roachesI haven’t done as many challenge walks as I should have this year, so when a friend suggested we take on the 23 mile Hadrian’s Wall Trek in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society I jumped at the chance, particularly as we both see first hand the devastating impact this cruel disease has on sufferers and their families through work.

My friend hadn’t done any longer walks for a long while and as it happens neither have I, so we have been planning some training walks. This is actually great for me as I usually have to do these mad and crazy things by myself!

Our first walk was to be a 13 mile route out of John Merrill’s Long Circular Walks in the Peak District, which takes in the long rocky spine of the Roaches. It was dull but dry as we parked up at Tittesworth Reservoir and walked across fields to Upper Hulme before taking a lovely little path past an old mill.

It was here that we came unstuck as the paths had obviously changed since John Merrill wrote the book almost twenty years ago and we just could not find the ‘white chipped track’ we were supposed to be following. After some to-ing and fro-ing we did manage to locate it and turned left along it as instructed, but soon realised it seemed to be taking us along the front of Hen Cloud rather than behind it. Looking at the map later we hit the path a little too early and so should have turned right rather than left, but you live and learn!

We attempted to get back on track by following a path through Rock Hall and round the side of Hen Cloud; unfortunately rather than gently linking us up with our track we suddenly found ourselves climbing the steep side of Hen Cloud!

Rocks on Hen Cloud

Rocks on Hen Cloud

Actually we decided it was pretty good training and had a coffee once we had puffed our way up. The summit rocks are flat topped and steeply angled, almost as though some giant hand has tried to push them over the top.

From here an easy descent path led up to our original path up and along the rocky crest of the Roaches- you can see Joderell Bank on a clear day, but not today sadly!

On the Roaches

On the Roaches

There was a nice little surprise waiting for us at the end of the ridge in the form of an ice cream van, then we had a lovely walk downhill through the woods to the River Dane. This was a delightful stretch as we followed the river with its overhanging profusion of spring growth before heading back up through woods carpeted in bluebells to Wincle. I immediately recognised it from the Three Shires Challenge as it has a small brewery and a trout farm, and we repaired to the Ship Inn for a sandwich, where a very young girl held an unidentified object to my friend’s nose for her to smell before announcing that ’Daddy dropped it down the toilet!’

Approaching Wincle

Approaching Wincle

Bluebell Woods

Bluebell Woods

I can recommend the sandwiches- they are toasted and served with delicious chunky chips- so we felt rather bloated as we crossed the meadows by the river and faced up to a steep ascent up to Hollin Hall, which was bloody hard work and left us both puffing like steam trains after our meal. The sun made an appearance as we followed the concrete track that is encountered near the end of the Three Shires Challenge and which usually feels endless, but looking behind us the view was delightful, dominated by the volcano shape of Shutlingsloe- It is easy to see why it is known as the ‘Matterhorn of the Peaks’ from this angle.

Shutlingsloe

Shutlingsloe

We had a gradual climb past Gun End with more fine views towards the Roaches, looking for all the world like the back of a huge sleeping dragon, but then had some difficulty locating our path through Lower Wetwood Farm. I don’t think they really like walkers here, as we failed to locate any signs of the footpath to Meerbrook and followed the road instead. I think that there must have been some kind of scarecrow thing going on as we kept encountering minions, Zebedee, Scooby Doo and several others and I am pretty sure we were not hallucinating!

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From Meerbrook it was a short hop back to the reservoir and the car, and my friend announced that the app she had been using to track our progress on her phone reckoned we had done 16.25 miles, so we are convinced John Merrill guestimates his distances. It was a good day, and a nice change to have some company. My friend must have enjoyed it too as we have another walk planned soon!

Tittesworth Reservoir and Hen Cloud

Tittesworth Reservoir and Hen Cloud

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