Monday, 31 October 2011

A tor around a rock

This is Ilam Rock, about which I have posted once before, so I'm going to be quiet and just allow you to enjoy the photo.


Almost directly across the river is Pickering Tor.

This cave close to the foot of Ilam Rock is one of many in the gorge. Although unpromising from the outside,  the roof rises to make quite a spacious place.

Looking out, you can just spot the end of the wooden footbridge on which I was standing to take the first photo. Also, notice the puddle. The day outside was bright and sunny, but water seeps slowly through limestone and there was a regular drip rippling this wetness.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Thorpe Cloud from all angles

This hill, which towers over the southern end of Dovedale, is called Thorpe Cloud. It lies between the villages of Ilam and Thorpe. Here, it is seen from the rim of Dovedale, beyond Bunster Hill.

Thorpe Cloud is a limestone hill which stands at 942'high and would (approx 350 million years ago) have been part of a shallow sea. The limestone was cut into reefs during the two ice ages and left proud as the seas retreated . It's name comes from the Old Norse Thorpe, meaning village or farmstead and the Old English Clud, meaning a hill.

Thorpe Cloud is very popular with walkers because it offers views right up the Dovedale Gorge or south over the Midland plain. It is also popular with paragliders.

In total, we counted seven, but I didn't manage to get a decent photo of more than five at any one time.

I'm really unsure about whether I would fancy a go at this or not. Part of me thinks it would be brilliant, but another part thinks that this is genuinely dangerous and maybe not such a good idea.

What do you think?
Have you ever had a go?
Am I wrong about the 'dangerous' bit?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Do you want a good laugh?

I've been a member of Alter Rock for about two months. Mainly, I joined so that I could belay Ben on the high lead climbs while Mark is away at Uni. Sometimes, Ben can find a partner, sometimes not, so me belaying means that he can go more often than would otherwise be possible.

This last week though, I've actually climbed a couple of times; simple top roped stuff, but fun.

Today, there was a bouldering competition. Bouldering is climbing without the use of ropes, so lower level above a big crash mat. I don't really like bouldering much. It's nearly all overhanging stuff and really hard on the arms and shoulders. Maybe 30 years ago!!

Of course Ben entered and when we arrived, I somehow found myself being talked into having a go; the real draw being that there was a 'Veteran' category into which absolutely no one had entered! Bottom line, climb one route and I've won! So I went home, got my gear, came back, paid my entrance fee, climbed 3 routes and won. What a joke!!! But it was good to be a part of it and, frankly, I thought I was doing pretty well to manage three!!.

When I was called up to claim a 'first prize', I was careful to choose something small (feeling that being the sole competitor made winning a bit of a cheat!), but was promptly handed this hoodie because it "Goes with the chalk bag you've chosen".

Personally, I think I'm gonna look like a traffic light!

A word about Ben. Being over 16 means he was in the Men's Open Category; a tough division with some seasoned climbers, including an ex-member of the Slovakian National Team (a really nice guy who strolls up routes which other people fall off). Ben came a very creditable fifth. Maybe he'd like the hoodie? 


Oh well!

Friday, 28 October 2011

"I jumped over Ilam cross!"

In the centre of Ilam, close by the river bridge, is this 30 foot high cross, erected by Jesse Watts-Russell in 1840, in memory of his wife Mary.

The design was created by architect John Macduff Derrick and is modelled on one of the crosses which Edward I had erected in memory of his wife, Eleanor of Castile in 1290. Eleanor died in Nottinghamshire but was buried in Westminster Abbey and a cross was erected at each stopping place on her final journey. 

The cross does show some wear from 170 years of erosion and met with a tragedy in 1960, when a storm dislodged the already weakened top. For a while, a temporary sandstone replacement was erected. Because it proved impossible to establish who actually owned the cross, there was some delay in its restoration; grant awarding bodies being reluctant to award money for the scheme. Then, in 2003, the Peak Park Authority made a compulsory purchase order and in March 2009, the cross was officially handed over to a charitable body known as the Ilam Cross Trust.

Restoration work began soon after.

