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Peak District Towns and Villages: The Roaches

Villages around The Roaches


Elkstone comprises two farming hamlets, Upper and Lower Elkstone, which nestle into the hillside above Warslow Brook, sheltered to the west by the moorland ridge of Morridge, on which the Mermaid Inn stands.

The settlements are centred on the church in Upper Elkstone. This was built in 1788 and has been hardly altered since, so it is a perfect example of a Georgian country church. It is a gem.

There are some pretty cottages with lovely gardens and little else in Elkstone. Making it a beautifully quiet and hidden corder of the Peaks. Access from here to the Morridge uplands is very straightforward and on the ridge some two miles above the village there is the Mermaid Inn. This old coaching inn has magnificent views across to the Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks which are well worth the trip to see.

0 - Butterton
Elkstone Church
1 - Elkstone Church
Elkstone Cottage
2 - Elkstone Cottage


Flash has the distinction of being the highest village in England, at 1514 feet above sea level and in winter it is frequently snow-bound.

The main part of the village clings to the hillside just below its brow, clustered around the church but there are many far-flung farms hereabouts, that focus predominantly on sheep farming on the sparsely populated local moorlands.

Flash Bar View
Flash Bar View
In olden times Flash was known as the resort of 'badgers' or hawkers who squatted on the open land here and travelled from fair to fair selling their wares. They were rough characters, like the landscape, and Flash had a reputation as a wild place where counterfeit money was made and outlawed practises were continued. Prize fighting was one such, which was still held at Flash for some years after it had been made illegal. The village's proximity to three county boundaries helped - when the police came, the ring was simply moved to another county!

Three Shire Heads
Three Shire Heads
The River Dane rises to the north west of Flash and there is some lovely scenery in the youthful Upper Dane valley. One particularly popular spot is Three Shire Heads, where the counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire meet and there is a fine old packhorse bridge across the river at the point known as Panniers Pool. The area around is also notable for the weirdly shaped outcrops of gritstone which occur - Ball Stones, Gib Torr and Ball Stone Rock, for example.

Flash itself has a pub, the New Inn, but no other amenities. Pony trekking is available from Northfield Farm. Just outside the village at Flash Bar on the A53, there is Flash Bar stores - possibly the highest shop in England - and another pub, the Traveller's Rest.

Flash - 3 Shire Heads
0 - Flash - 3 Shire Heads
Axe Edge view down the Upper Dove valley
1 - Axe Edge view down the Upper Dove valley
Flash view
2 - Flash view
Flash - upper Dane valley
3 - Flash - upper Dane valley
Quarnford, near Flash
4 - Quarnford, near Flash


Gradbach is a tiny hamlet on the River Dane, and a well-known beauty spot which attracts many visitors. The hamlet is centred around a fine stone-built mill which was constructed in 1785 for the spinning of silk. Though the mill was water-powered and therefore cheap to run this was too remote a site for an enterprise like this to be commercially viable and the mill closed as early as 1885. It is now a Youth Hostel.

Besides the valley of the Dane, the attractions of the area are the fine moorland walks on the Back Forest and The Roaches and the unusual formation known as Lud's Church.

Shuttlingsloe from Allgreave
Shuttlingsloe from Allgreave
Allgreave is a tiny farming hamlet clustered around the A54 where it makes a steep descent to cross Clough Brook, below Wildboarclough. On the main road there is a pub called the the Rose and Crown.

Luds Church
0 - Luds Church
Flash - upper Dane valley
1 - Flash - upper Dane valley
2 - Gradbach
Gradbach Mill
3 - Gradbach Mill
Swythamley - the Hanging Stone
4 - Swythamley - the Hanging Stone
Shuttlingsloe and Wildboarclough from Allgreave
5 - Shuttlingsloe and Wildboarclough from Allgreave


Leek is the principal town of the Staffordshire Moorlands and the most important centre on the south western edge of the Peak District. It stands on a hill in a large bend in the River Churnet and is locally known as 'The Queen of the Moorlands'.

Churchyard cross
Churchyard cross
The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'Lec' but there was certainly a settlement here well before that because the churchyard contains two crosses - one is in Mercian style but is damaged and can be dated to the 10th century while the other is a magnificent 11th century Norse style cross.

The Normans gave this area to the Earls of Chester and Ranulf the 6th earl founded Dieu la Cres abbey here in 1210. Until its dissolution in 1537 the abbey was the major economic and cultural centre of the area. The ruins lie across the Churnet 2km north of the town centre but there is now little to see of what must once have been a fine building.

