It is a long time since I was last in the area around the Roaches near Leek. The highest gritstone edge in the Peak, the escarpment dominates the northern skyline in this walk. Tittesworth Reservoir has a long history. It was built in two stages with the original dam created in 1858 to collect water from the River Churnet and provide a reliable source of water for the town of Leek and its textile industries.
By the mid twentieth century demand was outstripping supply, especially as Stoke-on-Trent was looking for extra water for its needs, and as a result a new dam was built in 1963, increasing the reservoir’s capacity to 6.5 billion gallons. When full Tittesworth can supply 10 million gallons of water for the everyday needs of the surrounding district.
With the passing of time, land surrounding the reservoir and the water itself has developed into a wildlife habitat for a wide range of plants and animals: much to the fury of anglers, osprey have even been known to replenish their energies on their migration south to Equatorial Africa. Otters have established themselves in holts along the water margins and water voles (Ratty from The Wind in the Willows), a rare species in many parts of England are quite common. Butterflies are being encouraged to take advantage of the wildflowers growing in the unspoilt meadows.
The name Roaches is the anglicized version of the French ‘rocher’, or simply rocks. This was the name given to the dramatic escarpment by the Cistercian monks of Dieulacress Abbey which once owned all the land in the surrounding area. Their abbey was sited a little to the south-west of the present reservoir, but very little remains since King Henry VIII’s officials carried out his edict and ‘dissolved’ the place. They must have been exceptionally thorough, because unlike most other monasteries, only a few stones remain, incorporated within the walls of Abbey Farm above Leek.
The walk is easy to follow by simply keeping to the specially made path around the perimeter of the reservoir. There are bird watching hides and a butterfly beach designed to attract these attractive insects, together with a Visitor Centre that explains the working of Tittesworth and where to go to enjoy its wildlife. The restaurant within the centre has wide ranging views over the water and provides a good selection of food, including all day breakfasts and afternoon tea. Nearby within the tiny village of Meerbrook, the Lazy Trout is a dog and walker-friendly pub with a full a la carte menu and well-kept local ales.
4½ miles (7.2km) of easy strolling on well-made woodland paths with wide ranging views over the reservoir. Total ascent 131ft (40m).
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale Outdoor Leisure Sheet 24, The White Peak Area.
Nearest public transport is with Wardle Transport X15 Buxton/Hanley service. Leave the bus at Blackshaw Moor on the A53 and walk down the Meerbrook road for a little over a mile to reach the Visitor Centre and the reservoir walk.
Car Parking: near Tittesworth Visitor Centre.
Refreshments: Visitor Centre and the Lazy Trout in Meerbrook.
The Walk with Rambler
- With your back to the Visitor Centre entrance, turn right and follow the path signposted ‘Waymarked Walks and Play Area.
- Go past the play area and on to a concrete path towards colour coded nature trails.
- Continue along the made-up path around and above the reservoir bank.
- Cross two wooden bridges within succession of each other and follow the Long Trail/Short Trail signs along the well-made paths.
- Next to a junction beside a picnic table, take the left fork on to the forest trail.
There are occasional side paths leading down to the waterside which can be used as you wish because all eventually return to the main path.
- Continue along the path, using duckboards to cross muddy sections and skirt the edge of the wood, keeping the boundary fence on your left.
- Go down through woodland towards the reservoir.
- Cross a bridge, walk up some steps and then leave the wood, continuing along a gravel path bearing downhill towards the dam
The dam makes a good vantage point to look for waterfowl. Beyond the limits of the reservoir, the land rises abruptly to the dramatic edge of the Roaches.
- Go down a partly stepped path to the dam and follow it to the far end.
- Climb up from the dam and into woodland.
- Bear right at a footpath junction, then down towards the waterside.
- Go past the butterfly beach and then the canoe hire centre.
- Continue along the path until it reaches the road.
- Bear left at the road if looking for refreshment at the Lazy Trout in Meerbrook, otherwise turn left (return to this point if visiting the Lazy Trout).
- Follow the road over the causeway and then turn right into the Visitor Centre car park.