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Lud's Church and the Roaches

Follow Sir Gawain, Knight of the Round Table, and find the chapel of the Green Knight near the Roaches.

Distance 6.8 miles (10.9km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 1,020ft (311m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Rocky moorland paths, forest racks and road

Landscape Moor and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 006618

Dog friendliness Keep on lead near livestock

Parking In lay-by opposite Windygates Farm; in summer park at Tittesworth Reservoir and catch bus

Public toilets Tittesworth Reservoir car park

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1 From the car park area go through a gap stile and a gate then continue uphill with a wall on the right. At a gate in the wall turn left, cross the field, go through another gate then uphill on a rocky track. Go left through a pair of stone gateposts and continue right on a well-defined track.

2 The path is flanked by rocks on the right and woodland to the left and below. Follow it to the right and uphill through a gap in the rocks. Turn left and continue uphill. Continue following this ridge path. Pass to the left of Doxey Pool and on towards the trig point.

3 From here descend on a paved path, past the Bearstone Rock to join the road at Roach End. Go through a gap in the wall, over a stile and follow the path uphill keeping the wall on the left. At the signpost fork right on to the concessionary path to Danebridge.

4 Follow this path keeping straight ahead at a crossroads, go over a stile and up towards an outcrop. Carry on along the ridge then head down to a signpost by a stile. Turn right and follow the bridleway signed 'Gradbach'. At the next signpost fork right towards Lud's Church.

5 After exploring Lud's Church continue along the path, through woodland, following the signs for Roach End, eventually taking a paved path uphill. Cross a stile and continue walking with the wall on your left-hand side. When the path reaches the road, cross a stile on to it and follow this road back to the car park.

The jagged ridge of the Roaches is one of the most popular outdoor locations in the Peak District National Park. The name is a corruption of the French for rock - roches. It was here on the gritstone crags that the 'working class revolution' in climbing took place in the 1950s. Manchester lads, Joe Brown, a builder, and Don Whillans, a plumber, went on to become legends within the climbing fraternity by developing new rock climbing techniques wearing gym shoes and using Joe's mother's discarded clothes line as a rope. Other, less tangible legends, surround this long outcrop, several of them attached to Doxey Pool. Locals speak in hushed voices of a young mermaid, who lived in the pool but was captured by a group of men. If the stories are to be believed her ghost can still be heard singing through the mist. Lurking in the darkest depths of the pool is Jenny Greenteeth, a hideous monster with green skin, long hair and sharp teeth, who grabs the ankles of anyone unfortunate enough to get too close, dragging them to a watery grave.

But the greatest legend associated with the Roaches is the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. According to the 14th-century poem a knight on horseback, cloaked 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. This has been identified as Lud's Church, near the Roaches. In the 1950s Professor Ralph Elliot, now of the University of Adelaide in Australia, 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 Elliot'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 (25km) radius. The professor and a group of students from Keele University, where he was then based, tramped the countryside looking for a cave to match the description.

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

Lud's Church fitted the bill. This rocky cleft was created by a mass of sandstone slipping away from the slope of the hill. It was here that Sir Gawain kept his rendezvous with the Green Knight resulting in that ghostly gentleman losing his head for a second time.

What to look for

Look out for Rock Hall cottage built into the rock and containing at least one room that is a natural cave. This listed building is a former gamekeeper's residence, currently owned by the Peak District National Park. Restored in 1989, and now known as the Don Whillans Memorial Hut, the bothy can be booked through the British Mountaineering Council by small groups of climbers.

While you're there

Leek is a magnet for antique hunters. As well as having a host of antique dealers there's an open-air craft and antique market each Saturday in the historic Market Square. Other markets include the Butter Market, selling mainly fresh traditional produce, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Also worth visiting is the water-powered corn mill at Brindley's Mill.

Where to eat and drink

The Roaches Tearoom at Paddock Farm sits beneath the rocky outcrop of Hen's Cloud almost opposite the car parking area. The food is home-made, excellent and there's plenty of it. There's a conservatory overlooking a herb garden and superb views across Tittesworth Reservoir. It's open daily in the summer and Wednesday to Sunday in the winter but closed January and February.

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