Market square
Market square
Bonny Prince Charlie passed through in 1745 and Thomas Brindley (the builder of the Bridgewater Canal) built a water mill here in 1750 - this has been restored to working order and is now a fine museum.

In the late 18th and 19th centuries the town changed from a sleepy market town to a centre of silk weaving and several large mills were constructed, one of which can be seen looming above the road to Macclesfield. Leek boomed and the population multiplied during this time but nothing now remains of the silk industry in Leek.

The town still has a lively shopping centre and a market every Wednesday and is a good centre from which to explore the south and west of the Peak.

Leek - Nicholson Institute
0 - Leek - Nicholson Institute
Leek Butter Market
1 - Leek Butter Market
Leek Churchyard - Norse cross
2 - Leek Churchyard - Norse cross
Leek Parish church
3 - Leek Parish church
Leek street
4 - Leek street
Leek - Brindleys Mill
5 - Leek - Brindleys Mill

Upper Hulme

Upper Hulme is a tiny hamlet clustered around a now redundant mill on the upper reaches of the River Churnet. The houses are built from the local sandstone, which is a beautiful rose colour, and the road through is the principal access to the fabulous Roaches and Hen Cloud as well as being close to Ramshaw Rocks to the north and Tittesworth Reservoir to the south so is a great place to base yourself for walking in this area. There is a popular pub, The Rock.

Roaches Upper Tier
0 - Roaches Upper Tier
Ramshaw Rocks
1 - Ramshaw Rocks
Hen Cloud
2 - Hen Cloud
Hen Cloud from Blackshaw moor
3 - Hen Cloud from Blackshaw moor
Ramshaw Rocks
4 - Ramshaw Rocks
Ramshaw Rocks
5 - Ramshaw Rocks
Roaches - Rock Cottage
6 - Roaches - Rock Cottage
Roaches - Lower Tier
7 - Roaches - Lower Tier
8 - Roaches
Roaches - Climbing on the Lower Tier
9 - Roaches - Climbing on the Lower Tier
Roaches Upper Tier Climbers
10 - Roaches Upper Tier Climbers
Roaches - climber on The Sloth
11 - Roaches - climber on The Sloth

Wincle & Danebridge & Swythamley

Wincle is an isolated farming community situated close to the River Dane in the south west of the Peak District. There is a fine church and down the hill at Danebridge there is a pub called the Ship Inn, close to the River Dane.

Cleulow Cross
Cleulow Cross
In a patch of woodland to the north of the village and just over the A54, lies Cleulow cross, a 9th century cross which is thought to be of Scandinavian craftsmanship. Nothing is known of its origin or purpose, but it may have been a boundary marker. Wincle is an excellent base from which to explore this area and to link up with the Gritstone Trail to the west.

Swythamley lies on the Staffordshire side of the River Dane. Swythamley Hall stands in a fine park and was originally a mediaeval hunting lodge belonging to the Abbey of Dieulacres. The hall was granted to the Traffords by Henry VIII in 1540 and became their home and that of their successors, the Brocklehursts. Unfortunately the original house burned down in 1813, so the modern building is a rebuilding dating from then. The Hall now belongs to the Hari Krishna sect.

Hanging Stone
Hanging Stone
The Brocklehursts had an adventurous history, and one of them accompanied Shackleton to the Antarctic. On the edge above Swythamley there is a famous landmark - the Hanging Stone - with a fine view over the surrounding countryside and bearing a plaque to Colonel Brocklehurst, who was killed in Burma in 1942. A game warden in the Sudan, he started a private zoo at Swythamley when he returned to Britain, and during the Second World War the animals were released into the countryside because there was no food for them. The wallabies from the zoo survived and bred around the Roaches until the late 1990s, and sightings of them have surprised many walkers and climbers over the years.

Swythamley has been convincingly identified as the castle of the Green Knight of the classic medieval poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and nearby Lud's Church as the knight's 'Green Chapel'. This probably means that the unknown author was connected with Dieulacres Abbey in some way.

Cleulow Cross
0 - Cleulow Cross
Swythamley - the Hanging Stone
1 - Swythamley - the Hanging Stone
Shuttlingsloe and Wildboarclough from Allgreave
2 - Shuttlingsloe and Wildboarclough from Allgreave

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