On September 16th 2011, as the restoration work was nearing completion, Ilam schoolchildren, staff and visitors jumped over the golden cross. It was then processed down the street and handed to the stonemasons for fitting at the top.

In future years, those children will be able, in all honesty, to say "I jumped over Ilam cross!"

The fully restored cross was unveiled in early October and has been shortlisted for the English Heritage Angel Awards, the results of which are to be announced this Monday (31st)

To help ensure it's continued protection, the cross is a grade 2 listed building and features on the English Heritage register of Buildings at Risk. The Ilam Cross Trust continue to raise money to pay for maintenance.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ilam in the Alps

Human activity around Ilam dates back as far as 700BC, when neolithic man built burial barrows on the surrounding hills. The area was settled by both Celts and Romans but became more significant after the death of Bertram and the beginning of pilgrimages to his tomb in the Middle Ages.

Ilam today is a mix of old and newer properties, nestling alongside the River Manifold, sitting close to the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire and overlooked by Bunster Hill (1079' - half a mountain)

The village school, Ilam C of E (VA) Primary, is housed in this Alpine style building. It was built by Jesse Watts-Russell in the mid 1800s. As the new owner of Ilam Hall, he wanted to improve the view from his property. As a result, he had a large proportion of the village demolished and the people rehoused in newly built alpine style housing. The school was constructed as part of this redevelopment.

These two photographs, from the school website, show the building and pupils from their earliest days. The trees have grown somewhat in the last 130 years!

And the school uniform has seen some changes!

To read more about the school, click here.

This is just one of the Alpine style cottages, which must have looked rather incongruous when they were first constructed, but fit the landscape surprisingly well.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

October sunrise

One of the things I love most about Autumn is the sunrise. There are probably sunrises just as spectacular throughout the year, but this is when I get to see them because my alarm wakes me while it is still dark. There is nothing good about getting up for work in the dark, except the chance of a beautiful sunrise, which is exactly how I was recompensed last Friday.


(Notice the aeroplane which had recently taken off from East Midlands Airport?)

Last week, I completely forgot to link my post back to Jenny Matlock's Alphabet Thursday and her Autumn hiatus. I've just realised this fact! Sorry Jenny. I'll make sure I do it this time...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Church of the Holy Cross, Ilam

Much of Ilam church is Norman or early English; the base of the tower, for example, is 13th Century. Like many other churches, however, there have been later additions. Mainly, these came in the 17th and 19th century and included two chapels.

There is also evidence of the Saxon origins of this church, most notable of which is the stone font, carved with dragons and people.

The Saxon connection goes back to St Bertram, an 8th century Saxon Prince of Mercia. Bertram travelled to Ireland to marry an Irish princess. On the way back, they stopped off at Ilam because his wife had given birth. While she rested, Bertram went off to find food, only to discover on his return, that a wolf had attacked and killed his wife and child. Heartbroken, he remained here, giving up his royal claims and devoting himself to prayer and meditation for the remainder of his days..

His tomb is inside the church in the chapel built specifically for that purpose in 1618. In the Middle Ages, the tomb was a place of pilgrimage and believed to have miraculous healing powers.

These days, the pilgrims are mainly tourists, including us, on our walk :)

We're heading on past the church and up the side of Bunster Hill.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Eye lamb Hall

Ilam (eye-lamb, not ill-am) Hall, in Staffordshire, is owned by the National Trust. The first hall on this site was built by the Port family in the sixteenth century. In the 1820s, this was demolished by Jesse Watts Russell and replaced by a larger, grander hall. In the 1920s, most of this second hall was also demolished, some being saved by Sir Robert McDougall who bought the estate and then donated it to the National Trust in 1934.

What remains of the hall is now used as a Youth Hostel of the YHA. The hall also contains a small National Trust shop and Tea Rooms (which sells rather tasty scones - pronounced scownes, not scons).

The photo above shows the view from outside the Tea Rooms. On a warm day, you can sit here with your drink and enjoy this incredible view! (Even on a cold day, if you wish. The tea rooms lends blankets to those who would like to sit outside on the chilliest days!).

Incidentally, that flat topped hill is called Thorpe Cloud. More about that in another post.

