"Dovedale is a valley in the Peak District of England. The land is owned by the National Trust. The valley was cut by the River Dove and runs for just over 3 miles (5 km) between Milldale in the north and a wooded ravine near Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill in the south. In the wooded ravine, a set of stepping stones cross the river, and there are two caves known as the Dove Holes. Dovedale's other attractions include rock pillars such as Ilam Rock, Viator's Bridge, and the limestone features Lovers' Leap and Reynard's Cave." (Wikipedia)
We started our walk a mile away from the bottom end of Dovedale at Ilam Park, near the village of Ilam, mainly because we could park there for free and there is an excellent little cafe in Ilam Hall (see photo below) where we fortified ourselves with strong tea before setting out on our yomp up hill and down dale.
Three miles upstream along the valley floor we arrived at the quaint, tiny village of Milldale. Its buildings cling to the bottom of the slopes on the western flank of the valley. There is little here, but a small shop selling teas and ice cream and a picturesque place to sit on the river bank above the ancient bridge, makes it a worthwhile destination. The name of the bridge, Viator, gives a clue to the reason why Milldale is more famous than its size would normally warrant.
"The ancient, narrow packhorse bridge at Milldale originally had no side walls so that horses with panniers could cross the bridge without being impeded. Izaak Walton, who refers to himself as 'Viator', which is Latin for 'traveller', wrote about it in 'The Compleat Angler':
'What’s here, the sign of a bridge? Do you travel in wheelbarrows in this country? This bridge was made for nothing else – why a mouse can hardly go over it, tis not two fingers broad!'
"From this the bridge acquired the name Viator's Bridge." (Wikipedia)
After refreshment at Milldale it was a hard slog up the valley side and then across dandelion festooned pastureland to the hamlet surrounding Stanshope Hall. From there it was a simple, if slightly tedious, route march for two miles along a minor road back to the village of Ilam. We finished the walk in traditional style with an ice cream from a local dairy purchased from the National Trust shop in the park.
It was an interesting and enjoyable walk and its beauty was as fresh as if we were gazing on it for the first time even though we had walked the same path three or more times in the past. And the weather gods smiled on us to within the last mile of the trek when the skies opened and we got soaked in a torrential downpour the drenching like of which is particular to the Peak District. But such sudden and complete wetness is par for the course when you love to go a-wandering along the public footpaths and byways of England.
Here are some baby sheep huddled together as they await the coming of the rain.