• Neil

Lud's Church, Staffordshire

We take an easy walk around this other-worldly chasm carved into Staffordshire hills

Around this time last year, I stumbled upon an article about Lud's Church. I knew just from the photographs accompanying the story that it was somewhere I'd have to go and explore for myself, and so on a cold, damp November day I did just that and fell in love with the place. We made another visit in late November of this year, following a circular route which you can download below.


Situated near the village of Gradbach, Lud's Church is nestled in woodland within walking distance of The Roaches which can on a good day offer up contrasting views for miles compared to the eerie and awe inspiring confines of the enclosed space that is Lud's.

The chasm is steeped in history, myths and legends (which I'll cover throughout) and is no doubt overrun in summer by kids clambering and exploring every nook and cranny. On a rainy midweek day in November though, this place can be yours and yours alone. Trust me when I say it is better that way to truly appreciate this awe-inspiring piece of landscape.

Pre-Walk Heads Up

As with many of our walks, this place is a total black hole for phone signals. Load up our free GPX route into your apps before you go (I previously mentioned OS Maps, but due to a plethora of bugs following recent software updates it is pretty much unusable, I recommend Viewranger until it is back on its feet).

Pinpointing a decent post code for this place is also a bit tricky. I'd suggest SK17 0SU (zero not an O) and this should hopefully get you on to the lane that the car park is on.

By car you've two options:

1) If you're travelling along the A54 towards Buxton, turn right off the road by the Rose & Crown Inn at Allgreave, continue along this road (for the life of me I can't find a name for it) until you see a sign indicating that you've entered Staffordshire. Not long after this, the land falls away to your right, and below you you'll see a farm. Drive past the entrance for this, then take your next right which will be a super sharp turn (you'll probably have to 3 point turn) almost doubling back on yourself. This lane leads to the car park and then on to a Scout Camp and The Mill, if you reach either of these you've somehow missed the car park.

2) From the A53, take Brown Lane following signs for Flash, then New Road which will ultimately lead you to the same point. Just before you turn off there will be a turn off over a small bridge signposted for Leek in front of a tiny quaint cottage, continue just past this to see your turn off dropping down to the left (you'll see a brown sign pointing the way).

The Route

Distance: 3.3 miles

Approximate Duration: 1hr 30mins

Elevation: 465ft

Starting from the car park, turn right onto the road you've just driven in on. It is a narrow road so be wary for cars, although aside from people going to either the camp or mill, you won't get general commuters as there's no through road to anywhere. Keep on this for a very short while until you see the entrance for The Mill on your right. Head in here and you'll notice that there's a sign indicating that this is the public footpath.

Head down the hill, and you'll again see signs for the footpath cutting between some houses to your left, and the outdoor cafe area for the mill on your right. You'll see the tree-topped hill which hides Lud's looming in front of you with the River Dane flowing alongside you to the right.

River Dane flowing from the direction of Gradbach
River Dane flowing from the direction of Gradbach

Follow the track until you come to a slender human shaped gap in the stone wall on your right. Seriously, breathe in. Whoever designed this cut through did not have larger framed people in mind!

Continue along this path (it gets really, really muddy in wet weather so wear good boots or wellies!) until you are on much firmer ground. You'll see the path continuing off to your left which leads into the Scout Camp (great if you want to get your orienteering badge), but we'll be taking the one that cuts off to the right with signs for Danesbridge and Lud's.

Hop the bridge over Black Brook and you'll see a path coming down from your left. This is signposted for The Roaches and where you'll come down from on the last leg of the walk. For now though, carry on towards the trees and the rising hill in front of you.

You'll see a signpost for Lud's heading up the hill. Follow this, it isn't a steep path in the slightest but you'll soon find yourself high on a ridge above the River Dane to your right and in amongst the tall oak and beech trees that covers the hill. You'll reach a cross-roads by a large outcrop of rocks. Perfect fodder for kids to climb all over, but also has some great views from the top if you're feeling brave and fancy a scramble. Again take the path signposted for Lud's here.

You'll continue to rise, and if there's no one else about (like there wasn't when we went) once the sound of the River Dane is obscured by the trees and rocks, you'll find yourself in perfect silence. It is absolute bliss. That is unless you remember the story of cannibals chasing the Ward of Flash over these hills that you'd read in preparation for visiting Lud's.

You'll soon see some newly installed fencing. This is a marker for the entrance to Lud's. To your right, a hollow in the rock will emerge, and you can slip through this into an altogether other world.

The first chamber of Lud's Church
The first chamber of Lud's Church

You'll instantly be struck by the colour. This chasm is fern-lined and thick throughout with vibrant green moss. Every discernable surface is covered. It wouldn't look out of place in a Lord of The Rings film. They've placed a gang plank at the bottom of this first chamber due to how flooded it gets (remember I said wear correct footwear!). Whilst it looks out of place, its become more of a necessity now given how trodden down the earth has got here. The puddles can get deep, so tread carefully.

