National Trust Ilam and climbing Thorpe Cloud


This weekend we stayed on a National Trust campsite in the Peak District. It's a small, 20-pitch campsite in the grounds of National Trust property Ilam Hall and it proved to be an ideal base for a day's hiking in the hills.

Tony and I were camping with friends Jules and Pete in their campervan Daisy and we arrived on site within a couple of minutes of each other at just after 6pm. We were booked in by a lovely lady whose husband then helped us to pitch on rather waterlogged ground, providing Jules and Pete with makeshift leveling blocks comprised of a few pieces of wood, and guiding us onto our plastic ones.

We got our campervans readied for the weekend with our awnings open opposite one another and then cracked open some beers while dinner, a Quorn Thai green curry, cooked on Jules and Pete's gas stove. The meal cooked by Jules and Pete was so tasty. We decided to leave the dishes until the morning and we got ourselves warm and cosy in Cleopatra to play a card game, Sticheln. Tony and I hadn't played the game for quite some time and, as it only had German instructions, we had to coax our patchy mobile signal into downloading the English rules to recap.

Jules and Pete quickly understood the confusing rules, but we all struggled to get to grips with the best strategy to employ for the track-taking game where you have to follow suit if you can but all other suits than the one played first become trumps and you definitely don't want to take tricks containing your 'misery' suit. Sticheln is about stiching each other up and we had a great laugh until. at almost midnight, we went to our respective campers to sleep.

In the morning we cooked breakfast, ours taking an age to cook on our electric hob. We set of on our walk at about 11am. The ground underfoot was soggy and rain was threatened. We dressed appropriately though and were soon at the foot of Thorpe Cloud. An unusually-shaped hill, Thorpe Cloud is a reef knoll, a pile of lime that at one time accumulated on the ancient seabed. From a distance it looks quite tame, but climbing on the side on which we approached, the path was straight up the steep slope and proved quite testing on all of us. The views from the top were well worth the physical exertion and we were pleased to see the path on the other side was a little more winding and thus the gradient not quite so steep.

At the foot of Thorpe Cloud are the Dovedale stepping stones, but we didn't cross the river there, continuing our walk all the way along the River Dove to Milldale where take-away refreshments are available from the stable door of Polly's Cottage. It's rather quirky and quaint to be able to buy cups of tea and sausage rolls from somebody's kitchen through the top half of their front door.

We returned the way we'd come, though the promised rain had by now materialised and it was hoods up for all over us as we tried to keep dry. We crossed the stepping stones at Dovedale - clearly we weren't climbing Thorpe Cloud all over again. Shortly afterwards we were in the dry of the bar of the Izaak Walton Hotel where two of us had three pints of beer, one of us two and a half and the other two G and Ts. We played Pickomino, a push-your-luck dice game to pass the time until we were ready to tackle the final mile back to camp.

It was our turn to cook and I added Quorn and peas to a balti curry sauce I'd made at home. We needed yoghurt to cool down the spices as, even though I'd followed a recipe to the letter, I'd forgotten our chilli powder was unusually strong. It was a colder evening and we retired to Cleopatra for more games, this time Creationary -  Pictionary with Lego, and Wizard - another trick-taking card game.

It rained all night and in the morning we found our vans stuck on the soft ground. Cleopatra dug a muddy, boggy trench as she struggled to vacate her pitch. The lady site warden came to the rescue with some plastic grills which allowed our wheels to get some traction. Cleopatra bid farewell to Daisy, hoping that the next get-together won't be too long into the future.

Sadly this will be our first and last visit to this National Trust campsite as it closes in October to be turned into a car park. Ilam Park has extensive grounds and why this piece needs to become a car park is difficult to understand. Still, there a a handful of other National Trust properties with adjoining campsites for us still to discover.


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