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The Roaches and Lud's Church

Clare Balding explores the area around the gritstone escarpment of The Roaches on the edge of the Peak District in Staffordshire.

In the second of a series of walks suggested by listeners to Ramblings, Clare Balding explores the area around the gritstone escarpment of The Roaches on the edge of the Peak District.

The Roaches form a prominent rocky ridge situated above Leek in Staffordshire and this spectacular rocky escarpment, worn into weird and wonderful shapes over centuries by the elements, almost seems to stand guard over all below it. On a clear day from the summit of the Roaches it is possible to look out over the Cheshire Plain towards the Welsh Hills with spectacular views all around.

Clare is joined by listener, Professor Mike Bode, and local author and historian, Doug Pickford, both of whom were born and brought up in Leek and share a passion for this landscape. Steven Bell, from the Peak District National Park, also guides Clare on the first part of her journey as she climbs up on to the gritstone edge of the Roaches. Before beginning the ascent, Clare visits the Bawdstone, where it is said that passers by can remove the devil from their backs by scrambling underneath. Climbing onto the ridge itself, Clare passes Rockhall Cottage, a tiny cottage literally built into the rock face, which was once the gamekeeper's residence and is now a converted climbing hut. Eventually reaching the top, Clare heads towards the "bottomless waters" of Doxey Pool, said to be the home of Jenny Greenteeth, a seductive mermaid or water spirit who lures her unsuspecting victims to a watery grave.

But, after continuing along the Roaches and descending towards Gradbach and Back Forest, it is Lud's Church that provides more than its fair share of myth and mystery. This huge natural cleft in the rock is a deep chasm, around 400ft long and 50 ft deep, with a cold, damp, feel. There are many legends linked with Lud's Church. It was almost certainly associated with the Lollards, followers of early church reformer John Wycliffe, but Lud's Church is also thought to be the inspiration for the setting of the Green Chapel in the classic medieval poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". Looking around, Clare can easily see why.

Presenter: Clare Balding
Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

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27 minutes

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