As it is so secluded, you can see why it has place in history, myths and legends. Let's start at the beginning. It is said that the Devil create Lud's by slashing the earth with his finger nail and creating this rocky ravine. Science has since offered up a more logical explanation by suggesting a landslip created it.

Pagans are suggested to have worshipped here, and possibly still do with noticeable 'wish trees' on the floor of the chasm with coins protruding from the trunk which are said to be requests for healing and other such divinations.

Second chamber of Lud's Church
Second chamber of Lud's Church

The Lollards, a Christian sect worshipped here in secret in the 15th century led by preacher Walter de Lud-Auk (hence the name). Deemed heretics by the Catholic church, they were said to have held sermons here in private, and its not hard to see why given the total seclusion of this place. Lud-Auk's daughter was killed during a raid by soldiers sent to capture the worshippers, and she is believed to be buried near to the entrance to the chasm.

Dipping into myths and legends again, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, and even Bonnie Prince Charlie have all said to have used this as a hiding place. And in the tales of King Arthur, Sir Gawain is said to have defeated the Green Knight here as it is often believed that Lud's Church is what is referred to in these stories as the Green Chapel. For something you could quite easily miss, this place has a lot of stories attached to it!

We lingered in the Church for a good while, although the rain was doing its best to drive us out. The colours mixed with the total quiet means it is great for switching off, although it would take a brave soul to stay here once the sun starts to go down. It is beautiful yet eerie all at the same time.

One of the exits leading out back onto the path
One of the exits leading out back onto the path

Coming out the other side of the chambers, you rejoin a path. You can veer right here and go up onto Clough Head, but for this route, take a left and head down the hill rejoining the main path you left entering Lud's Church, turning right onto it. If you look back along the path you'll see the wooden fences marking where you initially entered the chambers.

You'll now carry on along this path that carves through Back Forest keeping dead ahead at all times. Be careful under foot particularly in winter or wet weather as it can be slippy and/or boggy in places. You'll know you are heading in the right direction as you'll pass under the branch of a tree forming almost a natural archway across the path.

Eventually you will come to a clearing, here again you'll see signposts. Up the hill, you can go on to The Roaches. I'd recommend this in good weather as the views are amazing. Along this path you'll pass Doxey Pool, said to be home to Jenny Greenteeth, a malicious mermaid luring people to their doom. She is also said to inhabit Blake Mere on the other side of the A53, with both pools apparently connected via an underwater passage. Not of course, to be mistaken with the one that inhabits Mermaid's Pool on Kinder Scout further north beyond Buxton. For an aquatic creature with flippers, mermaids don't half get about in the hills of the Peak district!

Looking down into the forest from the clearing
Looking down into the forest from the clearing

For this route though, you'll see a path dropping down to your left. Take this and you will walk parallel with Black brook as it flows down from the hills. There's a few photo worthy points along this particularly after rainfall and the water rushes over the tangle of trees and branches that have fell across its path.

Long exposure of Black Brook
Long exposure of Black Brook

Something to keep an eye out for in the area is, oddly, wallabies. A land owner released 5 from his collection of animals in the 1930s. They bred, and became a tourist attraction in the area but harsh weather, hunting and many other issues have seen the numbers dwindle. The last proper sighting was in 2009 of one cutting a lonely figure on the hillside.

The path will wind its way down the hill, eventually arriving at the bridge you crossed initially over Black Brook. Here, you pick up the path leading you in from the mill, returning on to the road that brings you back to the car park.

And that's it! A relatively short walk at just under 3 and a half miles. I've set a duration of about 1.5hrs for completion but in reality it will take you longer, as you can do nothing but stop and stare once you are in Lud's Church itself. You get a couple of hundred feet of elevation but you honestly would not think it due to the gentle paths rising up. With so much to do nearby too, you can build on this simple circular to incorporate much more of the area with every return visit.

Route Download

For the GPX route, to add to your smartphone apps to follow whilst out and about, then CLICK HERE to download it and open or choose to import on your desired app.

Post Walk

You are in very close proximity to so many other places in the Peak District when you are here should you still have some energy left in you (and didn't detour up to The Roaches).

Flash is the next village along from Lud's Church car park, and is the highest village in Great Britain if you wanted a photo opportunity.

Solomon's Temple (or Grinlow Tower) is a Victorian folly which sits atop a hill overlooking Buxton, and is a short drive from Lud's. Excellent views to be had across the valley.

Buxton itself is only a slightly further drive, and is a great spa town with places to eat and drink with parkland and gardens to walk around.

Tegg's Nose Country Park and also Three Shires Head (where Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire all meet) are also places for excellent walks to be had.

And finally, if you are using the A53 to leave the area around Lud's then you need to stop off at Flash Bar Stores. You're obviously not far from Bakewell around these parts, and their Bakewell Tart is the best I've ever had, hands down, so much so I go out of my way to get a slice if I'm in the area.

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