‘Riding the Dragon’s Back’ – Lud’s Church Sunday

On The Roaches

Or an Outdoor Church , the Dog Samaritans and Route Marching Scouts…

We have another early start which Millie deals with by staying in bed while we start driving.

We turn off at Flash, reputedly the highest village in Britain but certainly not the prettiest, and stop in a small carpark at Gradbach. We pass Gradbach Mill and climb into Forest Wood before arriving at two rock outcrops that look out over the Dane Valley.

We head into the gritstone cleft of Lud’s Church, reputedly the religious meeting place of the Lollards in the 14th century. It has also been suggested that it is the Green Chapel mentioned in ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’. A knight clothed in green gatecrashed a feast at Camelot and challenged the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Gawain beheaded the Green Knight who laughingly retrieved his head and asked for a rematch in a year’s time at the Green Chapel. ‘ Great crooked crags, cruelly jagged. The bristling barbs of rock seemed to brush the sky. A hole in each end and on either side. And overgrown with grass and great patches. All hollow it was within, only an old cavern Or the crevice of an ancient crag’.

We walk through green, gloomy depths with high cliffs dotted with ferns. It is a cold, sunless, damp cave of a place that you could easily walk past (or fall in) without realising it.

A year later and the ghostly knight lost his head for a second time. We clamber back up to ground level using steps cut into the rock then take a path through large beech trees. A track leads out of the wood and up to rocks from where we can look out over Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire. On the horizon we can see Shutlingsloe or the ‘Cheshire Matterhorn’.

We follow the ridge along a sandy path that tracks through moorland loud with larks. We then climb up to the Roaches, a collection of wind shaped rocks that overlook the valleys. The name is a corruption of the French for rocks, roches. It is so windy that we watch a crow flying sideways. We head downhill and back into the woods. It is clear that Millie is really tired today. “She thinks that she needs to talk to the dog samaritans”, says Darrell as we wait for her to catch us up. “What would she say?”, I ask thinking about her list of complaints about her life. Too many early starts, too many walks, way too many mountains and the total lack of tv. “Woof!”, he says…

A line of scouts climb up through the trees as we are going down. They all look extremely tired and grumpy as they route march past us without a word , except the girl at the back that is, who says hello and gives us a huge, beaming smile.

I can see Millie mentally shaking her head at such obvious enthusiasm for walking.

Millie and Darrell snore the afternoon away and then we have a quiet evening just listening to the rain.

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