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Roaches To Hen Cloud


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The Roaches, whose name probably derives from the French word Roche meaning rock, is an area of outstanding beauty and a paradise for photographers, not only for panoramic or landscape snaps, but also for texture and atmospheric shots.

Together with Hen Cloud, and Ramshaw Rocks, the Roaches are tiered gritstone escarpments and huge bastions of solid rock in the Staffordshire Moorland area of the Peak District National Park, which can be found on the south-western boundary.

By road, The Roaches are to the west of the A53 Buxton to Leek road, from where some of the rock formations are clearly visible including part of Ramshaw Rocks which is known as The Winking Man. There is a steep bank on the A53 close to Blackshaw Moor. If you take the turning for Upper Hulme which is about half way up this steep bank, and drive through the little hamlet and then past some old commercial buildings, you will be on a narrow road which runs under The Roaches. Here there is limited roadside parking.

There is a network of single track roads in the area of The Roaches which make a fascinating and scenic drive, but note that some of the roads are gated.

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It is interesting that until 1979 The Roaches was in private hands and public access was not allowed. A reference in Baddeleys 'The Peak District' printed around 1939 states that 'The Roaches are private and walkers are liable to be stopped by keepers'. In 1980 however, nearly 1,000 acres were purchased by the Peak District National Park Authority to not only protect and maintain this highly valuable environmental site, but to allow access to the public. Large areas of the Staffordshire Moorlands were recently awarded 'Access' rights in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

There is a path along The Roaches which is most accessible at Roach End to the north. It reaches a height of 474 metres above sea level, and there are fantastic views in all directions. Among the many landmarks to be seen from this high vantage point are Shutlingsloe and Croker Hill with its distinctive telecom mast, then down on the Cheshire plains you can make out Jodrell Bank and the buildings of Manchester airport, whilst beyond Tittesworth Reservoir which looks like a giant puddle in the valley below. It is said that on a clear day you can see The Wrekin and hills of North Wales from the summit of The Roaches.

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Almost at the highest point of The Roaches lies Doxey pool, a clear expanse of clear water upon the gritstone bedrock.

The path down from Doxey pool on the southern end of The Roaches is a little tricky with lots of gritstone boulders to manoeuvre. Nestling under the escarpment close to this point of The Roaches is Rock Cottage which is built into the rock face. This was at one time a gamekeeper's cottage but is now used as a climbers hut. The Roaches are especially popular with climbers who can often be seen clinging to the rocks. One of the hardest climbs at The Roaches is said to be called Saul's Crack.

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The natural pathway between The Roaches and Hen Cloud is known as Windygates Gap, and was actually the route of the old Buxton to Leek road which was shown on an early map dated 1749. It passed through Windygates Farm which has a datestone of 1634 and from there to Meerbrook and Leek. It was not until 1765 that Parliament sanctioned the turnpiking of a road from Newcastle-under-Lyme to Hassop which passed through some of the bleakest countryside and hardest terrain in the country. Despite its isolation and numerous hills, the road was extremely profitable as it was used to transport thousands of tons of chert from Hassop and Longstone through Monyash and Longnor to the North Staffordshire potteries including those of Josiah Wedgwood. Chert is a hard form of silica rock used for the runners and pavers in the old type of potter's panmills. The returning wagons were laden with pottery and farm produce which was then taken on to Sheffield.