Great Days Out

Within 20 minutes drive: There are many first rate attractions in the area. Here are some to start you off:

Alton Towers, one of the best theme parks in the UK. Alton Towers has everything from extreme roller-coasters like the new Smiler, the legendary Oblivion, Nemesis, Rita, water rides like the Congo River Rapids and many more attractions - including the gardens - for visitors of all ages!

Set amid the Staffordshire Moorlands, Blackbrook Zoological Park has developed into a large and varied collection of some of the most rare and endangered species to be found in the world. Visitors are often surprised at the wide variety of birds, animals, reptiles and fish on view.

The Combes Valley Nature Reserve lies in a beautiful wooded valley at Bradnop near Leek. You are free to walk through the marked trails all year round and see woodpeckers, pied flycatchers, woodwarblers and many varieties of butterfly. Viewing points with benches are ideal for observing a variety of wildlife in the reserve.

Froghall Wharf lies in the beautiful Churnet Valley and is the terminus of the Cauldon Canal. There are a variety of circular walks with something of interest for everyone. Alternatively, enjoy a cream tea served on a traditional canal boat trip.

Why not cyle along the route of the old Manifold Valley Light Railway. You can hire bikes in Waterhouses at either Brown End Farm, or at the Old Station.

The Churnet Valley Railway runs steam trains through the spectacular scenery - nicknamed 'Little Switerland in Victorian times - of the Churnet Valley, from Leekbrook to Kingsley & Froghall, a round trip of 10.5 miles or 16 miles on the Cauldon branch. It is one of the best preserved steam railways in the country.


Where we are

Waterfall is a tranquil village in the south-west corner of the Peak District National Park. Visitors often enquire as to the whereabouts of 'the waterfall' and seemed puzzled to learn that there isn't one. The name of the village may be explained by the fact that during dry weather, the nearby river Hamps disappears, reappearing at Ilam, a few miles downstream.

The Peak District National Park, the Derbyshire Dales and the Staffordshire Moorlands have many beautiful areas to explore at your own leisure. Here are a few close at hand.

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Around & About: Croft House Barn Gallery


Blore Pastures/Ilam Circuit

This walk of approximately 3.5 miles, is mostly across open, undulating countryside with far-reaching views across to Ilam, Thorpe Cloud and Dovedale. Our start was just under 5 miles from Croft House Barn holiday cottage, from the free car park at Blore Pastures - great views and also picnic tables! The car park is accessed via Ilam-Moor Lane, which leads off the A52 Ashbourne/Leek Road approx 1 mile west of Swinscoe.

We crossed the road behind the car park, clambered over the stile and walked straight ahead over the field, on this occasion grazed by cattle, to another stile which took us onto a lane. We turned right and walked up the Blore road for approx 100 yards before heading right through a footpath gate and following an established, slightly ascending track. From here we had an extensive, panoramic vista, taking in Radcliffe power station about 20miles away. 

At this point a hare bounded across the path, startling grazing sheep beside us. Before long, Ilam village came into view on our right, with Casterne Hall behind on ithe hillside. We could also make out Throwley Hall to the left, up the Manifold Valley. 

After nearly 1 mile of level walking, the track descended to a field gate in a dry stone wall. We then followed the track as it climbed gently up the other side past a line of hawthorns, to a summit, where there was a farm to our left and more fine views. Following the line of the wall on our left, we had stunning views of Casterne Hall, the Manifold Valley and Thorpe Cloud, in wonderful, afternoon sunlight.  

