My Favourite Hike: the Roaches and Lud's Church
A wonderful climb past a haunted mermaid’s pool, rocks that look like crashed spaceships to a fairytale chasm dripping with lush, green moss
The Roaches and Lud's Church
In the latest instalment of our My Favourite Hikes series, Advnture contributor Claire Maxted reveals the joys of the Roaches and the atmospheric Lud's Church in England's Peak District National Park.
“If any of my friends express an interest in hiking, this is the route I always take them on,” she says. “The ascent up the Roaches is steep but short and interesting, through rocks that are often dangling with climbers. The view is quick to appear and on a clear day you can see for miles in all directions, over Tittesworth Reservoir to the south, the decidedly pointy peaks of Chrome Hill to the east and Shuttlingsloe to the north west (also both well worth a walk).
“Then you coax your new-to-hiking friend onwards with a series of weirder and weirder natural phenomena: a haunted, bottomless pool, crashed-spaceship rocks and an enchanted, moss-covered gully. They won’t even realise they’ve walked so far!”
- Start/finish: SK004621, park in the lay-bys on the road south west of the Roaches
- Distance: 7.5 miles / 12km
- Ascent: 1,025ft / 312m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: 3 hours
The road running parallel to the Roaches (south west of them) has marked bays for parking that fill up very quickly so get there early to secure a spot. The hike starts at SK004621, the south-eastern end of the Roaches, to the left of the Don Whillans Hut as you look at it, carved into the very rock itself. Turn left on this path to walk through the forest, then turn right to weave your way steeply up through the rocks to the top. Turn left at to walk the spine of The Roaches.
Pass Doxey Pool on your right, scramble over and marvel at the alien spaceship-crashed rocks on your left, descend to the road, then hike over the next hump, turning right on the descent and into the forest for the lush green, moss-covered chasm of Lud’s Church. Follow the path through the forest back to the road, then retrace your steps over The Roaches for another look at all those strange rocks, or simply walk back down the parallel road for the easier option.
The Roaches and Lud's Church: why I love it
This route never fails to disappoint whatever the season. It’s quite low in height – the trig point is at 505m – but there isn’t anything else nearby of that height so you feel like you’re on top of the world with hardly any time or effort. It gives you all of that high, remote feeling you crave for escape, but it’s a nice easy, relatively safe hill that you can confidently hike with newcomers and kids.
The first attraction is the mysterious Doxey Pool, rumoured to be bottomless and home to a malicious mermaid named Jenny Greenteeth. Linger too long and she may lure you into the depths… People have wondered about the existence of an underground spring that fills this tiny pond to explain why it never seems to dry up, even in the hottest summers.
As you walk the spine of this hillside, the rocks you pass are truly astounding – you really can walk this route time and time again and marvel at a different rock formation each time. Made of grippy gritstone, a sandstone that formed millions of years ago, some look like they have been carved into sculptures by ancient tribes and then weathered away by wind and rain. You can see all sorts of animals in their strange shapes, a bit like looking up at the clouds.
It’s really fun to scramble up and over these rocks, jumping between them and posing for pictures with the amazing views stretching out below you. My favourites are the ones towards the end which look like fossilised spaceships from an alien civilisation, crashed into the Roaches at a diagonal angle.
Lud’s Church is the final delight and a real treat, especially the first time you enter the chasm. At 17m deep, 100m long and draped with soft, bright green mosses and lime-coloured lichen, it really does give off a fairytale vibe. You can walk through the entire gully, craning your head back to look up at the sheer sides, damp and dripping with droplets of rainwater.
There is no river running through but once you’ve descended the stony steps it does get very muddy – you might find that previous hikers have moved logs and stones to help you traverse the length of the chasm. Then you emerge to continue the walk through the forest and back over the Roaches, having created fantastic memories to last a lifetime.
Highlight: Lud's Church
The highlight is definitely Lud’s Church, as there isn’t anything else like it in this part of the Peak District. It really is the most enchanting chasm, hidden deep in the forest. It’s completely free to enter but even if it was taken over and became a paid for attraction I would still highly recommend it as an awe-inspiring must-see.
My Favourite Hike Collection
To see the other hikes in the series on komoot, click on the Collection below...
Or check out our My Favourite Run series, detailing a number of wonderful running routes across Britain.
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The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.