Lud’s Church is a mesmerising, mossy cavern nestled in the Back Forest of Staffordshire, within the vicinity of Leek. The product of a landslide, its inconspicuous nature keeps it hidden from all except those who are looking for it; its discreetness also grants it an untouched allure, with moss and plant-life covering most of the surface area. 18-metres deep and 100-metres long, the chasm is perpetually cool, even in summer months, which adds to its otherworldly aura. Dually rich in history and mythology, Lud’s Church was once the place of worship for heretics- as its name denotes – and has also been mythologised as having been one of Robin Hood’s places of refuge. Over the centuries, it has equally bewildered as it has comforted those who stumble upon it.
It is assumed that Lud’s Church was formed sometime after the last glacial period and was created by a landslip in the weak Roaches grit in the hillside of which the chasm is located.
It is theorised that Lud’s Church served as the inspiration behind the mysterious medieval Middle English poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, which is thought to have originated from the North-West Midlands. The setting of the poem’s climax, ‘The Greene Chapel’, as it’s referred to as, has striking similarities to that of Lud’s Castle.
The first known utilisers of the chasm as a place of worship is said to have been the Lollards, followers of religious reformer John Wycliffe, who were a pre-protestant Christian group who rejected Catholicism, and because of their beliefs, were prosecuted as heretics. Forced into hiding, the Lollards found refuge in Lud’s Church from as early as the 15th Century. The tranquil, hidden, and cool chasm made for a perfect location to worship in peace. The name ‘Lud’ is supposed to have either derived from Llud, a Celtic god, or, more likely, from Lollard worshiper, Walter de Lud Auk, who was captured during a raid of Lud’s Church.
It is said that during the same raid, Walter De Lud’s daughter, Alice, was accidentally killed during the arrest, and that her ghost haunts the chasm to this day. This legend has been passed down through the centuries, and was commemorated in 1862, when a small figurine was placed above Lud’s Church by then-landowner, Phillip Broklehurst, in remembrance of De Lud’s daughter, ‘Lady Lud’ as she came to be known.
Over time, Lud’s Church has been referenced extensively in local folklore, the earliest reference of which involves a story in which the Devil scraped his finger along the earth’s surface, thus creating Lud’s Church. Later examples of mythological references involve Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, who were said to regularly use Lud’s Church as a hiding place. Bonnie Prince Charlie was also fabled to have frequented Lud’s.
How to get there
The best way of reaching Lud’s Church is by parking at the carpark in the small village of Gradbach. Head in the direction of the nearby youth hostel until you reach a small footbridge which takes you across the River Dane. From there, head upwards until you reach a path in the direction of Swythamley, follow this path until you reach a summit. Once there, head left, walk 200 metres, and you should be able to see the depression of the first chamber of Lud’s Church. The first chamber might not seem like much, but once you descend the ancient steps into the main chamber, prepare to be overwhelmed by the over-worldly atmosphere.
Good to Know (Top Tips)
-The chasm was at one point popular amongst rock climbers; however, this is activity is discouraged today in order to protect the rare plant-life that grows on the rockface.
-Lud’s Church is perpetually damp underfoot so be careful when walking through the chasm.
Things to see and do while at Lud’s Church (What’s nearby)
The Roaches are located a mere 12-minute walk away from Lud’s Church and is a popular destination amongst both rock climbers and hikers for its mixture of terrains. It offers 360 views of Cheshire, Lancashire, and the Welsh mountain of Snowden. It is crowned by a the Doxey Pool, a small body of water said to be home to a mermaid.