For a map of this route click here.
I had kept a beady eye on the weather forecast throughout the previous week and unfortunately it just got worse and worse. My planned backpack to the Howgill fells went out of the window and a bit of last minute planning had myself and Rae heading out to the Roaches for a Sunday day walk instead.
With the exception of having bleary eyes it is almost a pleasure driving at 8.00am on a Sunday morning, the roads were pretty much deserted and progress to the ‘other side’ of the Peaks was swift. The ‘other side’ of the Peaks being the area to the west that is furthest away from Nottingham. There was only a couple of cars at the small car park in Gradbach as we arrived but after a ten minute faff it steadily started to fill up. It looked like it may be a busy day on the hills.
10.2 miles with 660 metres ascent
We headed though the grounds of the nearby youth hostel, which looked like it was probably no longer inhabited by youth as the car park was filled with posh looking cars. I would much rather pay a tenner extra and stay in a cosy b&b than sleep in a room with loads of farting snoring strangers, or pay nothing and pitch a tent in the wilds. Each to their own I suppose. Passing various signs advertising the hire of skittles / boules/ jenga for £3.50 (yes I kid you not) we eventually found the footpath and headed towards forest wood. It started to rain so Rae was encouraged to put on her waterproof trousers which thankfully made it stop raining. A scenic path climbed through the woods and came to a small outcrop of rock that is not marked on the map. A great spot to spend ten minutes or so exploring its nooks and crannies.
The path changes direction and it would be fairly easy to pass by Lud’s church if you were not looking out for it. A deep moss dripping chasm in the hillside that we managed to time so that we had it all to ourselves for ten minutes. It is hard to do the scale of the place justice with a photo so you will all have to go and visit yourselves, it is worth it.
Shortly after climbing out of Lud’s church whilst walking through Gradbach wood we were passed by a human train. I did not know that it was possible for so many people to be able to go out for a walk together. It may have been an accident and lots of individuals may have been stuck behind one another, but we passed another group of about thirty people four hours later. Maybe I am a miserable git but that seems even weirder to me than staying in a youth hostel. Heaven forbid they may have been walking in a group of thirty and staying in a youth hostel (shudder). I may start up the misanthropic hill walkers club and no one else is invited!
Anyway the walk through Gradbach wood is simply lovely and at one point mist descended through the trees making it very atmospheric.
The high level road that circles the Roaches is soon met and it is then a short simple climb to the trig point at their highest point at 505 metres. The views however get better as you start descending a little to the south and the crags on the western side get bigger. Although a popular walk this does not distract from the scenery which on a clear day can extend across the plains to Wales.
Rather than follow the main path we continued to the southern tip of the roaches where there are views down to the isolated craggy top of Hen cloud. A narrow path then winds its way down through the rocks with a little easy scrambling if wanted.
Neither of us had climbed Hen Cloud before so we headed up the well worn path turning round for the views back towards the Roaches.
The summit is quickly reached and the top feels more airy than the main Roaches ridge. Some of the cliffs are pretty big as well and it was less busy with climbers, possibly due to the higher grades of climbing. The wind throughout the day had been pretty strong so we descended a short way and found an outcrop to hide behind to eat our lunch.
Our path down completely circled the hill and led us back under the South ridge of the Roaches at Well farm. We could see the jagged outline of our next destination Ramshaw rocks on the horizon, one of the few remaining places in the Peaks I had yet to visit. We took a circuitous route to avoid loosing too much height whilst the crowds of the last couple of hours were left behind. Ramshaw rocks are an interesting place to visit with most of the rocks pointing at an angle towards the east. Peering over the edge many of the crags are overhanging and you can see the chalk marks left by climbers, some of the climbing routes look pretty tough.
Descending to a lane we passed what may have been the same group of about 30 people all strung out in a line stretching to the horizon. A letter must have been sent out to all members requesting that red woolly socks must be worn.
Heading north past a tiny tea shop there are further interesting rock formations that remind me a bit of the Darmoor tors. Newstones, Baldstones and Gib tor all rise from low moorland in quick succession. Most of this landscape is within the Blackbank valley nature reserve, an area that requires a leisurely exploration. However dusk was on its way (even though it was only 3.30pm) and dark clouds were gathering with a few spots of rain. We were soon crossing the path below Gradbach hill and descending back to the car park just as darkness was falling.
Although a planned backpack was cancelled it was still good to get out for a day. Even though the Peak district is very familiar I always forget how wild and rugged parts of it are. The only downside for me is the amount of people out and about on a Sunday, you can see how it is the second most visited national park in the world. I usually only visit on a Saturday if I go at a weekend, which for some reason is much quieter (the power of the shopping ‘experience’ and supermarkets?) but you need to grab those weather windows whenever possible. I will definitely be visiting the Peaks more over the coming winter months. Kinder in the snow, can’t wait!