Monday, 9 May 2011

Dovedale, Milldale, Ilam and Stanshope

 River Dove, Dovedale, Derbyshire

I thought I'd share this lovely, leisurely walk, perfect for a Spring day. From Milldale, Derbyshire, down Dovedale, through the grounds of Ilam Hall and up over the hills to Stanshope and back down to Milldale. It took me around five hours, and that included lunch at Ilam Hall and lot of stops for bird-watching.

You can start anywhere along the route, but starting at Milldale means you can look forward to a nice ice cream by the River Dove at the end (and the parking is free), and lunch at Ilam Hall NT is around halfway round.

During the first time I did this walk, at Easter 2007, I encountered the extremes of Peak District weather: chilly, clear skies at the start, warm sun and t-shirt temperatures by halfway, and strong winds and snow by the end. This year, at Easter 2011, it was sun all the way, so be prepared.

 Dovedale, Derbyshire

In Spring there’ll be lots of lambs around, so do heed the notices – particularly if you have dogs with you. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many people failing to keep their dogs on leads or under control.

 Grazing sheep - Dovedale, Derbyshire

Milldale to Ilam – follow the path south by the River Dove, down Dovedale. There’s plenty to see here, including great views of Dipper on the stones in the river. All the usual woodland species are here. I think I heard a Marsh Tit calling on my last visit, so one to look out for. Also, keep an eye out for Ravens and raptors among the Jackdaws around the rocky outcrops. Plenty of flowers around in Spring, of course.

Forget-Me-Not - Dove Dale, Derbyshire

Lots of butterflies too, depending on the weather and the time of year, including Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip, Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Large White, etc.

Peacock Butterfly - Dovedale, Derbyshire

The southern end of Dovedale gets very crowded, so I’d recommend pasing through here quickly and heading on to Ilam, going vis the footpath over the field north of the Izaak Walton Hotel.

Ilam Hall to Castern Hall – If the weather’s good, I’d eat lunch outside in the Ilam Park, within the grounds of Ilam Hall. The Nation Trust run a caf√© here.

There are some good birds along the river here, with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow and Garden Warbler all calling by late April. The trees by the path to the farm and Castern Hall have Common Redstart, so listen out for their call – probably the best way to pick them out once the foliage has grown on the trees.

Lamb - Stanshope, Derbyshire

Castern Hall to Stanshope Hall – Up on to the hills. I saw a Raven being mobbed by Carrion Crows here this year, and it flew very low over our heads. Also keep and eye out for Little Owl and Common Buzzard.

Stanshope to Milldale – Go past the front of Stanhope Hall, taking care to take the right the track to Milldale. By the way, I can recommend Stanhope Hall if you are looking for somewhere to stay in the area.

 Stanshope, Derbyshire

Once you are on the brow of the hill, follow the signs back down to Milldale.

If you go, I hope you enjoy it – let me know what birds you see!

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