Manifold and Hamps Valley Walk

A 12 mile Peak District walk starting from Ilam.

Start: SK 13482 50860 – DE6 2AZ
Map: Landranger 119, Explorer OL24
Difficulty: 20
Refreshments : Ilam and Wetton

This Peak District walk starts beside the River Manifold in the Staffordshire village of Ilam. The route takes us through Musden Wood along the Hamps and Manifold valleys to the foot of Thor’s Cave. After viewing the cave the walk climbs to the village of Wetton returning via Wetton Low and Castern back to Ilam.

Ilam is a picturesque Staffordshire village on the banks of the River Manifold close to Dovedale. The distinctive nature of the village is due to the work of Jesse Watts-Russell owner of Ilam Hall. In 1839 he knocked down the old village and commissioned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott to design a new village in a Swiss Alpine style. The recently restored cross at the centre of the village was erected by Jesse Watts-Russell in memory of Mary his wife. In 1934 Sir Robert MacDougal bought Ilam Hall to save it from demolition and gifted it to the National Trust for use as a youth hostel. Today the YHA operate a 25-room hostel at the hall. The parkland at Ilam covers an area of 84 acres, there are woodland and riverside walks a visitor centre and a tearoom.

Situated in a steep sided valley Musden Wood is a haven for wild plants look out for the primroses in early spring followed by swathes of bluebells and wild garlic.

The River Hamps rises high on the Staffordshire moorlands, it is a tributary of the River Manifold. Like the Manifold much of the river on this section of the walk flows underground. The confluence of the two rivers is below Beeston Tor. Beeston Tor is a limestone cliff popular with rock climbers. A recent find (1924) in the caves here include a disc brooch with a Trewhiddle-style decoration.

The Manifold Trail follows the route of the old Leek and Manifold Light Railway, it passes right underneath Thor’s Cave. The cave and its 60ft high entrance it is best viewed a little further along the trail towards Wetton Mill.

The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust manages Castern Wood Nature Reserve, its ancient broadleaf woodland and grassland is at its finest in late summer. The limestone rich soil supports a wide range of plants including the aromatic wild thyme and yellow rockrose.

Manifold and Hamps Valley Photo Gallery

Manifold and Hamps Valley Walk Directions

This Peak District walk starts at Ilam in Staffordshire. Parking is available on the roadside in Ilam and at Ilam Hall (fee).

The walk crosses parkland to reach Ilam Hall and follows the River Manifold along Paradise Walk to a footbridge over the River Manifold below Musden Grange. A gentle climb leads to Rushley where we join the path through Musden Wood and onto Calton. The walk then takes a green lane from Calton down to the River Hamps and the Hamps Way. We follow the Hamps Way to Beeston Tor continuing onto the Manifold Trail until reaching the footbridge below Thor’s Cave.

Here the walk crosses the River Manifold and climbs to Thor’s Cave. From the cave we take the permissive path along a track into Wetton. On the south side of the village a footpath leads onto Wetton Low shortly descending to cross Larkstone Lane. The footpath continues high above the River Manifold skirting the top of Cheshire and Castern Woods before descending to Castern. The walk continues down to River Lodge beside the River Manifold. Here follow Paradise Walk back to Ilam Hall and onto Ilam.

Copyright © Peter Cox. All rights reserved