Here is a walk through some of the historical countryside surrounding the plague village of Eyam, a village where the Covid-19 pandemic must have jogged some deep folk memories from a time when the inhabitants of Eyam made a courageous stand against an outbreak far worse than that which beset them in more recent days.
The walk starts logically one might say, from the car park directly opposite a small, but fascinating museum devoted to the stand made by those villagers in 1665/6, when led by a far sited young rector, the Reverent William Mompesson and assisted by his friend and predecessor, Puritan minister Thomas Stanley. Simply by what was surely firm and sensible leadership, they managed to persuade the people of Eyam to hold themselves in total isolation, despite more than half their number succumbing to the dreaded virus known as Bubonic Plague.
All around Eyam village you can find relics of that terrible experience, from the natural pulpit in Cucklet Dell where Mompesson preached in the open air. Other relics are Mompesson’s Well high above the village on the edge of Eyam Moor where the far sighted vicar aided by the local landowner, the Earl of Devonshire, arranged for kind hearted suppliers to leave essential supplies, paid for by cash left in the purifying waters of the well. Another transfer point is the limestone boulder beside the path leading down to Stoney Middleton. Money dropped into holes filled with vinegar carved in its surface was rendered safe by the purifying action of the vinegar. Along with these exchange points are the number of simple graves dug into places well away from the village church; they were dug by survivors who had the onerous task of burying their nearest and dearest in places ranging from local fields and even gardens.
This is a walk that starts by tasking the ability of all those who are prepared to make the steep climb up to the Sir William Hill road, high up on the edge of Eyam Moor. Fortunately this is the one and only climb, and a climb where the effort offers a reward of some of the finest views in the Peakland. Descending from Bretton Edge, the walk passes through Foolow followed by a mile or so of field paths leading all the way back to Eyam.
6 miles (9.6km) of moderate walking , beginning with a steep climb from Eyam up a woodland path, followed by open fields leading to moorland road walking, then by a fairly level path across small fields, back into Eyam. Excellent wide-ranging views from Bretton Edge.
Ordnance Survey 1:25000 scale Explorer Map, Sheet OL24; The Peak District, White Peak Area.
Buses from Bakewell and Sheffield via Grindleford.
Eyam village. The Barrel at Bretton and the Bull’s Head in Foolow (open Sat & Sun from 12 noon)
On outskirts of Eyam village, opposite the village museum.
From the car park opposite Eyam Museum, turn left and left again to follow the village’s main street, past the Jacobean hall and then the plague cottages where the dreadful virus first struck.
Go through the church gates on your left and follow the path through the graveyard, past the church and then climb out into open fields. (Look out for the amusing memorial stone to a famous county cricketer).
Cross the road and climb steeply up the woodland path a few yards uphill from the entrance to Beech Hurst Youth Hostel.
Continue steadily uphill across three small fields above the wood, until the path reaches a side lane. (Mompesson’s Well is a little over a quarter of a mile to your right if you wish to make a diversion to this historical place).
The walk turns left and crosses the lane for a couple of yards and then turns right to climb over a stone stile in the gritstone boundary wall.
Keeping on the left of a boundary wall, climb steadily over Bole Hill which was the site of a small lead smelter for nearby Ladywash Mine.
After a quarter of a mile of walking through pasture above Ladywash Mine whose chimney can be seen in trees over to the right, climb over a ladder stile and join the Sir William Hill road.
Turn left and walk down the unsurfaced road until it joins a narrow lane at a sharp bend near the start of Bretton Edge. Spend time admiring the wide ranging views, both north and south across the Peak District moors and pastures.
Walk along the road for about a hundred yards and then turn right along a descending rough track.
The track becomes a narrow surfaced lane servicing the scattered cottages overlooking Bretton Clough. Keep with the lane as it climbs to the left past Bretton hostel in order to reach the ridge-top road once more. It is next to the Barrel Inn. (Food available, both inside the pub and out).
Turn right on joining the top road beside the Barrel and begin to walk downhill.
After about a quarter of a mile, take the left-hand fork and continue downhill along the road, past a small well and for about three quarters of a mile until it reaches Foolow. (There have never been any people who can be classed as foolish living in and around Foolow. The name actually means Foo’s Hill – Foo would have been the name of an early Saxon settler in these parts).
Turn left beside the tiny non-conformist chapel on entering the village and walk past the duck pond overlooked by the village cross on your right and a bull ring almost lost in the grass.
With the Bull’s Head pub on your left, follow the Bretton road, bearing left at the fork for about 150 yds. Look out for a stone stile in the wall on your right.
Go through the stile and bear left to cross four narrow fields, using stiles in their boundary walls.
Walk steadily downhill into Linen Dale (Linen Dale here means lime tree valley).
Climbing out of the far side of the dale, join a field path crossing numerous narrow fields, again using stiles in their ancient limestone boundary walls.
Reaching houses on the outskirts of Eyam, follow footpaths and narrow passages all the way to the open space in front of Eyam Hall. The car park is to your left, slightly uphill along Hawkhill Road). In passing, prepare to be startled by the screech of a peacock that has been known to perch on top of a high wall alongside the last section of the path leading back into Eyam village.