There are no records of any simpleton, either in Foolow or Silly Dale; both names come from Anglo Saxon English and have entirely different meanings than in today’s language. Foolow means multi-coloured hill, possibly a reference to nearby Eyam Edge. Silly is Old English for pretty, an apt description of this little-known dale, especially in late spring when the limestone-loving flowers are in full bloom.
The walk starts and finishes in Foolow, a village of light grey limestone cottages, arguably the most picturesque in the Peak District National Park. There is a bay-windowed manor house and the Bull’s Head offers an excellent menu to satisfy the hunger of the hardiest walker. Until 1888 when the tiny limestone church dedicated to St Hugh was opened, church-goers congregated around the ancient stone cross and its pagan bull-ring standing next to the duck pond.
Until 1932 when pipes were laid, water was a problem in this upland village. Before then villagers had to collect water from a well a little way along the Hucklow Edge road above the village. Cattle enjoyed the convenience of the attractive duck pond on the village green and in celebration of the gift of water, village wells have been dressed since 1983 on the Saturday prior to the last Sunday in August.
Starting from Foolow the walk climbs up to Hucklow Edge before turning west and descending to the neighbouring village of Great Hucklow. This village, clustered around its pub, the Queen Anne, is really a group of five inter-linked hamlets where lead miners delving 600 feet beneath the ground, worked the riches of High Rake, following a series of inter-connected veins running north-westwards. Pack Horse teams once carried the ore together with Cheshire salt across the high limestone moorland, by trackways that can still be traced for miles.
From 1938 until 1970, the playwright L du Garde Peach produced plays in the popular Playhouse theatre, based on an old barn in the village.
Beyond Hucklow, the walk descends into Silly Dale and, on climbing out of it, crosses a series of green fields back to Foolow.
3miles (5km) of easy walking along rural lanes, field paths and a flowery dale.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25000 scale Outdoor Leisure map The Peak District – White Peak Area Sheet 24.
Refreshments: Bull’s Head (Foolow), Queen Anne (great Hucklow), pubs and cafes in Eyam.
Public Transport: TM Travel 65 service from Sheffield and Calver Sough runs hourly Monday/Saturday and two hourly on Sunday.
G&J Holmes/Hulleys 66 service between Buxton and Chesterfield runs two hourly from Chesterfield Monday/Saturday and three hourly on Sunday.
Parking: roadside around Foolow village, but please do not block local access.
The Walk :
With your back to the duck pond in Foolow, take the road past the church and head towards Hucklow Edge. Follow this road for just under a mile.
The old village well at the side of the road to your left is protected by a wall with a narrow stile to keep animals away from the one-time sole drinking water supply for Foolow, once a scarcity on these dry limestone uplands. Regrettably the water is now unfit for human consumption.
Just before the road begins to climb steeply and bears right towards Hucklow Edge, turn left and cross a stone stile in order to follow a wall-side path.
Gliders from the Gliding Club behind the edge can usually be seen soaring gracefully on the up-sweeping currents of air.
Tree-lined hollows and rough ground uphill towards the edge indicate the position of abandoned lead-mining activity.
Joining a narrow lane turn left and follow it until it reaches a side road. Turn left along the road, following it below a belt of trees.
At the far end of the woods, turn left over a stile and follow waymarking arrows and splashes of paint down into the Grindlow section of Great Hucklow.
Bear left along the village road and then fork right towards the main road.
Cross the road diagonally left and right, then go to the left of a single bungalow.
Follow the narrow, walled track, down into Silly Dale.
Surface water has not flowed down Silly Dale for at least 10,000 years, when catastrophic floods marked the end of the last Ice Age. Flowers growing along the dale include white meadow saxifrage, purple cranesbill and spotted orchids.
Turn left at the T-junction marking the dale end and cross over to the opposite side of the dale. Go to the left over a stile, and bear right and then half left, uphill.
Following stiles cross nine increasingly narrow fields as you near the village, all the way back into Foolow, entering the village by going past the Manor House in order to reach the duck pond.
Foolow is built around a wide village green with the highly photogenic duck pond as its centre point. A fourteenth-century cross and a bull-ring-stone are on the far side of the pond. Better still is the Bull’s Head pub a few yards further along the Eyam road to your right