Another ‘Jolly’ in The Peaks: Saints, Saxon Princes and Ilam Hall Estate.
Pop the kettle on, make a brew, and put your feet up for a few minutes and relax.
Comfy? Here we go:
The latter part of 2016 was really hectic for me with several writing projects to be completed, and my recent Uni courses taking up my time –Archaeology and Forensic Science – so getting away for a few ‘jollies,’ was really welcome.
2017 is going to be a busy year with another
Forensic course – my 5th – and the publication, possibly in May of Only One Woman which I’ve co-written with author Christina Jones.
I hope you enjoyed my first ‘jolly,’ to Dovedale in this series. Thanks to all those who took time to read it and leave me comments. It is great to know you are out there and enjoying my ‘jollies’ with me.
As promised here is my next post.
Let me know what you think.
After our wet and rather energetic morning in Dovedale we went on to visit the lovely Ilam Hall and Park just a short drive down the road from Dovedale. If it had been dry we could have walked.
llam Park is a 158-acre country estate situated in Ilam on both banks of the River Manifold, five miles north-west of Ashbourne. The property is managed as part of The National Trust’s South Park Estate.
Ashbourne is situated in Derbyshire and so is Ilam’s postal address, but the Park and Ilam are in Staffordshire – the county boundary being the River Dove.
I know it’s confusing, but we do things like that in Britain, just to keep you on your toes.
The property consists of Ilam Hall and remnants of its gardens, an ancient semi-natural woodland, Hinkley Wood, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), noted for its small-leaved and large-leaved Limes and their hybrids.
The estate was owned for over 250 years by the Port family from the 16th century until it was sold to David Pike Watts in 1809.
On his death in 1816 the old hall was inherited by his daughter who had married Jesse Russell.
Jesse Watts-Russell, High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1819, and Conservative MP for the ‘rotten borough’ of Gatton, commissioned James Trubshaw to build a new Hall to designs by John Shaw; the Hall, now a Grade 11 listed building, was built between 1821 and 1826.
By the early 1930s it had been sold for demolition.
The demolition was well advanced when Sir Robert McDougal bought it for The National Trust on the understanding that the remaining parts: the entrance porch and hall, the Great Hall, and the service wing, should be used as an International Youth Hostel.
Today Ilam Hall is leased to the Youth Hostels Association England and Wales (YHA).
Therefore our visit was confined to the park and grounds only.
The rain didn’t stop and so our first visit was to the Manifold Tea Rooms for a welcome snack and hot drink.
By the time we had finished our refreshments the rain had stopped and the sun had come out so we ventured outside and took a wander through the grounds.
The grass was rather wet and slippery but it didn’t matter, we were enjoying ourselves too much.
We took a wander down to the river via some very steep steps from the lawns above, and we walked along the path – Paradise Walk – running alongside the river bank leading eventually alongside fields with sheep grazing.
Following the river upstream a little way on our right, in the woods, lies a grotto where the playwright William Congreave is said to have written his first play, ‘The Old Bachelor’ in 1689.
The path emerges from the trees moving away from the river bank. This is still ‘Paradise Walk’, created as a place where the hall guests could take their exercise.
The path takes you past ‘The Battlestone’, a Saxon cross unearthed during the building of the new Ilam village and thought to commemorate a battle with the Danes.
The trees were still reluctant to indulge in Autumnal changes we noticed, few had their gold and russet leaves yet, but the sun which had come out was a lot warmer than you’d expect so late in the year. Apart from the sounds of the sheep grazing, our feet hitting the ground, and just the distant tinkle of the river, there was total silence. Wonderful.
I stopped to take photos of the sheep and the fungi growing along the path. Trees towered over the path and on the other side of the huge field the sides of a cliff were covered in forestation – Hinkley Wood. A picture perfect place to be and to commune with nature.
We came to a natural place to turn around and head back to the huge lawns and the Italian themed grounds near the house, as we wanted to see the Church before it got too dark.
We climbed the steep steps again and turned to our right to take a wander over St. Bertam’s bridge so we could watch the river a while.
The church was a delight and we found ourselves running inside as another downpour, much more intense than earlier, began as we began to look around the churchyard.
Ilam has been a place of pilgrimage since the days of St Bertram, a Saxon saint and hermit who lived there. Today there are more ‘pilgrims’ (in the form of tourists) than ever.
The saint was a Saxon Prince of Mercia who travelled to Ireland to marry an Irish Princess. On their way back to Mercia she had a child and they rested in the forest at Ilam while Bertram went off to seek food.
When he returned he discovered that wolves had killed both his wife and child. Broken-hearted, he lived as a hermit around Ilam for the rest of his life.
The saint’s tomb lies in the church, a trim little building sitting apart from the rest of the village. The church was originally within the village, but the village was moved by Jesse Watts Russell to improve the view from the hall he built-in the 1820s.
Some small parts of Saxon architecture may still be traced on the south wall where there is a walled-up old Saxon doorway. There are the stumps of two Saxon crosses in the churchyard.
Inside the church there is a magnificent Saxon font, which is worth a visit for itself.
When the rain eased off a little we left the church and made our way back to the car-park and headed for home.
Tired from all the exertions and fresh air I didn’t finish dinner and was in bed before nine o’clock.
I cannot remember the last time I did that unless I was unwell.
Next morning bright and early we set off for our next ‘jolly.’
Pop back soon and discover more about my week away in Derbyshire and Cumbria. I am writing it up now.
I really hope you enjoyed this, let me know.
All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.
To visit Ilam:
Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 2AZ
Tel: +44 (0)1335 350503