - a story reinforced by the presence, beneath the woods, of miles of tunnels and chambers hewn out by generations of miners since before the Roman occupation.

What better place than this mysterious Wizardly landscape then, to film a new futuristic fantasy for TV.

Thus it has been for the last two weeks; dozens of trucks and vans, hundreds of technicians, lighting crews, make-up studios and accommodation caravans have been camped on two immense car parks made of roll-out roadway. Paths have been taped-off and security staff with two-way radios intercept and turn away would be "previewers" (and possibly autograph hunters).

It's all very exciting of course & we're properly "chuffed" that Sky TV has chosen The Edge for the star role in their new series "Intergalactic". If I had Sky TV, I might have even tuned in....

In reality though, we cant wait for it to be all "wrapped" & the weird silver pods and giant geodesic domes, which have sprouted like toadstools under the beech trees, to be "beamed away" & leave our woodland to us "regulars"!

And no more explosion please!

This January has been significantly quieter than last year. Why that should be, I haven't a clue. Brexit uncertainty? Dreary damp weather? Dire climate change news from Austrailia and Antarctica? We just don't know.

Whatever, we haven't been inundated with endless visitors through the start of this year like we were last year.

The upside to that is that we've been able to do a little maintenance and have a stay or two at Roachside Cottage ourselves, culminating last weekend with a gathering of the extended family for which my sister prepared a bit of a banquet. The place was full to bursting and every spare plate, knife and fork was pressed into service. Even our very elderly aunt and uncle enjoyed themselves - after they'd managed to negotiate the windy transit from car to living room!

These are our last surviving family of the "old generation". they used to stride across these moors with their various dogs frequently in days long ago. Now, they can manage to get from the road outside and up the doorstep only with a couple of guiding hands holding their arms. I guess that, one day, we'll all be like that.

Safe to say, we all had a brilliant day, ate lots of good food and talked until mid-evening.

T'was good job we did that on Saturday - on Sunday, Roachside was battered by Storm Ciaran and today we have 3" of snow!

Whenever there are no guests staying at Roachside, we like to have a night or two here ourselves. Hence, last night Scout and I were ensconced by the log fire and one of us was reading this week's Private Eye and sipping a wee dram  of Glenlivet. (The other was dreaming of Pheasants and Grouse)

There was just a skittering of wet snow left from yesterday's snowfall, but by this morning it had been supplemented significantly and, at dawn, the wind had dropped to just a breeze. 

Now, up here, 1100 feet above sea level, we have been far removed from the devastation of the flooding elsewhere in the country, but we've had a fair share of wind. It's barely stopped "blowing a hoolie" for nearly three weeks now.

So, just after dawn, wellies on, and we were off to Roach End for a clockwise circuit, back over the ridge path.

Near the Trig Point, we suddenly encountered footprints in the snow. There had been none along the track up from the road - these footprints just came straight out of the heather. Odd!

We plodded along as the sun started to burn through the fog, occasionally we could see down into the valley below as holes started to appear in the murk.

The footprints continued, past the cross-bedding outcrop, past Doxey Pool & down the cleft at the end of the Upper Tier. Just as we dropped down towards Roachside, we caught up with the makers of those footprints - a young couple with rucksacks and sleeping bags. They told us that they'd spent the night camped near the summit!

I guess I used to do things like that when I was young. - But that was a very long time ago.

         The early morning sunlight plays on the snow below the Upper Tier

One of the "perks" of doing this job is that we occasionally get to be the beneficiaries of items of food which guests leave in our fridge or freezer box.

Frequently, the day after guests have left and we've serviced the cottage, we get to "create" some culinary delight to make use of these leftovers. 

There used to be a TV show called Ready, Stead Cook, which my children used to watch on a Saturday morning, where contestants would arrive with some bizzare, random collection of ingredients and then the TV chef would have fun turning these into a "eclectic fusion of flavours and textures".

Now I'm no TV chef, but I do claim to be a fairly competent cook (people still come to my dinner parties!) and I have managed to make some very edible meals on this basis - veggie chilli with sweet potato & kale, sat on garlic toast is one I particularly remember. Quite often we manage a very decent root vegetable soup from the random carrots, parsnips, potatoes and half-onions left behind.

This weeks offerings were a bit meager by comparison - the "son & heir" had been up to Roachside with an old schoolmate from 20 years ago. Not too much left in the fridge;

Scout had a lunch today of fish fingers on naan bread & I have some funny foreign beer which looks for all the world like a urine sample!

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