Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Roaches & Lud's Church 23/11/12.

Trig point on 'The Roaches.'
I decided to venture out of the Hope valley this time, and indeed out of the Dark Peak area. After reading alot about Lud's Church online, it was a place I definitely wanted to see. With shorter days this late in the year, a walk on The Roaches including Lud's Church and the mysterious Doxey Pool was spot on...

It was a cold morning, due to such clear skies, and there was plenty of frost on the ground. As we came up on The Roaches there was a bit of low hanging mist around, but it looked like the beginnings of a very clear and bright day. We had decided to see Lud's Church first and parked to the north of The Roaches at the scout camp site next to Manor Farm. We followed the young River Dane to Gradbach and Forest Wood. These woods reminded me a lot of something out of the Lord Of The Rings films, especially at this time of the year and with the recent wet weather. Every tree around was damp, and leaves covered the forest floor. As we went deeper into the woods, the trees seemed more and more gnarled and rotten. It was a creepy atmosphere, but rather striking at the same time. As I usually do, I couldn't help but think about the history of the place. I always seem to spend alot of time while walking, wondering what would have been going on one, two, three, five hundred years and more ago in the very area I'm walking. The fact we were approaching historical Lud's Church made my wondering even more intense.

The entrance to Lud's Church.
There are many tales surrounding the chasm, and all of them interest me. People's opinion seems to differ on which is the most impressive or significant story. Most people refer to the Arthurian poem of  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with Lud's Church apparently being the home of the green knight.

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance. It is one of the better-known Arthurian stories, of an established type known as the "beheading game". Written in bob and wheel stanzas, it emerges from Welsh, Irish and English tradition and highlights the importance of honour and chivalry. It is an important poem in the romance genre, which typically involves a hero who goes on a quest that tests his prowess, and it remains popular to this day in modern English renderings from J. R. R. Tolkien, Simon Armitage and others as well as through film and stage adaptations.
In it Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table, accepts a challenge from a mysterious "Green Knight" who challenges any knight to strike him with his axe if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts and beheads him with his blow, at which the Green Knight stands up, picks up his head and reminds Gawain of the appointed time. In his struggles to keep his bargain Gawain demonstrates chivalry and loyalty until his honour is called into question by a test involving Lady Bertilak, the lady of the Green Knight's castle."
[Taken from Wikipedia]

It's easy to see why Lud's Church is a good hiding place.
Lud's Church is also thought to have been a hiding place for Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, and also of 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie. Im sure everyone knows who Robin Hood and Friar Tuck are, and their story tells itself. For those that are unsure of who or what  'Bonnie' Prince Charlie was - he led a rebellion against the government in the 1740's, trying to reclaim total monarchy over England, Scotland and Ireland under the name of the grandson of King James VII and II. His plan failed, subsequently he spent a long while on the run from government forces.

Interestingly enough, there are two other sites close to where I live in Derby that are part of his story. Those being, the "Bonnie Prince" pub and Swarkestone Bridge, which are as far as he was able to march on his way to London from Scotland.

It has been told that Lud's Church was once a place of worship, which isn't surprising given its name -
"It is believed that the chasm was considered by early Pagans to be a sacred place, most likely due to the phenomenon that occurs on Midsummer Day, where only on this day does the sun's light penetrate deep into the chasm Lud, known as Nud in Welsh, or Nodens by the ancient Britons, is a major Celtic deity associated with many parts of Britain and with the Arthurian Fisher King...The area also has a place in Christian history: the Lollards, who were followers of John Wycliffe, an early church reformer, are supposed to have used this as a secret place of worship during the early 15th century, when they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Lud's Church may have been named after Walter de Ludank or Walter de Lud-Auk who was captured here at one of their meetings." [Taken from Wikipedia]

Aside from the history; it was amazingly atmospheric. I felt as though it was incredibly easy to draw energy from the place. I could feel such strong vibrational energy all around; from the moss and grasses on the walls, the cool, damp air, the imprint of past events. Even the silence down there struck me as being so beneficial, and a good chance to recharge your energies. Meditation would be amazing there.

This is a quick video I took inside Lud's Church. There was a constant dripping of dew/condensation.