Ignoring a stile on our left, we headed right, across the field towards Ilam and soon joined a clearer track which turned slightly left. We followed the line of a delapidated wall, to a footpath gate a short distance ahead. The views just seemed to get better in this sheltered spot, enhanced by some young lambs. Looking ahead, we could clearly make out othe green path and enjoy the glorious cloud effects. We took the lower of two paths descending slightly right, turned right at a gateway in the wall, before descending with the ruined wall to our right towards Musden Grange Farm. The path led through the farm yard, then through a squeeze-stile gate. In about 100m, just before the field corner, we squeezed through another stile. We walked across the field, parallel with farm buildings, to yet another squeeze stile , admiring two fine goats grazing just the other side. A narrow grass track led across a meadow, bright with clover and buttercups, towards the Ilam Estate. A further narrow squeeze-stile, and our route continued towards a hedge in full elder flower, at the bottom of a meadow rippled by a gentle breeze. We crossed a level area encircled by wooded slopes towards a footpath gate which led us across the stony-bottomed, slow-moving Manifold River via a footbridge.

Iron gates to our left complete with dog stile, told us that we were about to enter the Ilam Park Estate. Following the well-maintained track which runs parallel to the river, we passed under magnificent yews, limes and beech trees. At Ilam Hall, take steps on the left to access the tea-room or follow the path.

Arrive before 5 p.m for delicious refreshments and a peek at the National Trust shop, not as we did at 5.05p.m.! The information displays and shop are both worth a look as is the ancient Ilam church with its legend of St Bertram and graveyard if you have time. 

For our walk, we turned right before the church, to cross the characterful bridge into woodland and after turning left, walked approximately 200 yards to pass through the gates, veering slightly right and leaving the Ilam Estate onto open pastures. Our path crossed the road and continued up, following a footpath sign and leading back up to Blore Pastures and the car park at the summit, next to Parson's Wood. 



Milldale walk

New walks book sampled today - Short Walks in the Peak District (Collins/Ramblers Organisation). We opted for Viator's Bridge, Milldale for a relaxing 2 1/2 mile afternoon stroll. Gorgeous clear, sunny day and 21 Celsius. What could be better. 

We headed up the back roads towards Grindon, relishing all the lacy, wayside cow-parsley and buttercup meadows left alone last weekend, when the mass silage cut seemed to be widespread.  
The delightful, old Grindon village - like stepping back into the past - was tranquil before milking time, so no herd of cows to wait for in the lane. The road out, leading down to Weags Bridge and The Manifold Trail opens up to stunning views above The Manifold Valley and over to Beeston Tor. In the sunlight, the lush fields, studded with hawthorn blossom, provided a great reminder for me of why this is such a beautiful place to live.  
We wound our way down to the valley along the narrow lane with its canopy of trees, luckily without meeting a vehicle, and crossed the Manifold Trail and Weag's Bridge. The winding ascent on the other side always impresses, reminding me of French mountain roads with its steep hairpin bends, wandering cattle and grass growing up the middle of the road. 
At the top we continued towards Mill Dale and parked in the free car park a short walk from the village.  A sprinkling of walkers were passing through the picturesque village on the Dove today - a lean day for ducks compared to summer weekends. 
The walk leads alongside the river towards Dovedale for about a mile before taking a left turn just before Dove Holes, at a finger post indicating Alsop Le Dale. This was new territory for us - Dovedale Dale is so lovely, especially when as quiet as this, that we've continued along by the river on other visits. 
We found ourselves  ascending gently through grassland on a narrow path which soon became more of a stony, woodland track, lined with wild garlic, a mossy wall on our right. Crags called The Nabbs 'guard' the top end of Nab Dale. I was too focused on trying to identify mystery clumps of yellow flowers clinging to them to really appreciate their presence but at this point we emerged into open country, the buildings of Hanson Farm on our left. 
The path led up towards a series of stiles a little to the right of the extensive farm buildings, through cattle pastures and along side a dry stone field wall. Soon the terrain levelled out and revealed panoramic views ahead of Dovedale, Milldale and Wolfescote Dale. A final stile led us onto the steep but gradual, zig-zagging descent down to Milldale, the limestone hillside dotted with tiny, jewel-like, alpine flowers and quaking grass. We found low, rocky outcrops ideal for a refreshment break and for photos like the one above. A shame that the Milldale hole-in-the-wall, Polly's cafe wasn't open as an ice-cream would have been a perfect end to this late spring walk!


'A lovely well-equipped cottage in which to holiday in this area....' 

'We all remarked how everything in the cottage was a very high standard and the fixtures and fittings were much better than you usually find.' 

'Yet another lovely weekend in this beautiful cosy cottage. Had a little excitement with the Highland cattle down the lane...' 

Our first visit to Croft House Barn. We quickly discovered that we had entered an environment that was clean spacious and well-equipped. The cottage was perfectly situated, enabling us to travel to the many attractions in the surrounding areas. Everything that we have experienced was confirmation of our initial phone conversation and subsequent email communications. To sum it all up, the Croft House Barn was like a home from home. We will see you again! 

'A delightful stay - warm hospitality, warm and gorgeous cottage, wonderful attention to detail in everything and a stunning environment. Who could ask for more!' 

'Brilliant stay, lovely cottage and welcome. Carsington Water provided a great day out, especially the bikes. Huge fun had at the Red Lion with good food to boot! Thanks ever so!' 

'What can we say? Everything fantastic, every little detail thought about - you really do just bring yourself! It is so relaxing and peaceful here, we feel as if we have been here two weeks and not 4 days. Many thanks for our welcome pack, a lovely touch. Looking forward to a return visit. Thank you.' 

We would like to extend our warm thanks to you for your generous hospitality during our stay in Croft House Barn. The cottage is delightful with luxurious touches everywhere  - beautiful bed linen and towels, delicious welcome basket - to the topped up bird feeders attracting an amazing variety of wildlife. We can only reiterate the comments of previous guests - you really go the extra 'golden' mile! Many, many thanks.' 

'A beautiful well-equipped cottage in a beautiful part of the country. We have enjoyed our stay so much we hope to return next year.' 

'A huge thanks. Always lovely to be here. We had a really quiet rest and chlled this year, but still managed Milldale - Dovedale and The Roaches of course. As soon as we get home, we'll be checking next year's diary for another visit.' 

'Back again - lovely to be here in summer agnd to get good weather! Great to have all the family sharing with us for 2 of the days. Checked out all our usual haunts along with a new discovery - Emma Bridgewater's Pottery (only 35 mins away). A real 'hands-on' experience - studio pottery painting for kids and a factory tour, also big discounts! Many thanks for the welcome pack, we've all had a splendid time and hope to return soon.' 

'Our 3rd visit to the cottage and Stephanie and Malcolm have maintained the high standards in the lovely cottage and the lovely welcome pack - loved the bakewell tarts! The cottage and area is a pleasure to visit. Dovedale, lovely in the sun. We all loved the Manifold Trail on the bikes and thoroughly recommend doing this - especially the little cafe at the end of the trail. We broke records of previous attendances at Alton Towers and managed bright, sunny starts to beat the queues. Busy and eventful, so lovely to return to cottage and comfortable beds for a good night's sleep. Thank you.' 

'Wonderful accommodation! Oatcakes were very tasty - amazing welcome pack. Nuthatch, swallows, great tits and blue tits, all feeding in garden. Definitely recommend and want to return! Everything we needed was available. Rest and relaxation is order of the day in such a comfortable cottage. Flowers were a lovely welcome. Unmatched hospitality from Stephanie and Malcolm! Lovely walks in beautiful countryside.' 

'Gold Stars for this holiday - we had a fantastic  week in September with 3 generations of family together to celebrate my special birthday. It was everything and more as seen on their website. Stephanie and Malcolm gave us a very warm welcome along with a wonderful hamper of local and homemade goodies - what a treat to start the holiday and it just got better from there! The cottage and facilities were excellent with thoughtful and homely touches everywhere. Everything was in its place, including a lovely vase of flowers and birthday balloons, to make this one of the best places we have stayed in. The perfect cottage to return to after a day walking and exploring the surrounding countryside with charming little villages and towns. A visit to Chatsworth House and gardens was a day to remember - a must for everyone visiting The Peaks! We will return to Croft House Barn and bring our friends so that they too can experience the delights of this lovely accommodation and beautiful countryside.