I love the chimneys above the main archway at the front of the hall!

And on the grass outside, is this decorative trig point. I want one!!

Saturday, 22 October 2011


One of the newer rides at Alton Towers is Sonic Spinball, renamed a couple of years ago from Spinball Whizzer. It's amongst the first rides reached from the main entrance and riding it early is a good idea because changeover time is pretty slow and queues build up rapidly to a long wait. It's fun, with cars turning randomly as they navigate the compact track. Some of the edges are definitely interesting. "Eeeep. Are we still attached?"

Opened on March 27th 2004 at a cost of 3.5 million, Sonic Spinball has a track length of  450m with a high point of 17m. In total the ride lasts 1 minute 10 seconds and reaches a top speed of 32mph. It's fun and slightly scary, but the spinning makes me feel mildly nauseous. Not one of my favourites, but that doesn't stop me from riding.

What about you? Are you a rider or a bag holder, or even someone who stays away all together?
Do you race for the big rides or prefer a different pass time?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Alton Towers gardens

Last Monday, Sacristan and I went to Alton Towers to get our annual fix of scared-ness. The day was grey with some showery wetness, but the queues were short and the rides were fun.

At lunch time, we took ourselves and our picnic into the gardens, looking for somewhere a little more restful to sit and eat.

Whilst there, I dodged the raindrops to take a few photos.

The glasshouses give a sense of their original splendour, but are rather neglected now. Considering how much the Tussauds Group must make from this place, it's a shame they can't see fit to pump a little back in to doing up these historic buildings. (The cynic in me says that there would be no profit involved!)

This narrow staircase had an appeal all its own - from the top...

...and the bottom.

Arches and statues are the order of the day, with staircases linking the many levels of terrace in this steep sided valley.

The ornate footbridge crosses the stream at the foot of the bank of turning trees...

...while the pagoda rises from the centre of the small lily filled pool.

Once, people came from miles around just to wander amongst the beauty of these gardens. These days, Alton Towers mainly attracts a different kind of clientèle and the gardens are maintained, rather than cherished - which is a shame!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Autumn colours

One of the more colourful shrubs in my garden.

The acers in the gardens at Alton Towers were pretty stunning.

Virginia creeper crowding a window.

Beech trees in Dovedale Wood; from golden to brown and then adding to the thickening carpet.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Stormy skies over Arnside

Alongside the pier at Arnside is this drinking fountain, dedicated to a young boy called Richard Moberley Clayton (Dick) Grosvenor 1899 - 1903. Dick died of appendicitis and the memorial was erected by his grandparents.

The drinking fountain has become a starting point for the famous Cross Bay Walk. The walk is guided and runs only at certain times of the year, as the sands are notoriously treacherous. Morecambe Bay has a tidal bore which comes sweeping up the Kent Estuary, drowning miles of exposed sandbanks incredibly quickly. People have died!

The storm clouds were brewing as we prepared to recommence our homeward journey. Fortunately, we were turning southward into the remainder of the sunshine, but the rain still caught us up just north of Manchester!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Arnside is a small holiday resort on the shores of the estuary formed where the river Kent enters Morecambe Bay. From here the nearest of the South Lakes Peninsulas is clear across the water, with Grange over Sands just visible on the hillside.

The estuary is straddled by the Kent Viaduct, carrying the railway line across to Grange over Sands, Ulverston and eventually, Barrow in Furness which lies on the tip of the larger peninsula.

The pier at Arnside was built by the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Company as a wharf for sea faring vessels after the construction of the viaduct had blocked access to the port at Milnthorp. 

In 1934, the end section of the pier was destroyed by a storm and had to be rebuilt by the London Midland and Scottish Railway Co, but in 1964, the pier changed ownership, being bought by Arnside Parish Council for the princely sum of £100.

The events of January 1983 might have given them cause to regret the purchase, when yet another storm destroyed the causeway. This time, the pier was rebuilt using a combination of public subscription and grants from both local government and NGOs, and was officially re-opened on April 12th 1984.

You remember the initial cost of purchase?

The rebuilding cost £25,000.

But what a gorgeous place to sit on a late summer evening :)