Gradbach Mill

Good morning all. I’ve got a guest post from Rambler5319 for you today. Sit back and enjoy.

 

I recently visited an area of Staffordshire which is close to a point where three different counties meet: not surprisingly it’s called Three Shires Head. The three shires are Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire and they meet on the SW end of Axe Edge Moor. We stayed in a Youth Hostel called Gradbach Mill.

It’s interesting to look at the Ordnance Survey Map of the area and see some of the place/farm names. Here is a sample all within a few miles: Hangingstone Farm, Burntcliff Top, Hawk’s Nest, Wolf Edge, Old Hag, Gun End Farm, Spring Head, Wildstone Rock, Adder’s Green, Daffodil Farm, Green Gutter Head, Far Hole Edge, Cut-Thorn, Wildboarclough & Thick Withins. (If you’re thinking Wuthering Heights that was supposedly Top Withins/Withens and of course in Yorkshire.) Don’t tell me they don’t conjure up a picture, in your mind, of days gone by with very primitive living conditions and people walking across rainy windswept moorland and valley areas (or is that just me remembering Kate Bush).

Bit of history to start. The mill was probably built in the 18th century and was restored after a fire there in 1785. In the reign of George III (1760-1820) imports of flax and hemp had duty charges placed on them and subsidies were given to try to stimulate the domestic production; the mill was initially involved in flax production. The reason for it being in a rather isolated spot is because it was the River Dane that provided the power via a very large waterwheel. Check out the stats on the wheel (which is no longer there): diameter 38 feet (11.6 metres), 96 buckets each one holding 35 gallons (159 litres), one complete turn of the wheel, via the gearing wheels, is believed to have turned the main shaft inside 2,500 times. That’s one big wheel! In later years the mill produced silk but that finished in the 1870s. The next owner used it as a saw mill and for joinery work. At some point in the 20th century the YHA took it over.

It’s only as you drive to the place that you realise how isolated it is because back then most people would be walking.

Here’s a pic of the mill.

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And here’s a reminder of the raison d’etre for the whole Youth Hostel Association. The original idea of Youth Hostels came from a German schoolteacher over 100 years ago and the first English ones opened in the early 1930s.
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We booked in and grabbed the bottom bunks in our room to save struggling up/down from the top. A quick change and we set off for short(ish) walk. This sign was just opposite the front entrance to the hostel so we headed that way.

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We were interested in seeing what Lud’s Church was as we didn’t think there would be a church in the middle of the woods in an isolated river valley.

This is the start of the path

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It was totally quiet. Not a sound apart from a few insect-y things in the bushes and trees and the river in the background. I love the sound of running water in the countryside. Then we came to this tree.
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Just look at how many roots are showing and how far they spread out.

And en route we passed Castle Cliff Rocks.

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Then a confirmation that we were on the right track

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It was a really warm day. Then we arrived at the entrance to Lud’s Church
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I know what you’re thinking but bear with me.

Immediately we got between the rocks the air was really chilled and as we turned the corner at the bottom there was a mist rising. It almost felt like you were walking into your fridge. Yep that’s right a really warm day and a chilly mist coming up from the ground. Bit spooky. Anyway here’s the view at the bottom. It was quite muddy but there was a wooden plank to walk along to avoid sinking into it.

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And a log which had loads of coins bashed into it. Not too sure what the idea of this was but believe from other sources that it is a very recent thing.

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So why is this narrow passageway (a few metres wide & 18 metres deep) between sheer-sided rocks called Lud’s Church? There are a few theories and suggestions. The very first mention of the name Lud occurs in the Bible in Genesis ch10 verse 22: the eldest son of Noah was Shem and his 4th son was called Lud. Maybe there’s an ecclesiastical root to the name.

It’s believed to have been a sacred place to early Pagans. Lud is actually a Celtic deity but not necessarily purely local to this area but again a possible religious connection.

Those of you who know something of the Arthurian legends may remember the story Sir Gawain & the Green Knight; some believe the Green Chapel in that story is Lud’s Church. The Green Knight’s outline is supposed to visible once you’re in the right place.

For those unfamiliar with the story it goes like this: one day the Green Knight comes to Camelot (supposedly on a green horse)and issues a challenge to the Knights of the Round Table; Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights, accepts that challenge; the challenge is that Sir G can strike the Green Knight if he (Sir G) will accept a return strike from GK a year and a day later; Sir G has his go and with one blow chops off GK’s head; job done? No, wait – GK then picks up his head and tells Sir G not to forget the deal. If you fancy finding out how the story proceeds and ends look it up; check out Lady Bertilak’s rather interesting role during the year & day. I wonder what you would have done in Sir G’s place.

There is also a tradition that Robin Hood used the place.

Perhaps more likely is the view that the Lollards (followers of the reformer John Wycliffe, 1320-84) are believed to have used the area for worship in the early 15th century when they were being persecuted by the authorities. A man called Walter de Ludank (or Lud-Auk) was captured there and it’s possible this is where the Lud name came from. Anyway whatever the origin it is just a very interesting place to visit.

We climbed out the other end of the passage and retraced our steps to the hostel. We set about preparing the evening meal in the communal kitchen often to the sound of Dido over the PA; one of the chefs is a fan and so am I. We were struck by the number of chopping boards.

Here they are
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Why so many colours? Because they’re all for different foods; and here’s the key to which one to use.

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We needed a wooden spoon for stirring our baked beans. We could see only one. How about this?

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I mean how big does your pan have to be to need that one? Anyway it did the job. (Wonder if LLM’s Ham House has one of these?)

Remember that isolation I mentioned at the start? If you’re into modern gizmos be aware Gradbach has no reception for modern technology (TV, PC, mobile) although one person said that if you walked for north for about 15 mins and climbed the hill just over the river you could get a few bars on the mobile! We played a few games of backgammon and retired to bed. Day 1 over, day 2 to follow soon.

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