The view up The Roaches.
After Lud's Church, we continued on through 'Forest Wood' in a south easterly direction until we came up to the path. We were making really good time, enjoying a really leisurely walk. It's alot calmer walking terrain than around Edale/Hope Skyline. When we got to the Path, it was clear that the views were very much different too. Instead of looking around at a lot of peaks close by, there is such a further reaching view to be had. It felt like a much more panoramic view than what can be seen in the Hope Valley much of the time. Turning 360 degrees, you can see moorland, peaks, dales... the sun cast a vivid light all around and allowed the eyes to pick out every detail of what was in view. We could see Shutlingsloe (another hill I intend to scale soon), Tittesworth Resevoir, up towards Axe Edge Moor. It was great to see yet another variance of terrain from the Peak district.

Now, the views in the Peak District have always proved to be an inspiration of their own - contributing to my ever expanding want, to get out again. But on this trip, there proved to be a bigger inspiration to spur us on. When we get to the trig point, we were taking some pictures and an elderly woman walked into shot; consequently apologising. "Sorry dears, Im not bad for 92 though, eh?" Yes, that's what she said 92! Still going strong. She was out with her son, who himself must have been approaching 70 and impressive enough to be out and active. The lady proved to be a really nice person to talk too as well. We had a chat about the area, and the history that goes with it. She told us a few stories, and then we got on to talking about Doxey pool as we were headed there next. I told her that I had read alot on the internet, but she told me the local version of legend. Her son explained that legend has it that the pool is bottomless, while others say that it connected underground to another small pool by Mermaid Inn. She went on to talk about the mermaid that is meant to frequent the pools, although she said that it was supposedly only the smaller pool. We carried on chatting about the weather and exchanged other pleasantries and then she got on her way. We joked that she should get in a photograph and I'd put it on my blog, to which she replied, "I'm too old for that, but I dont like the sound of it anyway. You don't want me all over your internet." I did manage to sneak a picture of her as she walked away, only so I could show Sophia when I got home that she genuinely was tottering up the hill with a walking stick at a snail's pace. 

What an inspiration!
Speaking to her made me want to enjoy my walks and camping trips all the more. Im sure that, in her younger days there will have been alot more greenery and countryside about. I didn't get too heavy with conversation, but it would have been interesting to get her view on how we're wasting alot of what nature has to offer. It's probably pretty safe to say that her elders, and their elders would wonder just what we're doing with the planet.

Doxey Pool.
We carried on a little further to Doxey Pool. The feeling around it was a little bit weird, not unsettling or spooky as such but I think it would be interesting to spend a night there in a tent and see how you ended up feeling. Standing still, it was probably the quietest spot of the whole day. Which did add to a slight air of mystery, as did the dark, thick mud coloured water of the pool itself. It would be an easy place to sit with your thoughts, but we had food to eat! So we headed for some cover in the rocks just above the pool. I brought my hobo stove with me so that I could show Phil and Matt the stove in action, and they were impressed with it - which is a bonus additional to the fact that it works pretty well. 

Hobo stove made entirely from - a soup can.

After we'd had some food, and Matt had warmed up a bit, we decided to head back in order to avoid the weather that seemed to be closing in and ensure we got to the car before it got dark. As the cloud moved in, the views changed somewhat. They still had a very distinct charm about them, but with a very, as much as I dislike the word "British" twist. That is to say that the sky looked very grey and miserable. It still made for some striking photographs though, and the way that the light played on the rain in the distance was definitely a pleasant sight. It was an even more casual stroll back to the car. For the most part, it was down hill but the whole area just seems relaxing. It doesn't spur you on with the same vigour as the areas I have walked before, with less substantial peaks. That does not detract from it's beauty, though. In fact, it has a beauty of it's own, in a different way to the Edale/Hope valley for example. It causes you to slow down and just relax, which is what walking is all about after all. There is something to be said for the challenge of doing a 20+ mile walk around the Edale skyline, its very fulfilling. But this day was just as fulfilling, we all had a great day as we usually do. 

A turn of weather can still produce nice views.
We decided to head to the Cat & Fiddle pub near Axe Edge Moor for a well earned beverage, and to have a look at what the country's second highest pub had to offer. It was a very nice little bar, with a resteraunt area attached that we didn't venture into. I'd definitely reccomend paying a visit if you are in the area. Its always good to sit down and relax, and chat about the day - and plan the next one. The next outing for myself is probably going to be another wild camp in the Dark Peak area. Im weighing up either the Upper Derwent Valley, or possibly the woods next to Kinder Reservoir. Either way - it should be a good excursion with a new tent that I intend to buy this weekend, but I shall explain more about that later.

The Cat & Fiddle.
Sunset towards Macclesfield?