Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

Last summer, when we built the new log shed at the rear of the cottage, we expected that it would soon be colonised by the local wildlife. With it's lean-to roof and ventilated ends, it's not hard to see how attractive it is. After all, if you lived on a grouse moor, lashed by rain & wind, shrouded in mist & where snow lingers longer than in the valleys, you'd probably always be looking for somewhere sheltered and safe from harm.

We expected the first colonisers to be either bats - since they are frequently seen whirling about the sky here at dusk, or owls - since we have all five British varieties living along the edge of The Roaches.

Instead, sitting atop the vent pipe, in a beautifully crafted but tiny nest, we have Swallows!

Yes, I know the photo just looks like a sort of fluffy ball - but look again closely and count the little yellow beaks of the chicks.....

Yes, there are 4 of them, all squashed in like so many sardines in a tin!

In just a few weeks time, they'll fledge and, soon after, commence the perilous journey to Africa.

I wonder how may of our little family will survive to return here next spring?

With it's high elevation above the Churnet Valley and the surrounding countryside, The Roaches offers the opportunity for photographers, both expert and novice, to capture some stunning sunrises, sunsets and skyscapes. Indeed, there is keen competition amongst some of our very talented local photographers to capture that perfect image, which they then post on the facebook page of the Roaches Appreciation Society for all to enjoy.

These are very dedicated camera-people, out before the sunrise, staying long after the sun has set behind a gathering cloudbank, just waiting for that fleeting moment when a sunbeam splits the sky and edges the clouds with silver and gold.

These people are impervious to cold and rain. Frost and snow and howling wind are but mere discomforts.

The majestic lone oak, which sits prominently on a mound in a field, just along the road from Roachside Cottage, has been photographed against the setting sun (and painted) countless thousands of times, but probably never better than in this image captured by Mark Sharratt just a few nights ago.

Not all of us have this kind of dedication of course, but keeping your camera handy and your eyes open is a good start - even I have a few snaps that I'm quite proud of!

My very warm thanks to Mark for allowing me to share this picture.
I'm sure he's justly proud of it

It's official! The great radio telescope at Jodrell Bank has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

How important is that?

Well, other WH sites include the Pyramids at Giza, The Vatican City, the Taj Mahal and the Galapagos Islands - that's how important it is!

Since 1957, the great white dish of what is more correctly known as The Lovell Telescope has dominated views over the Cheshire landscape and is easily iindentified from the Roaches. Right from it's beginning, it played a major role in the Space Race, tracking satellites launched by both the USA and USSR.
Part of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, it still probes the limits of deep space day and night 365 days a year and it is still the third largest telescope of it's type in the world. It helps make UMIST one of the world leaders in deep space exploration.

If you are contemplating a stay at Roachside Cottage, we can recommend it highly as a fantastic day out.

How prescient then that, when we called for a drink at The Ship Inn at Wincle last week, they had a new beer on the bar, clearly endorsed by that most recognisable of the University's staff; Professor Brian Cox!

Those of you who have followed our blog (?) for the last few weeks will know that yours truly has taken up cycling. 

Not the kind of cycling that requires slithering into a lycra bodysuit & the really dark sunglasses that serious cyclists wear to visit tea rooms, but plain and simple bicycling in the countryside, nice and easy, on the cycleways of the Peak District. No traffic, virtually no gradient and passing through mile after glorious mile of stunning scenery. Interrupted only at intervals of a few miles by opportunity for a sandwich or cake and coffee or just occasionally a beer.

In the past few weeks we've done several trips on the Tissington Trail, The Manifold Trail, The Monsal Trail and other less well known routes. Last week, it was time to hit the High Peak Trail.

I'd walked a few tiny stretches of this over the years, where walking routes intersected with The Trail for short distances, so I knew it passed through the Derbyshire Dales at a high elevation and thus had commanding views over the countryside, but I was more than surprised when we cycled it's full length over two Sunday evenings.

It's brilliant! Like the other cycleways, it follows the track of a long defunct railway, but what a railway! Whoever engineered a steam railway passing so high on the fells, where there is no natural water to replenish thirsty locomotives, was;
a) Ambitious in the extreme
b) An engineer of some considerable talent and
c) Backed by someone with access to unlimited funds
d) Possibly verging on insane

Built in stages between 1830 and 1857, at the very start of the railway era and before the economics and reliability of steam locomotion were widely accepted, it was a staggering feat. It's summit at Ladmanlowe is 30m higher than the famous Settle-Carlisle railway, itself branded the "impossible railway"!

The last operational train ran on the considerably foreshortened route in 1967.

As a railway, it couldn't sustain enough traffic to stay open. As a cycleway, it's a masterpiece.

One of the “perks” of owning a place like Roachside Cottage is that, every now and then, we can have a day or two here ourselves and sometimes invite friends.
Thus it was last week when some American guests cancelled at short notice (maybe they spotted some of my Twitter exchanges with their Orange Idiot!). We packed up our larder box and chucked a few tee shirts into the car and moved in for 5 nights.
With such an extended stay, it seemed like a good opportunity to invite my old Scouting mates for an evening ramble, a meal and, given that no one would need to drive home, maybe a few drinks.
Thus it was, the lamb shanks (which came all the way from the Manifold Valley 8 miles away), were bunged into the oven to cook very slowly while we all had a wander over the Roaches Ridge and back. Now Scout and I normally do this circuit in about 1 hour and 5 minutes, but on this occasion, we had a “Twitcher” with us. My old mate Steve became a bird watcher some years ago and I think could now be described as a fully paid up Twitcher.
He was keen to see our Curlews, of which there are many. Certainly, that very day, on our early morning walk, we’d seen 3 pairs at close quarters; two pairs who nest near Shawside and another pair who seem to be living along by the cattle grid above Brownsett Farm.
Typically, the Curlews had gone into hiding for the evening – their haunting call rolled across the moor, but the birds themselves were staying hidden in the tall grass. That didn’t stop Steve from pausing every few minutes to scan the moorland with his binoculars. So, the walk which normally takes just over an hour lasted well over two!
We did spot a Meadow Pippet and a couple of large owls – we know there are Short-Eared and Long-Eared Owls, Barn Owls and Little Owls, we see them every evening when we go down to The Lazy Trout. Hence, Steve’s Curlew disappointment was alleviated a little.
The lamb was cooked to perfection (even if I say so myself – a Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients recipe – anyone can do it!). The wine was good, all the corny old stories were told again and by midnight the single malt was being tasted. So much so, that everyone eventually “hit the sack” at about 2am.
I took Steve for another walk in the morning to see the Curlews that I confidently predicted would be only to happy to show themselves.
They didn’t. But that’s birdwatching for you. Sometimes, the birds just won’t play the game!

Just to illustrate that birdwatching on The Roaches is normally a rewarding activity - one of Liz Owen's fabulous owl studies

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