Hen Cloud at The Roaches

A Subway on Top of the World

Ruthie leant forward, clutching at the wall for balance.

‘Go on then,’ she urged, ‘Just slide yourself underneath.’

I looked down and winced.

‘I can’t… it’s… it’s too wet down there.’

‘Oh, don’t be a wimp. Get on with it, I’m getting cold.’

‘My back hurts,’ I protested.

Ruthie sighed.

‘That’s why we’re doing it remember? To get the weight off? Now… just ignore the splashes and the damp and you’ll have some great photos for your blog.’

I gulped…

Three hours earlier…

‘Roaches?’ I asked.

I wasn’t happy. To be honest, I wished that I hadn’t even mentioned my ballooning weight concerns over breakfast. Because now Ruthie was trying to organise some kind of Celebrity Get Me Out of Here diet. I clutched my bacon and egg sarnie nervously.

Cockroaches? You want me to eat cockroaches?’

‘No, I-‘

‘Oh, I see! You meant the fish didn’t you? Well, just for your information, the plural of roach – the fish – is roach, not roaches.’


‘It’d be like going to the fishmonger and asking for some salmons, or some cods.


I could sense an outburst coming on. I upped my ante. ‘Oh, yes, I’d like some fishes and chips please. No, no! How’s about a baguette of tunas. Or -‘

The outburst never came. Ruthie just said calmly, ‘What about pilchards? Or sardines? Or-‘

‘Ok! You didn’t mean fish did you?’

Looking back, I regret interrupting her, because now I’m sitting here wondering what the third example of a fish plural was that she was about to mention…

‘We’re going the The Roaches. In North Staffordshire. There’s this standing stone – The Bawd Stone. That’ll get some of the weight off you.’

I frowned. ‘How so?’

‘You’ll see,’ smiled Ruthie, ‘You’ll bloody well see.’

Continue reading A Subway on Top of the World


Samhain Sunset, Sheep and Standing Stones


Turn your volume up and stick it on FullScreen!


Google Earth Anomaly at Hell Hole

The Horsley Ghost of Hell Hole: A Halloween Special

Three miles east of Leek, off the A523 road to Ashbourne, just outside the Staffordshire village of Bradnop, lies Coombes Valley. This spectacular oak and beech wooded nature reserve hugs the Combes Brook, which breaks from the River Churnet as it flows past Cheddleton.

The brook then meanders northeast in a serpentine fashion until it enters Spiritholes Wood and Sixoaks Wood. These two woods are now managed by the RSPB as a nature reserve (who are also responsible for misspelling it “Coombes Valley” – with a double “oo”).

But apart from providing a habitat for such marvellous creatures as the Wood Warbler and the Pied Flycatcher, these woods hold a terrifying, dark secret. Of a murdered brother and the accursed Horsley Stone, of demon sheep and a haunted dwelling.

Of Hell Hole – a name given to the Valley by the Reverend F Brighton in 1937, in his work The Tale of Ipstones. (Ipstones is a village which lies four and a half miles southeast of Coombes Valley).

A perfect spot for a Halloween jaunt in Betsy…
Continue reading The Horsley Ghost of Hell Hole: A Halloween Special

Big Bird in Biggin Dale

Feathered Behemoth of Thrice Dale

Deep in the depths of the Peak District lies a small village called Hartington. It is said by some that, many years ago, the town was visited by a wealthy squire from a far-off land. Nobody knew exactly where he came from or why, but he was generous with coin and compliment and, when he decided to stay, the villagers were glad and all was happy with the world.

The squire liked to party. He also liked the hotel he was staying in. So he bought it. And from then on, every night at The Charles Cotton Hotel, the squire would host a massive get-together, open to all villagers. The nights would be spent singing and carousing. And that’s when the screaming started…

Some said it was a rogue ostrich. Others, an angry emu. But whatever it was that burst into the Hotel that first night, it brought death and destruction amidst a flurry of blood and feathers.

Undeterred, the squire continued to hold his nightly parties, and every night the feathered creature returned, always going first for the musicians with beak and talons. It was suggested that it might not like the music (like our friend Ken), that perhaps they should “play it down a bit” but the squire wasn’t one for being threatened. As he put it, “If the bird dunna like to bop then it needs stuffin!”

But you can’t stuff a giant bird. Especially an angry one. Especially a giant one.

The nightly attacks continued unabated. Until one fateful night when the feathered monstrosity stuck its beak into a wedge of Stilton cheese. Upon doing so, it gave out a painful screech. Seeing this, the local cobbler, Denton Flatley, screamed, “It’s the cheese! It’s allergic to cheese!” Upon which, all the villagers in the hotel, grabbed the cheese off their laden crackers and threw it violently at the ostrich emu bird. With haste, the beaked beast scampered out of the hall beneath a hail of cheesy wedges.

And to this day it has never returned.

It was decided at the next village meeting that, in order to prevent the giant bird returning to Hartington, a cheese factory should be built. And so it was. And whilst Hartington village was imbued with the heady aroma of Stilton wafting throughout its streets and side-alleys, the villagers could sleep soundly knowing that the feathered monstrosity would not return.

Was it dead? Surely not. Some passing travellers brought tales of being chased through the nearby dales of Biggin, Wolfscote and Beresford by a hideous, winged creature, only to find that the pursuer would turn away upon smelling the aroma of Stilton wafting from the village of Hartington.

And on still nights, when the cheesy smell lingers only within the village, some say they hear peculiar screeching sounds from the surrounding dales, as the demon bird tries to infiltrate Hartington’s Stilton defences…

‘Get packing Ruthie!’ I shouted, slamming shut my copy of The Beast Bird of Hartington, ‘We’re going to the Peak District!’

Continue reading Feathered Behemoth of Thrice Dale

Brecon Beacons National Park

The Ancient Briton and Henrhyd Falls Part 2

We were rambling along the stunning Nant Llech Valley in Powys, South Wales, just a mile away from Henrhyd Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Britain. The valley was warm and humid, as we ambled betwixt lush ferns and rushing waters dappled in late summer sunlight.

We were in popular twitcher territory but I searched for a different quarry. Papier mâché boulders. The final scene for Batman The Dark Knight Rises was filmed here – Henrhyd Falls was used as the exterior for the Batcave. They were bound to have left some lying about, perhaps having rolled into a pile of existing rocks after being leant on by an unsuspecting extra. You see, I’d been to a film set before – they love papier mâché boulders (that was the time when I’d out-stared The Master in the back of a Ford Cortina).

And so, as we journeyed towards the tumbling waters, Ruthie’s anxiety at having to face her fear of waterfalls was distracted by my sporadic attempts to try and lift any boulder bigger than I…

Continue reading The Ancient Briton and Henrhyd Falls Part 2