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This is not intended as a walk guide

After pondering over my map, cup of breakfast tea in hand, I had what you could call a ‘eureka moment’ when I realised that I’d not been near the Roaches for what seemed like ages.

A long and winding single track road over Staffordshire moors led us to Roach End where there was just one roadside parking space left so I reversed in quick. After extracting Nellie from the back of the car we headed off beyond the cattle grid, walking downhill for about 250 yards and then right along a grassy track that followed the bottom of a field before emerging at the top of a no through road.

This quiet lane was a glorious discovery as I had not ventured down there before. There were fabulous views southward toward Tittesworth Reservoir that appeared like a giant glistening puddle in the bottom of the valley. We gradually descended past Buxton Brow and on to Hilly Lees Farm that sits on a site occupied since the early 1600’s.

A right at the following junction took us past the impressive entrance gates and lodge to Swythamley Hall, once owned by the Brocklehurst family but now divided into several private apartments and dwellings. The name Swythamley is said to derive from the Old Norse words svitha meaning land cleared by burning and holmr meaning raised ground in marsh land. Much extended in the 18th and 19th centuries, the hall is surrounded by lush parkland where a grange belonging to Dieulacres Abbey was sited in medieval times.

Sir Philip Lee Brocklehurst, 2nd Baronet (1887 – 1975) was born at Swythamley Hall and is remembered as being an explorer and adventurer. He was a member of the two year Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica in 1907, led by Ernest Shackleton, in which he received frostbite to his feet and had to have a big toe amputated. In 1914 he gained a commission in the 1st regiment of Life Guards and sailed to Flanders where he was shot in the left shoulder. In 1918 he transferred to the 9th Sudanese Battalion of the Egyptian Army and served for 2 years. In the 1930’s he travelled in a car across the Sahara Desert with his wife and then fought yet again in the Second World War, this time in Palestine.

His brother, Lt Col Henry Courtney Brocklehurst, 10th Royal Hussars and pilot of the Royal Flying Corps (1916-1918) was born at Swythamley in 1988. For a time he was a game warden in the Sudan and on his return to England, he started a private zoo on the estate. Some of the wallabies in his collection were released into the wild during the war and surprisingly survived and bred around the nearby Roaches until the late 1990’s. Lt Col Brocklehurst died on active service in Burma in 1942.

A little further along the road we passed the former Swythamley Chapel. This impressive grade II listed building has now been converted into a private house.

A sharp right at the next junction led us to a track on the left of another lodge and gateway. Following this we walked past Snipe and Park House on a route that would take us to the famous Hanging Stone on Back Forest Ridge. A metal memorial plaque attached to the front of the rock to Lt Col Brocklehurst was erected by his devoted brother in 1949. The long epitaph includes the following lines:

“Horses he loved and laughter, the sun, with spaces and the open air.

The trust of all dumb living things he won and never knew the luck too good to share”

Another memorial plaque on the rock dates from 1874. It refers to a dog named BURKE, probably owned by their father, Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst.









After getting back on track Nellie and I took the glorious ridge top footpath above Back Forest for a fabulous and elevated wander that would return us to Roach End.

Sally Mosley

FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: It’s the time of year when I can visually disappear because Mum says I’m the colour of autumn leaves, mud and mulch. Occasionally when I’m off the lead and pottering, especially in woodland, she can lose sight of me, even if I’m stood close by! Sometimes I tease her by standing very still when she calls out my name and looks all around her in a panic. I can even do a little chuckle to myself before I woof to let her know where I am. The daft old bat needs to get her eyes tested if you ask me! Big smiles from your ever so naughty

Nellie xxx


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