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A good short local walk to familiarise you with the countryside close to Blore Hall, including Ilam Hall and its park, the church, originally 12th Century, and the ‘grottos’ associated with St. Bertram. The surviving part of the early 19th Century Hall is now used as a youth hostel.
Start from HPB Blore Hall leaving at the vehicular exit, turning left to walk to Blore crossroads.
Turn right to head towards Ilam, bearing right in some 300 yards to pass through a public car park. At the bottom of the picnic area take the path through Blore Pastures Wood via a gate/squeezer stile down to a small gate at the bottom.
Head down a large field, in the middle of which is a lone gate (+ waymark) at the right end of a fence. After the gate, keep to the line indicated by the waymark, (now with great views over Ilam to Bunster Hill and Oxleisure Farm below on the right.)
Bearing left of a tree, soon reach the road at a signpost. Crossing the road, bear right down to a cattle grid. Cross the River Manifold and reach the impressive Ilam Cross monument at the road junction.
1. Pass the monument and up the road do not go through the entrance to Ilam Hall, but follow the road to the right, uphill for 100 yards. At the end of the chain fence, opposite the school entrance, go left over the stile beside a wooden five-barred gate onto a signposted bridleway track The track soon swings right and you’ll see evidence of ridge and furrow cultivation. At the point that the track bends sharply to the left, carry straight on to the right of a massive tree with a waymark, following the line of the ridges and furrows When you are level with a rocky outcrop (R), head for the right-hand tree of a strand of three trees and then bear right down the slope to a footbridge.
2. Do not cross the footbridge. Here the River Manifold in dry weather has only a sluggish flow, the great majority of the water having disappeared into a maze of underground caverns some 4½ miles upstream near Wetton Mill. The path is fringed by mature lime and yew trees. At the footbridge turn sharp left and through the gate follow a lovely footpath – the ‘Paradise Walk’. Further on just beyond a gate to a bridge, you can see the ‘Battlestone’(L) commemorating a conflict between Danes and Saxons.
Across the river the fine trees of Hinkley Wood, including many specimens of both large and small-leafed limes, cling to the steep hillside. A little further on is a flight of steps to a grotto with stone bench and table, allegedly used by 19 year old William Congreve as a workplace when writing one of his stage comedies. Below the rock face on the main path is the cave known as St. Bertram’s Grotto. Here and at Hamps Spring, a few yards further on, you can see the waters of the River Hamps bubble and boil up to the surface to join the River Manifold; these waters disappeared underground some 3 miles away near the village of Waterhouses.
3. Ignore paths on the left and continue ahead to reach St Bertram’s Bridge, restored in 1839. At the bridge, head for the Hall, passing a ‘well’, enclosed by stone walls, where the clear flowing water is said to have been used by St. Bertram. At the Hall, the tea room is up the steps, through a formal garden, and up steps in the former stable block. Public conveniences are also situated behind the main building. With or without refreshments, head for the church, worth a visit to see St Bertram’s tomb in the right side chapel and the Pike Watts Memorial in the left. Thereafter, follow the path back to the NT car park or on to the estate entrance, to return to the monument and the outward route to Blore Hall.
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