Thursday, 15 October 2009

Don't you just LOVE it when things go really right? Last week, no walk - no pics. Why? Because the weather was, well, British last week. We had a job that needed doing, so we sacrificed the day to do it. We could have left it until this week, but are we glad we didn't!!! It was a lovely day today, with perfect temperatures and sunshine for walking and pictures.

With the 'right to roam' act, a hill above Dovedale, Bunster Hill, had been opened up. We'd seen people up there last time we passed it, and Sue earmarked it for ascent next time we were in the area. So, with that in mind, I wrote the days walk and included the climb up Bunster hill.
It was going to be a tough one. At just over 11 miles, it wasn't too far, but the ascent would be just under 3,000 feet - like climbing Scafell pike. Well, on a day like this, it was good to squeeze every last ounce out of it.
Despite our best efforts, we set off late(ish) again, not starting the walk until around 11:15. I must admit, with what was ahead, I was a bit concerned about time.
This was our route.
We parked at the side of the 'leaning tower of Ilam' (otherwise known as the cross) and set off upwards - the general trend of the day.

A pleasant path rises out of Ilam, and this scene had me whistling 'sheep may safely graze' as we walked along.
Happy bunny (this one's for you, Caron - yes, it's Sue's FACE!)

Thorpe cloud (on the right), and Bunster hill (long ridge on the left) were soon in view as we pressed on.
You can see by the lovely sky what sort of a day we had. The sun was strong and warm, and I was so glad I decided to wear shorts again.
We were really surprised to see such young calves suckling. I didn't know cows calved this time of year? (Mental note to ask farmer friend about this).
At the next stile, Sue was grunting at opening it.
'Come here - let ME have a go', I said (in a manly way).
Next thing, it was ME grunting, because the spring on the gate was MASSIVE!!
You can see the original one. It was tiny in comparison.
As we were climbing, we heard a commotion above, and when we looked up we saw two crows harrassing a pair of buzzards. I managed to get this shot of one of them.
If you left mouse click on the picture, you'll get an enlarged version.

A look back saw the grand Ilam Hall youth hostel, nestling in the trees. It's an absolutely beautiful place, and I got some nice shots in the Italian garden at the end of the walk.

But enough of this sightseeing - it was time to start climbing in earnest.
"I love this sort of path - the sort that goes straight up", said Sue.
Carry on then, my little mountain goat.......
Of course, we BOTH love it really, and this is our reward.........

Great views of Dovedale, but from a different perspective on Bunster hill.
Thank God for the Right to roam act. This sort of place was always denied access, but why? There were no crops, and very sparse grazing, yet SUPERB views.
It was MADE for walking up.
Although most of the plant life was now dying back for the winter, it still held a fascination for me and my camera.

In this warm sun, a few butterflies were tempted out to bask on the rocks.
I think this one's a Tortoise shell.

Wrong way Sue!!!!
She was just going to a promontory to get this view (note; my shadow)
The big dale is Dovedale, and the limestone face there is Tissington Spires.
You can just see 'air cottage' on the top left in the clearing.

A kestrel was on the prowl above us, looking for any unwary mice.
Something a bit bigger surprised us a few moments after this - a jet screamed down the valley at the same height as us. I wasn't fast enough to get a picture though.

The top of Bunster is a rippling ridge, with lots of ups and downs.
Quite interesting to walk.

Soon, we reached and passed by Air cottage.
This is looking back (into the sun, unfortunately) to Thorpe Cloud.

We then entered some of the oldest woodland in England - Dovedale woods.
The sun today made for good pictures and hard, sharp shadows.
A long descent then followed into Dovedale. We knew that we then immediately climbed out via Hall dale to Stanshope. THIS is where some of the 3,000 feet of ascent came from!

We could see the pretty village of Alstonefield across the fields at the top of Hall dale.

Again, after climbing, we dropped into the Manifold valley. The river Manifold here goes underground when it's not rained for a few days. It re-surfaces at Ilam, and is noted for cave diving.
There's this crossing, directly across the bed. I'd never walked this path, but today we did. There are stepping stones further down, for those times when there is water in it (which is not very often).

Thorpe cloud and Dovedale were now in the blue distance as we carried on.
Nice to look back and see where you've been though :-)

Another steep ascent took us up 'Soles Hollow' as we left the Manifold valley. It's a very looooong drag up here, and we took off our top layers, so were walking in just shorts and tee shirts, and STILL sweating! Another long descent followed through Musden woods.
I had been rather concerned earlier, wondering if we'd be walking in the dark at the end of the walk, but I felt more relaxed now, knowing we'd only about 45 minutes left to walk, and at least an hour of daylight.
Musden woods are very sheltered, and ALWAYS damp underfoot.
The path gets rocky, slippery and much more difficult further down the dale, with fallen trees and heavy moss to contend with, but nothing the intrepid Susie couldn't handle (hurry up, woman!).

With all this damp, there was quite a bit of fungi about too.
Nothing edible though - HUH!

We dropped out of the bottom of Musden woods, and tackled a short climb over the fields to our final (flat) path back to Ilam.
We explored the Italian gardens of Ilam hall YHA.
This must be a lovely and calming place to stay.
A last walk to the car, taking in Ilam church, with Thorpe Cloud behind in the dying evening rays.
And just to top the perfect day, we got THIS on the way home - bliss!

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