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Growing up in Staffordshire, The Roaches was always one of my favourite places to explore. This rocky outcrop at the southern end of the Peak District was quite possibly the first ‘proper’ hike that I ever did and I’ve been back there many times over the years. In this post, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting The Roaches, from where to park, which walks are the best, where to go climbing and bouldering, and where you might spot some Australian wildlife in the Peak District.
The Roaches Walk
The Roaches is a popular place for walkers and there are several routes that can be taken. My favourite is the walk that loops from the Roaches over to Lud’s Church and back. The walk covers a distance of around 5.5 miles and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the Roaches themselves. Along the way, walkers will pass through heather-covered moorland, ancient woodland, and rocky outcrops.
Despite its name, it is not a church but a deep, moss-covered chasm that is thought to have been created by a massive landslide millions of years ago. The chasm is over 100 meters long and up to 18 meters deep in places, with towering rock walls covered in ferns and other vegetation. Lud’s Church has been associated with various historical and legendary figures over the years, including Robin Hood, who is said to have used it as a hideout.
Even on a bright summer day, Lud’s Church has a strange atmosphere, thanks to the overhanging trees that permanently shadow the chasm. A couple of years back, I went on a night hike over The Roaches and I can tell you first-hand that Lud’s Church is a very spooky place to be in the early hours of the morning.
Watch Out For the Wallabies
There are some interesting stories about the Roaches that locals love to tell anyone visiting for the first time. Back in the 1930s, five Australian Wallabies were released onto the moorland near the Roaches. Here they created a colony and there have been rare sightings even in recent years. Of all the things you might expect to see on a peaceful walk in the Peak District, a wallaby wouldn’t be one of them.
The Myths of Doxey Pool
And it’s not just Wallabies. Doxey Pool, located up on the moorland plateau of the Roaches, is a body of water surrounded by a number of myths and legends. One of the most popular stories is that the pool is bottomless, with some locals even claiming that it leads to the underworld. Others say that the pool is cursed and that the ghost of a drowned woman will haunt anyone who swims in it. There are also tales of a headless horseman who is said to appear near the pool on moonlit nights. Despite these myths, the truth is that the pool is relatively shallow, with a depth of around 3 metres, so don’t be too put off if you do fancy a wild swim.
Bouldering at The Roaches
Bouldering is very popular at the Roaches and draws climbers from all over the country. The Roaches offer a variety of bouldering routes, from easy warm-up climbs to more difficult and technical problems that will test even the most experienced boulderers. The gritstone formations, with their unique texture, provide excellent friction for climbing shoes and offer a variety of holds for climbers to grip onto. The bouldering areas are scattered throughout the Roaches, with some located near the car parks and others requiring a bit of a hike to reach.
One popular bouldering area is the Skyline Boulders, which offer a range of problems ranging in difficulty from V0 to V10. The problems at Skyline are characterized by sharp crimps, small pockets, and sloping holds, making them a challenging but rewarding experience for boulderers. Another popular area is the Plantation Boulders, which are located near the Gradbach Mill car park and offer a range of problems suitable for all levels of climbers.
Climbing at The Roaches
The Roaches is home to over 300 climbing routes, ranging from short and easy climbs to long and challenging multi-pitch routes. The gritstone formations, with their unique texture, provide excellent friction for climbing shoes and offer a variety of holds for climbers to grip onto. The area is particularly popular among traditional climbers, as many of the routes require the use of traditional gear such as nuts and camming devices. However, the Roaches are part of the Peak District National Park, which is a protected area, and climbers are encouraged to follow the principles of ‘Leave No Trace’ to minimise their impact on the environment.
Scrambles in the Dark Peak
- Year-round scrambles, plus four winter-only routes (including Mam Tor and Back Tor gullies)
- Illustrated with 1:25,000 OS mapping and colour photography
- Customisable routes, with multiple different options available
Tittesworth Reservoir, located just a short drive from the Roaches, offers a range of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages. The reservoir is a popular destination for fishing and there are also a number of walking and cycling routes around the reservoir, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. Tittesworth Reservoir also offers water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding, with equipment available to hire on-site.
I once got caught out in a thunderstorm whilst canoeing across Tittesworth Reservoir. There’s nothing like a few flashes of nearby lightning to get you paddling quicker, believe me.
Parking at The Roaches
Parking at the Roaches can be challenging, especially during peak times such as weekends and holidays. There are two main car parks at the Roaches: one located at the Roaches Gate, and the other at the Gradbach Mill Youth Hostel.
The Roaches Gate car park is the larger of the two and is located closer to the main climbing and walking areas but it can fill up quickly, especially during busy periods.
The Gradbach Mill car park is smaller but can be a good option if the Roaches Gate car park is full. It is also located near a number of walking trails, making it a convenient choice for hikers.
Visitors are advised to arrive early to secure a parking spot and to consider car sharing or using public transport to help alleviate congestion.
Use postcode ST13 8UB for parking at The Roaches
Make it a Weekend Adventure
The Roaches is at the southern end of the Peak District and that means that there is absolutely loads to do nearby. From walking routes, to climbing to mountain biking, it’s well worth spending a full weekend in the area.
For accommodation, the nearby market town of Leek is a great option for hotels and B&Bs…