The Roaches and Lud’s Church Walk
This Lud’s Church and The Roaches walk is just over 8.5 miles long and includes the summit of Gradbach Hill, one of the Peak District 75s. With the mysterious Lud’s Church to explore and rocks on The Roaches to scramble, this is a great walk for kids.
We last visited The Roaches as part of a longer Ethels walk but our route that day didn’t include Lud’s Church. We’d always said we would revisit with Hols, so this time we planned a different walk which included Lud’s Church too.
Lud’s Church is a chasm formed from a massive landslip on the hillside above Gradbach. It’s hidden in the woodland known as the Black Forest and is thought to have been a really sacred place to Pagan worshippers. Apparently only on Midsummer’s Day does the sun penetrate the deep chasm, meaning it’s cool, damp and dark for the rest of the year. It was also used as a secret place of worship by the Lollards, who were persecuted during the 15th Century for their beliefs. No one really knows the origins of the name Lud’s Church, however it could have been named after Walter de Ludank who was captured at one of the secret meetings. Lud aka Nud was also a Celtic deity. Lud’s Church is also rumoured to have been a hiding place for Robin Hood and has been mentioned in Arthurian legend as well!
Our walk started in the free car park at Gradbach (which is small and gets very busy, as you can park here and walk to Three Shires Head as well). We walked past Gradbach Mill cafe (where there are loos and a cafe kiosk) then headed along the footpaths through the Black Forest. This is a beautiful place to visit in Autumn when the leaves on the birch trees are changing, and the fungi are out in force.
We soon reached the entrance to Lud’s Church. There is a smaller chamber to pass through at first, then it’s down some well worn stone steps to the main chamber. Because it gets hardly any sunlight here, it’s always muddy. REALLY muddy. Walking through the main chamber is like walking through a lost world – it’s fabulous! It’s also busy.
Climbing up out of the chamber the path forks and there is a natural platform known as The Devil’s Pulpit. This may have been where the sermons were led from. We followed the steps up into the woods and then the footpaths lead off through the woodland to the climb up to The Roaches.
The Roaches (from the French “les roches” meaning the rocks) is a prominent rocky ridge near Leek and Tittesworth Reservoir. They form part of a large gritstone escarpment with Hen Cloud and Ramshaw Rocks, and are very popular with climbers. There is a footpath that runs along the ridge, weaving in and amongst the giant rocks. It’s a great place for kids to explore as there are so many rocks to climb!
We walked along The Roaches, past the Doxey Pool (supposedly the home of a mermaid called Jenny Greenteeth who liked to lure unsuspecting travellers to their doom). We also bagged The Roaches trig point again.
We took a turn down the steps to Rockhall Cottage (now known as the Don Whillans Memorial Hut). This amazing little building is set into the rock face and was built in 1862 as a gamekeepers cottage on the site of a more primitive dwelling of Bess Bowyer. More information about the building can be found on the BMC website.
From Rockhall Cottage we headed back up to the footpath along the top of The Roaches, scrambling up over the boulders and rocks. We then retraced our tracks along The Roaches, right back to the start. We then headed down a bridleway, past The Roaches School and onto the Open Access Land of Gradbach Hill. The summit of Gradbach Hill has no paths leading to it, and nothing to mark the summit, so it’s one where we had to follow the GPS to find!
From Gradbach Hill we headed back down the lane to the car park.
This was a lovely walk out, and there is so much to see and explore here!
Parking: Gradbach, Buxton SK17 0SU. This is a free car park but is very small with only about 20 spaces, so get there early.
Facilities: Public toilets and cafe at Gradbach Mill.
Walk Difficulty: ▲▲
Walk Time: 4-5 hours
Walk Distance: 8.66 miles (13.9km)
Trig Points Bagged: The Roaches
Peak District Peaks Bagged: The Roaches, Gradbach Hill
Peak District Ethels Bagged: The Roaches (you could easily nip up Hen Cloud as well)
Lud’s Church and The Roaches Walking Route: