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.