It’s rare we go to Dovedale, unless three boxes are ticked it’s out of season (i.e. not summer), it’s very cold, and it’s NOT a weekend - this reduces the crowds considerably. So, all boxes ticked, we set off for one of Derbyshire’s greatest honeypots. On the way, we passed through Milldale. This is an early morning shot of the viators bridge.
Please remember, you can click on any of the pictures for a larger version, and slide show.
I decided to park in the hamlet, or village (not sure where one ends, and the other begins) of Ilam, famous for it's stone cross atop the monument in the centre. This has recently been restored to former glory, and has a shining, gold cross on top of it.
The houses here are decidedly ‘Swiss chalet’ (by design), and are really easy on the eye (if a little alien). You can read more about Ilam here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilam,_Staffordshire
We left the village and set off across the frozen fields. The ground had been very muddy, but these low temperatures had stiffened it into a walkable hard crust, and for that, we were very grateful!
I think these ruts have been caused by many years of farming. The water of late (of which we’ve had plenty) had settled into the hollows and frozen hard.
Interestingly, you can see here the furrows in the foreground run left to right, but then change to up and down? These are the result of medieval farming techniques.
I have NO idea who or why this was put here, or what it represents.
I found a use for it though.......
I call this; ‘Moaner Lisa’ ;-)
This part of the Manifold river is usually submerged, re-surfacing at Ilam but, with the amount of rain recently, it was in full flow. It was so still today, the surface was like a mirror.
And the iced puddles made some beautiful patterns.
A lone lightning tree stands stark against the flawless blue sky.
We puffed up the climb to Castern hall. Even though it was below freezing, our efforts made us glow! This is the impressive hall. There's some reading here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castern_Hall
Is this what they mean on the weather forecast when they say ‘cold trough moving in’?
The ground was frozen, but wherever the sun kissed it, it became green again.
Galloway Belties near Damgate farm.
In Yorkshire, there was a program of restoring old barns and it was very successful. They are a special part of the landscape. Here, one looks like it’s been saved from collapse, and is awaiting further ‘TLC’.
At the top of Hall dale, we were intending to turn right and walk down it. After investigating this old Lime kiln, which was in super condition, Sue saw that we could drop into Hall dale via a very steep, innominate side dale. It was obvious by tracks that others had done the same, so we set off down.
A little, frozen snail on a leaf platter.
Tree shadows on the opposite side of the dale - the sunny side!
You can see how the dale drops away suddenly. We knew it would be like this, as the contours were almost touching on the map. The fact it was also as icy as it was, made the walk down it ‘interesting’.
Frozen cow parsley, always so beautiful at this time of the year.
After our scramble down, with no incidents or accidents, we reached the river Dove. So far we hadn't seen ANY other walkers.
Now, this man’s got stile!
The jutting finger of Pickering tor (left) and the flanks of Ilam rock (right). We crossed this bridge and saw our first other walker. See – I TOLD you it gets crowded in Dovedale!
A plane streaks out from behind Pickering tor. With this kind of clarity, it must be fantastic looking down today.
A cave at the base of Pickering tor.
A very frosty Dovedale – JUST how we like it.
So peaceful here today, even the Heron was having a disturbance-free fishing party (until we turned up).
Reynards cave, an arch that used to be a cave, but the top has caved in at some point in the past.
You can read about a lot of the features in Dovedale here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dovedale#cite_note-nationaltrust-6
A cold mist rises from the surface of the water, ethereal and eerie.
We found a seat on top of Lovers leap and decided it was a good place to have our hot soup and brandy-laced coffee. Sometimes I surprise Sue with a flask of mulled wine at this time of the year. As soon as we were seated, this cheeky chappy flew down and sat on the end of the bench just two feet from me.
After a quick lunch (it was too cold to sit around) we set off down the other side of the promontory. These steps are COVERED in fossils. I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not, but they are just incredible. You could spend ages looking at the various ones. This was just one step.
Very soon we reached the iconic stepping stones, which had recently been ‘topped off’ in an effort to make them flat . This was done to much opposition and controversy.
The big hill is Thorpe Cloud, a super vantage point that only takes ten minutes to climb, but with the sun already setting, we didn't have any spare time to do it today.
The stepping stones were quite icy, and after watching this guy almost slip off, we decided against crossing them today.
Looking down lower Dovedale in the waning sunlight.
And looking back up.
We only had about a mile to go now, just as well, as the sun dipped over the horizon.
......and then, it was gone!
Looking back to Thorpe Cloud, almost a silhouette now. I REALLY love this scene in the soft, evening light.
We soon reached a cold Ilam again, and I took this shot of their stone bridge, like a smaller version of our bridge in Bakewell.
As the light faded fast, we looked up, and saw the restored gold cross standing out, almost glowing, in the evening sky.