Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

Each year, on the 11th November, it is customary in Britain and the Commonwealth to remember those who lost their lives in the service of their countries in two world wars.

Not all of those lost were killed in action. Preparing for war was a difficult and dangerous business, particularly for aircrew. Across the Peak District National Park are the sites of well over 150 aircraft crashes from the Second World War which mostly involved young and inexperienced aircrew learning to navigate and fly their aircraft. The pressure of a nation preparing for action meant that training often continued  even in what we would regard today as inappropriate weather conditions. In the wild uplands of the Peak District, then as now, the weather could turn in a trice and blot out the landscape. Without the sophisticated navigation equipment we have today, flying over this terrain could be challenging in the extreme. 

Within just 4 miles of Roachside Cottage are the locations of 7 of these crashes.  

On Goldsytch Moss is the site of an enemy bomber too.

Young men from New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada, the UK and Germany, all cut down in their prime.

A reminder of the cost of war. For everyone.

                                                                                                                      Information from Peak District Air Crash Research.

The last few days have been pretty wild for weather, with high winds and lashing rain. That's a bit sad for our guests who've probably been making a detailed study of the cottage library and playing games of Scrabble.

This morning the wind had dropped a fair bit, but the rain was still a steady drizzle. The cloudbase was right down to the ground and was thick enough to make the world seem in twilight. That's how it was when we arrived for the morning dog-plod at Rudyard. (This is where we go when the weather is grim enough to dissuade us from heading into the hills).

With wellies. wide-brimmed hat and long raincoat on, we set off down the lakeside. Within a few moments the rain had stopped. No more than another hundred metres and  the sun suddenly burst forth and a moment or two more and all traces of the thick cloud had evaporated. By the time we reached the Dam Head, the gloom had largely returned,

The weather patterns on the western edge of the Peak District can be weird at times.

 The lakeside properties of Sandy Point, Fortside  & The Lady of the Lake in brilliant autumn sun this morning

After a power cut earlier this week, I had to go down to the water pump house & twiddle with the controls on the pump. Such are the joys of being in a house remote from mains water and several hundred feet above the local water supply. As I always tell guests, just look down into the valley to where the reservoir is and imagine just how much energy is expended on lifting that water up to where we are on the edge of the escarpment.

When I’d succeeded in restoring normal service (made more difficult by the condensation in the panel display, making it unreadable!), I turned round & discovered that I’d acquired an audience.

I think several of these young ladies are considering careers as plumbers now.....

It's not unusual to have guests at Roachside Cottage who  live only a few miles away. It's prominent position in the landscape mean that it is known to everyone who frequents the outcrops and moors here and lots of local folk just want to come and "live the dream", if only for a couple of nights or so.

Earlier this week we had just such a family from Leek, all of 4 miles distant, but they had another reason to come and stay; One of them was actually born here, shortly before the Second World War and grew up in this little cottage with 7 siblings!

Of course, I just had to ask lots of questions and fill in the gaps in my knowledge about the place and what it was like to live here. We'll call her "Gran".

Her dad, Mr Plant (that's him in the picture) was a veteran of the Great War who survived 4 long years in the trenches of the Western Front, only to be seriously injured falling over the bridge in the village and ending up in the millrace.

Despite that, he fed the entire family from the garden - no mean feat 1100 feet above sea level.

There was no electricity. No water supply except from the trough into which the rainwater from the roof ran. When that ran dry, as it often did in the summer, water had to be fetched in a bucket from Spring Cottage - a round trip of more than 3/4 mile.

Life in a stone cottage on the edge of the moorland was a constant struggle against cold, the penetrating damp, the incessant invading mice which kept a team of semi-wild cats occupied - not to mention isolation & having to all squeeze into a space only 2/3 rds of what we have now.

A tough upbringing made for tough people. Gran's older sister died a couple of days ago at the age of 99 - how many of us raised in centrally heated homes with fitted carpets, bathrooms all mod cons will make it to that age?

The Roaches Trig Point - my thanks to Caitlin Hill

One reason people love to come to the high moorland is to watch the ever-changing skyscapes. Of course, this being the Peak District, often the sky is leaden with heavy rain cloud or even just a continuous grey mist when the cloud “touches down” and the cloudbase is below our elevation. But often enough, throughout the year, we do get to see the most beautiful dramas taking place in the heavens as clouds are torn and re-form on the wind.

This rather good rendition was captured by Caitlin, my old mate Graham’s daughter. It put me in mind of the last verse of Shelly’s “The Cloud”.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

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