Walk 3601 - printer friendly version
Dove & Manifold Valleys, Bunster Hill, Ilam and Wetton from Alstonefield Walk
Author - Daryl Smith
Length - 10.0 miles / 16.3 km
Ascent - 1500 feet / 455 metres
Grade - moderate
Start - OS grid reference SK130556
Lat 53.0974470 + Long -1.8073102
Postcode DE6 2FY (approx. location only)
This Peak District walk is based on the lovely village of Alstonefield high in the Staffordshire White Peak. There are three free car parks in the village, one with toilet facilities and the village is of course home to the renowned "George at Alstonefield". On the route of the walk there are facilities at the following locations -
Mill Dale - a coffee/snack shop (seasonal) and public toilets
Ilam Hall - public toilets and a cafe with seasonal opening times
Wetton - public toilets and a village pub.
From the green in front of the George head out south; just after the church turn right onto a footpath and follow it across fields and then down a steep slope. At the foot of the slope the path splits, it is easier going if you follow the left path through a gate in the hedge and then down into Mill Dale. Both Mill Dale and Milldale (!) are lovely and worth a look round. If you sit down the ducks will expect to be fed.
Cross the Dove into Derbyshire over the ancient Viator's Bridge built to serve an important pack animal route and originally without parapet walls but just as narrow. Follow the path downriver through Dovedale as far as Ilam Rock. Dovedale is a special place, a perfect example of a White Peak limestone dale. Our route traverses the northern half of Dovedale, you will want to return. At Ilam Rock cross back over the Dove on the footbridge. Once across the river, go back upstream for a short distance before turning left up through Dovedale Wood. The path through the trees is signposted with the words "steep ascent".
Dovedale Wood is ancient natural woodland, magical in any season but if you go when wild garlic is in bloom the rich scent drifting up the steep hillside on warm spring air will fill your head. At the top of the wood continue left; when emerging from the trees you need to go downslope slightly to walk below and around the delightfully named Air Cottage. In front of Air Cottage follow the track to an avenue of trees, turn left and go straight ahead onto the top of Bunster Hill. There are splendid views from the little crests in front of you.
You are now in access land and can choose your way down to a gate in the south-west corner below. Bunster Hill is reef limestone and fossilised coral can be seen where the rock is exposed. Out in the lane, make your way into Ilam village then take the path past the church before you reach the main driveway to the hall. Parts of the church date back to Saxon times and there is an intriguing Norman (or Saxon?) font depicting a sad tale.
Unless you want to visit Ilam Hall or explore the gardens, go across the grass to the riverbank heading north to Paradise Walk. You will see the "boil holes" where the Manifold emerges from its underground course; following dry weather the riverbed itself can be dry upstream from here all the way to Wetton Mill. Continue straight ahead as you leave the parkland then turn left on the lane followed by a right turn along the road up to Castern Hall. Follow the track around the hall and then go left over a stile onto a gated track across fields climbing slowly along the side of the Manifold Valley. When the ground starts to level out veer left to Highfields Mine, on the opposite side of the disused mine site go through a pinch stile into Castern Wood nature reserve. The reserve is open to access and delightful in spring and summer.
Our onward route follows the path along the top of the valley side; medieval strip lynchets can be seen on the far side of the valley as you approach Larkstone Lane. Cross the lane and go straight up the slope, over a stone stile and then diagonally right to the edge of Wetton village. Go up to the centre of the village opposite the Royal Oak. If the church is open, pop in to see examples of old and strange "footprint graffiti" taken from the roof!
Leave the village past the small green opposite the pub taking the first right and then left along the Mires. Another right and left will take you onto the lane from Wetton to Alstonefield. After a short distance go through onto a footpath on your left, simply follow that path straight over two lanes, across Hope Marsh then up the hillside into Alstonefield, crossing a sports field and emerging at the side of the village hall.
Alstonefield church is also worth a visit; you will find the oldest known legible gravestone in the country (Ann Field d.1518), a strange family pew and an ancient jokey version of a pagan Sheela-na-gig, remaining defiant even whilst being consumed by a demon!
Note From Wetton onwards you could combine this walk with walk 3597 for a magnificent and fascinating full day walk of about 28 km or 17.5 miles.