The Roaches and Lud's Church

Legends of Headless Knights and dark chasms –with fabulous views


Lud's Church


5.3 miles (8.4kms)

790ft (241m)

About the walk

The jagged ridge of The Roaches is one of the most popular locations in the Peak District National Park, a magnet for walkers and climbers with good paths, challenging climbs and terrific views from the top. This walk explores a quieter ridge off the northern end, but the panorama is no less splendid. To the south, below The Roaches, is Tittesworth Reservoir and distant Leek; over to the west is the distinctive jutting outline of The Cloud, near Congleton; while northwards is the equally unmistakable pointed summit of Shutlingsloe. You start, however, along a quiet lane to the dark and mysterious woodland of the Dane Valley passing the former silk-spinning Gradbach Mill on the way. Crossing the River Dane, it’s then a steep pull up through the forest to gain the spectacular views from the moorland ridgeline. But the most unexpected view is deep in the forest.

The Green Knight

Lud’s Church is a small chasm in the rocks, caused long ago by a landslip. It’s a dark and atmospheric place, reputedly used as a hideaway and even a place of worship over the years, and inevitably associated with myth and legend – and they don’t come much better than King Arthur. According to the 14thcentury poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a knight on horseback, clothed entirely in green, gatecrashed a feast at Camelot and challenged the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Gawain rose to the challenge and beheaded the Green Knight, but the latter retrieved his head and laughingly challenged Sir Gawain to meet with him again, in a year’s time, at the Green Chapel.

In 1958 Professor Ralph Elliott identified The Roaches as the general location of the chapel from the text: ‘Great crooked crags, cruelly jagged, the bristling barbs of rock seemed to brush the sky.’ Professor Elliott’s theory was supported by a group of linguists, working on the poem at the same time, who placed the work in the same 15-mile (24km) radius. The professor and a group of students from Keele University searched the countryside looking for a suitable cave to match the description, and Lud’s Church fitted the bill.

Walk directions

From the car park head right on the lane, rising up the hill then forking right down Gradbach Mill’s driveway. At the mill, take a footpath directly opposite the main mill building, bending left and above the mill café. The path descends by a fence then squeezes right through a stile before maintaining its direction on the far side of a wall. This broadens into an access track. At a hairpin bend, leave the track via a wall stile directly ahead.

Turn right on to a path and down to cross a footbridge over the Black Brook. Fork left along the riverbank towards The Roaches. Take the next fork right towards Lud’s Church on a long incline across the woods. Ignore the junction above the footbridge then rise up to a junction by a rocky outcrop.

Turn left here towards Lud’s Church. Just beyond some wooden railings at a widening of the path, look for a small sign carved in a rock. This marks the entrance to Lud’s Church.

Explore Lud’s Church, then go up some steps at the far end of the deep chasm. Bend left to a junction by some wooden railings, then continue ahead and over sections of boardwalk. Descend to a junction with a ridge access path, then contour along towards Gradbach and The Roaches descending shortly to another junction where you fork right towards The Roaches.

The path follows near the top of woodland then drops to meet a path on a stand of beech trees on a slight ridge. Fork right here, continuing towards The Roaches. Cross a small brook then continue up the paved path. As you exit woodland, keep the wall on your left-hand side, rising to the road at Roach End.

Just before the road, fork right and through a gate on to a wide track alongside a wall on the left. Ignore a fork left, instead continuing along the ridgeline concessionary path marked ‘Swythamley via Ridge’.

Continue straight ahead at a crossroads in a slight dip (towards Swythamley and Danebridge). Cross through a gate in the wall and continue beside a wall on to an outcrop. The ridgeline path now undulates over a couple of dips then drops over slightly rockier ground to a path junction by a large gate.

Turn right on to the bridleway signed ‘Gradbach and Lud’s Church’. This can be popular with mountain bikers but is a lovely holloway (a sunken path trodden over centuries). This passes a rocky outcrop on your left where you rejoin your outward path. Towards the bottom of the long incline, fork left to shortcut directly down to the River Dane, crossing over two junctions. Now retrace your outward steps back to the car park.

Additional information

Rocky moorland paths, forest tracks, occasionally boggy, quiet road

Moor and woodland

Keep on lead on access land

OS Explorer OL24 Peak District – White Peak Area

Gradbach Staffordshire Wildlife Trust car park (donation requested)

None on route

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About the area

Discover Cheshire

Nestled between the Welsh hills and Derbyshire Peaks, the Cheshire plains make an ideal location to take things slow and mess around in boats. Cheshire has more than 200 miles (302 km) of man-made waterways, more than any other county in England. The Cheshire Ring is formed from the Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Trent and Mersey and Bridgewater canals. This route takes you through a lot of Cheshire, and bits of other counties as well.

While exploring the county’s waterways, covering ground on foot or admiring the typical white plaster and black timber-frame houses, make sure to have a taste of Cheshire’s most famous produce. Although Cheddar has become Britain’s most popular cheese (accounting for over half of the cheese sales in the UK), it was once Cheshire cheese that was in every workman’s pocket back in the 18th century. Its moist, crumbly texture and slightly salty taste mean it goes well with fruit, peppers or tomatoes. As well as the usual white, there are also red and blue veined varieties.

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