Roachside Cottage

Part of the living landscape of the Roaches

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

In these northern latitudes, when nothing exciting is happening, we talk about the weather.

This time last year, we had a few nights at Roachside ourselves & spent the long evenings of a lovely warm mid-June, out walking and cycling about the southwest part of the Peak District.

What a contrast this year. It's been overcast again, it's been very windy, it's been positively cold and it's even drizzled a bit now and then - just enough to damp-off the hay which was supposed to be drying in the fields. 

Despite this lack of warm sunshine, the countryside is still very dry. There's hardly a mud patch anywhere to leave a bootprint in. Scout hasn't had to be towelled down for weeks now

This evening we took a wander up on The Cloud and looked back towards The Roaches. There was nobody else about. Perhaps that's not surprising!

On the upside, the weather forecast just announced that it's about to get a lot sunnier and warmer - roll on!

This is Brambles.

Brambles is an American Great Horned Owl.

How cool is it when your neighbour asks you in to meet the latest addition to his collection of Owls?

Brambles has had to be taken away from Mum because, when there is more than one chick in the nest, the weaker of the two is likely to be killed either by a parent or the dominant chick.

Good job that our friend Phil was able to offer a new home where Brambles can grow up with the company of Ruby (European Eagle Owl) and Alan (Indian Eagle Owl), not to mention the various Barn Owls, Long Eared Owls & Little Owls who live in the various buildings and hollow trees hereabouts. The Roaches, Back Forest and the Meerbrook Valley have an extraordinary population of native owls.

Brambles could easily grow to have a span of up to 1.5 metres and live for 30+ years. One once celebrated a 50th birthday!

Phil has been taking in orphaned Owls almost forever and it's not at all unusual to see him out and about along by Roachside with one or other of these majestic birds sitting on his gauntlet. Do say hello to him - he won't bite - promise!😉

I snapped a picture of the ducks at Rudyard today & it set me thinking about how “Duck” is used in our local North Staffordshire dialect (or "Nowth Staffycher" as we say!)

“Ay up duck” is possibly the most useful three-word term you can master. It can mean any of the following;

"Hello my dear" (to one’s wife/girlfriend etc., as a term of endearment)

"Look out!" (Don’t slip on that wet floor)

"Look out, I’m coming through!" (when shouted from a bicycle without a bell)

"Excuse me, bar tender!" (To get attention)

"Hello mate, how are you?" (As a greeting to a close friend. Sometimes used in its full form “Ay up duck, at thee owe reyght?”.

Of course, it can also be used as a friendly greeting to a duck!

Easter week in the Peak District and the paths and tracks hereabouts are full of people enjoying the Easter holiday break. For those of us who know where to go though, there is still solitude to be found in those places just a little way off the tourist trail. We sat in the sun on Gradbach Hill at lunchtime today, admiring the view over the Back Dane and the Roaches. Admiring the view and thinking hard about what we'd heard this morning.

On the  dog plod round Rudyard Lake this morning, I was listening to a Russian M.P. giving his justification for his country's war on Ukraine. (lookup Ukrainecast on BBC Sounds)

An obviously articulate and educated man, having lived for many years in America & Ukraine & other places in "the west", his outpouring of xenophobic vitriol, tortured logic and almost ridiculous re-writing of history shocked me. I like to think that I form my views from listening to and placing myself in the position of anyone espousing almost any and every view or belief, just to try to understand how and why they believe what they do. I have read lots of books telling the path of history through eyes that did not belong to white, Anglo-Saxon men who created and ran empires. I have read a good deal of the history of religions other than the one into which I was born. I really like to think that I can empathise with at least some of what anyone's viewpoint is.

But to listen to a torrent of topsy-turvy statements about how "the west" is manipulating the countries bordering Russia, in order to belittle and undermine this "great nation" and, quite baldly to equate "Russia" with the greatness of the USSR was quite shocking.

Whether he himself believed these utterances we can't know. He's intelligent, speaks perfect English and obviously has access to news other than that fed through his own state media, but he expressed no doubt that Russia had any choice but to take such action to defend itself.

As I mulled this over in my mind, it struck me that almost exactly 80 years ago, a German bomber flew into the rocks on the left of my view, as it returned from dropping high explosives on Liverpool. Two years later, a RAF bomber crashed on the summit of The Roaches (upper right skyline) - indeed the hills hereabouts were the graveyard of many such aircrews intent on delivering death and destruction on the citizens of each others countries.

In almost eight decades, mankind has discovered much and stretched the bounds of it's collective knowledge faster than at any time in history - except that it has yet failed to form stable societies immune from acting on the poisonous lies and divisive narratives of some deranged people.

A bleak view indeed.

We managed to get a day off from our various responsibilities today & took a wander along the Monsal Trail - one of the best, if not THE best cycleways in the country. It follows the route of the old London Midland Scottish railway, built in the 1860s along a route of astonishingly challenging terrain.

Passing through five tunnels blasted through the limestone and then bursting out onto the precipitous sides of Wyedale, it offers the weird, otherworldly silence of deep underground, interspersed with fantastic views from the tops of cliffs overlooking the valley.

Being underground is dark and dank, you hear the creaking of the leather of your shoes and your own heartbeat, interrupted by the occasional splash of dripping water. Large parties of ramblers who've been chatting enthusiastically in daylight suddenly become silent and pass like ghosts - strange how it affects almost everyone similarly.

Then, we're out into the morning light and the sun picks out the elegant architecture of Cressbrook Mill and we can hear the river tumbling over the rocks far below!

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