Ilam Park is a 158-acre (0.64 km2) country park situated in Ilam, on both banks of the River Manifold five miles (8 km) north west of Ashbourne, England, and in the ownership of the National Trust. The property is managed as part of the Trust's White Peak Estate. The property consists of Ilam Hall and remnants of its gardens, an ancient semi-natural woodland — Hinkley Wood — designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), noted for its small-leaved and large-leaved limes and their hybrids.
The estate was owned from the 16th century, for over 250 years, by the Port family. It was sold to David Pike Watts in 1809. On his death in 1816, the old hall was inherited by his daughter who had married Jesse Russell. Russell (as Jesse Watts-Russell, High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1819 and Conservative MP for the rotten borough of Gatton) commissioned James Trubshaw to build a new Hall to designs by John Shaw; the Hall, now a Grade II* listed building, was built between 1821 and 1826.
By the early 1930s it had been sold for demolition. The demolition was well advanced when Sir Robert McDougal bought it for the Trust, on the understanding that the remaining parts (the entrance porch and hall, the Great Hall and the service wing) be used as an International Youth Hostel. Today Ilam Hall is leased to the Youth Hostels Association (England & Wales) (YHA).
** – Dovedale – **
Dovedale is a valley in the Peak District of England. The land is owned by the National Trust, and annually attracts a million visitors. The valley was cut by the River Dove and runs for just over 3 miles (5 km) between Milldale in the north and a wooded ravine near Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill in the south. In the wooded ravine, a set of stepping stones cross the river, and there are two caves known as the Dove Holes. Dovedale's other attractions include rock pillars such as Ilam Rock, Viator's Bridge, and the limestone features Lovers' Leap and Reynard's Cave.
The limestone rock that forms the geology of Dovedale is the fossilised remains of sea creatures that lived in a shallow sea over the area during the Carboniferous period, about 350 million years ago. During the two ice ages, the limestone rock (known as reef limestone) was cut into craggy shapes by glacial meltwater, and dry caves such as Dove Holes and Reynard's Kitchen Cave were eventually formed.
The caves were used as shelters by hunters around 13,000 BCE, and Dovedale has seen continuous human activity since. Around 4,500 years ago Neolithic farmers used the caves as tombs. There is evidence from Reynard's Cave of Bronze Age activity, and artifacts found there are displayed at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.
Vikings settled in the area around 800 CE. Local place names such as Thorpe are of Scandinavian origin. These settlements became permanent, and Thorpe is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Viator's Bridge, a packhorse bridge in Milldale has been in use since the medieval period when silks and flax were transported from nearby Wetton and Alstonefield. Tourism started in the 18th century, and Dovedale is now one of the most visited natural tourist sites in Britain.
In July 2014 it was announced that a hoard of Late Iron Age and Roman coins has been discovered in Reynard's Kitchen Cave. The 26 coins discovered, which have been declared as "treasure", included three Roman coins that pre-date the Roman invasion of Britain, and 20 other gold and silver pieces of Late Iron Age date and thought to derive from the Corieltavi tribe. National Trust archaeologist Rachael Hall said: "The coins would suggest a serious amount of wealth and power of the individual who owned them."
The River Dove is a famous trout stream. Charles Cotton's Fishing House, the inspiration for Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, stands in the woods by the river. From Hartington to its confluence with the River Manifold at Ilam the River Dove flows through the scenic limestone valley known as Dove Valley, or Dovedale. From Hartington south to Ilam, a distance of eight miles (13 km), the Dove flows through Beresford Dale, Wolfscote Dale, Milldale, and then Dovedale. Much of the dale is in the ownership of the National Trust's South Peak Estate. Dovedale was acquired in 1934, with successive properties added until 1938, and Wolfscote Dale in 1948.
Dovedale became a National Nature Reserve in 2006 in recognition that it is "one of England's finest wildlife sites" with diverse plant life and interesting rock formations. The National Trust became embroiled in controversy in 2010, when in conjunction with Derbyshire County Council it oversaw the renovation of Dovedale's iconic stepping stones. It involved topping all but one of the stones with layers of mortar and limestone slabs.
At the southern end of Dovedale, between the villages of Thorpe and Ilam, stands Thorpe Cloud, 942 ft (287 m), an isolated limestone hill known as a reef knoll. It provides a viewpoint north up the dale and south across the Midlands plain. Its name "cloud" is a derivation of the Old English word clud which means "hill". On the opposite bank is the higher but less isolated Bunster Hill, 1,079 ft (329 m), which is also a reef knoll. They were acquired by the National Trust in 1934 for the South Peak Estate.
Milldale is a village of stone cottages at the northern end of Dovedale and the main access point to the dale from the north. A corn mill existed until the mid-19th century, its stables are now used as an information hut by the National Trust. The ancient, narrow packhorse bridge at Milldale originally had no side walls so that horses with panniers could cross the bridge without being impeded. Izaak Walton, who refers to himself as "Viator", which is Latin for "traveller", wrote about it in The Compleat Angler:
Dovedale is notable for its numerous limestone formations. The most southerly named formation, Dovedale Castle, is a short distance along the river from the stepping stones at Thorpe Cloud. A set of steps accesses the limestone promontory called Lover's Leap. The steps were built by Italian prisoners of war captured in the Second World War and are now maintained by the National Trust and the National Park Authority.
At Lover's Leap, a young woman who believed her lover had been killed in the Napoleonic Wars threw herself from the promontory. Her skirt caught in the branches of a tree as she fell and saved her life. When she got home, she heard her lover was alive. There are other similar legends about Lover's Leap, including one that places the same story in World War II. Opposite Lover's Leap is a limestone formation called the Twelve Apostles. The rock spires have been created from hard reef limestone; they protrude from the valley side, and the river has eroded the rock and soil around them. The National Trust clears plant life to ensure the rock formations are visible.
