Strenuous Leader: Jimmy Need Distance: approx. 11 miles
From Ilam we head up to Ilam Tops which will bring us nicely on to Dovedale Wood. After a nice amble through the woods, we fall upon Ilam Rock – quick look see. We then make our way over to the idyllic hamlet of Milldale where we may have lunch. After lunch we make our way to The Nabs, followed by Upper Taylors Wood, and on to Tissington Spires. From here we head over to the stepping stones and Thorpe Cloud. We then skirt around Bunster Hill which will bring us nicely back into Ilam.
Moderate Leader: Peter Denton Distance: 8.72 miles
Like a good diet, this walk has a bit of everything – short UP’s. long Down’s, pasture land, woodland, riverside trails, roadwalking, stiles, a loverly lunch spot, ducks, cows, sheep and ice cream. We will walk out of Ilam and around Bunster Hill and Ilam Tops, then onward into Milldale village where we will have our lunch. Then we head down Dovedale, through Upper Taylor’s Wood and on up to Lover’s Leap, then back down to the river and back to Ilam.
Leisurely Leader: Derek Lee Distance: 7 miles
We leave Ilam westwards through Ilam Park, and field paths to Rushley. From here there is a mostly easy ascent which lifts us 600 feet over two and a half miles through Musden Wood to Calton, then eastwards to a point near Musden Low hill from where we can see right over to Thorpe Cloud and Dovedale. Then it’s downhill to Blore and Coldwell Bridge, and finally following the river for the last 1.5 miles back to Ilam. The walk is mostly on field and woodland paths which could of course be muddy.
Easy Leader: Norma Carmichael Distance: 5.5 miles
From Ilam Hall we will walk through the attractive estate village of Ilam, across fields and down into Dovedale (taking advantage of an ice cream and toilets opportunity along the way). After crossing the foot bridge we will head up Dovedale as far as Lover’s Leap where we will have lunch. After lunch we will retrace the path to the stepping stones to take a rising path encircling Thorpe Cloud and reaching the village of Thorpe before circling round via lanes and tracks to Coldwater Bridge before following a riverside path back to Ilam. Mostly good grassy paths and tracks, with some uphill stretches (taken at a slow pace) and one section of steps up to Lover’s Leap.
Notes On The Area
Now a model village of great charm, Ilam was originally an important settlement belonging to Burton Abbey. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, the estate was broken up and Ilam came into the hands of the Port family. In the early 19th century the family sold the property to Jesse Watts Russell, a wealthy industrialist. As well as building a fine mansion (Ilam Hall) for himself, Russell also spent a great deal of money refurbishing the attractive cottages. Obviously devoted to his wife, he had the hall built in a romantic Gothic style and, in the centre of the village, we had the Eleanor Cross erected in her memory. Now no longer a family home, Ilam Hall is one of the largest Youth Hostels in the country.
Many places in the Peak District have provided the inspiration for writers over the years, and Ilam is no exception. The peace and quiet found here helped William Congreve create his bawdy play The Old Batchelor, whilst Dr Johnson wrote Rasselas whilst staying at the Hall.
In the valley of the River Manifold, and a much used starting point for walks along this beautiful stretch of river, in summer the Manifold disappears underground north of the village, to reappear below Ilam Hall. The village is also the place where the River Manifold and the River Dove merge. Though Dovedale is, probably deservedly, the most scenic of the Peak District valleys, the Manifold Valley is very similar and whilst being marginally less beautiful, it is often much less crowded. The two rivers rise close together, on Axe Edge moor, and, for much of their course follow a parallel path.
Dove Dale was formed by the Dove carving its way down through relatively soft limestone. The dale is bounded on either side by fissured rocks, weathered by frost and rain into fantastic shapes, such as the isolated column of Ilam Rock and Lion’s Head Rock, whose profile is very obvious from certain angles. Among the best known geological features are Dove Holes, shallow caves which were formed when the river ran at a higher level than it does today. Another example of nature’s handiwork is the natural arch in the rock, 40ft high, at the entrance to Reynard’s Cave. Towards the end of the Dale are the pinnacled rock formations known as Tissington Spires and Lover’s Leap, with Dovedale Castle on the opposite side of the river. Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill, outcrops of ‘reef’ limestone at the end of the Dale, are noted for fossils of marine animals which lived more than 320 million years ago. On Thorpe Cloud, Roman coins and pottery have been brought to the surface by burrowing rabbits. The caves are the home of numerous bats.
The village of Thorpe is dominated by the conical hill of Thorpe Cloud which guards the entrance to Dovedale. The temptation to provide every possible amenity for visitors, at the expense of the scenery, has been avoided and the village of Thorpe remains an unspoilt and unsophisticated limestone village. The Norman village church, with its early 14th century nave, has walls of limestone rubble which give the curious impression that the building is leaning outwards. If on horseback it is possible to read the curious sundial at the Church, but otherwise it is too high up!
Close by the River Dove, not far from the village, is the 17th century farmhouse that has been transformed into the Izaak Walton Hotel. The delights of trout fishing along this stretch of the River have been much written about and, most famously, in The Compleat Angler by Sir Izaak.