The Dovedale Dash is an annual 4 3⁄4 miles (7.6 km) cross-country race along the banks of the River Dove, along Dovedale, and between the villages of Ilam and Thorpe. First organised in 1953, the race takes place on the first Sunday of November, although previously it was held on the closest Sunday to Guy Fawkes Night. The race has been cancelled on four occasions, most recently in 1998, 2000 and 2004, as a result of bad weather.
** – Ilam Park to the Stepping Stones Walk – **
Discover the limestone countryside of the southern Peak District, famed for its wildlife and geology. This is a popular 1.5 mile walk for families and dog walkers all year round. You can choose to extend your walk by continuing along the valley to Milldale, to see more of the limestone valley. Classified as Moderate, the walk is one and a half miles long and should take less than one hour. It Is dog friendly.
There is plenty to see as you walk through Ilam village, across open fields and into the narrow limestone valley. The walk starts at Ilam Park, where you'll find a National Trust car park, tea-room, shop and toilets. Some parts of the walk can be muddy so suitable footwear is advised. You'll pass farm animals along the way so please ensure your dog is under control at all times. To avoid cattle, please look out for the 'alternative route' sign to avoid the fields with cattle, and also avoids stiles. The route is not suitable for pushchair and prams due to the uneven ground and width of stiles and gates.
Start: Ilam Park.
** – Visiting – **
Ilam Park is ideal for families and dog walkers, with gentle riverside walks and a popular tea-room garden with far reaching views across the Italian Gardens towards Dovedale. Open all year round. Ilam Park is open all year for walks, picnics, wildlife spotting and family adventures outdoors. Whatever the season or weather, you'll find plenty to discover at Ilam Park. Please note: following a landslip near the Boil Holes part of the riverside path in Ilam Park is closed for safety reasons. There are alternative paths that you can continue to use to see the park.
** – Visiting Dovedale– **
Dovedale is a National Nature Reserve with internationally important ancient ash woodland, wildflower-rich grassland and a river full of wildlife. Thousands of people visit each year to enjoy the sense of wilderness in this special area of countryside.Many visitors choose to enjoy Dovedale with gentle activities such as picnics by the river or watching wildlife. The more adventurous can choose to climb Thorpe Cloud or walk along the valley from the famous stepping stones to Milldale. There are a great number of activities available at both Ilam Park and Dovedale, please click here for a comprehensive list.
Summer highlights at Dovedale.
Don't forget your camera to capture the wooded valley sides and you may spot birds such as dipper, heron and ducks on the River Dove. The valley is grazed by sheep and you'll see lambs with them all summer. This is one reason why we request that dogs remain on a lead, to avoid disturbance and attacks on livestock.
There are plenty of quiet places to stop with a picnic and listen to the birds and the sounds of the river. Please take your litter home with you, to keep the countryside clean and safe for other visitors and wildlife. BBQs and fires are not permitted due to the risk of wildfire. Whatever the season, you can tick off some of the 50 Things list on a family visit to Dovedale. Their favourites are spotting fossils at Lover's Leap, birdwatching, catching a falling leaf and exploring a cave.
Dovedale is open countryside and there are no facilities beyond the entrances. You can help them to look after this special place, ensure your safety, and make sure everyone can enjoy their visit.
Dovedale’s famous stepping stones are less than half a mile from the main car park. Please be aware that this path leads to the stepping stones but they are the only way across the river beyond this point. Alternatively, you can cross the river by the bridge here but the route alongside the river is rough and sometimes floods. Whatever the season, after heavy rainfall the river level may rise and flood the stepping stones and some parts of the footpaths. There are alternative walking routes in the area, on higher ground, please refer to a map to choose a different walk if you need to. A useful website to check the latest river level is available here.
Their team of friendly volunteers and mobile information barn stands near the bridge in Dovedale between Easter and October each year. In the barn you'll find a range of useful walking guides and maps to purchase, as well as toys, postcards and gifts. The volunteer team are happy to recommend walking routes if you fancy exploring further.
Wildlife. Dovedale is a popular spot for photographers and dippers, heron, buzzards and ducks are often spotted along the River Dove.
** – Facilities – **
There is a car park at Dovedale open daily throughout the year. This is not a National Trust car park and the parking charge applies to all visitors using the car park. The nearest National Trust car park to Dovedale is located 1 mile along the road at Ilam Park. National Trust members can park at Ilam Park for free, non members can use the pay and display machine. There are also toilets, a tea-room and National Trust shop at Ilam Park. It is a 1.5 mile walk across farmland between Ilam Park and Dovedale, which is unsuitable for buggies and wheelchairs due to gates, stiles and uneven ground. You can use the trail to find your way between the two places.
There are toilets located beside Dovedale car park, managed by Peak District National Park Authority. There is a 20p charge to use these. There are also free public toilets at Milldale.
Location : Ilam, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 2AZ
Transport: Matlock (National Rail) OR Buxton (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes: for Ilam and Dovedale: services from Buxton train station to Ashbourne, daily, alight Thorpe, 2 miles (Monday to Saturday, Ilam village Sunday and Bank Holidays). For Winster Market House from Bakewell to Matlock train station, daily.
Opening Times Ilam Park: Dawn till Dusk.
Opening Times Shop / Tea Room: Daily 10:30 to 17:00 (summer), October to March until 16:00
Tickets : Car Park see above, otherwise Free.
Tel: 01335 350503