A Walk from Eyam

This walk, of just over 7 miles, begins in the village of Eyam. Whichever way you have approached, look for the road taking you past the museum – this is where you need to be heading. It is impossible to escape the history here and ironically, the plague which almost wiped out the village, is now the thing which the place thrives upon – as visitors flock here to research and ponder on the tragedy which was played out 400 years ago.

On the first corner, past the museum, a track leads straight ahead – take this and ascend fairly steeply up the hillside to reach another quiet road near Highcliffe. In the spring, the hedgerows will be bursting with hedge garlic, herb robert and red campion, but whatever the season, look up and out over the trees to view the magnificent panorama beyond Eyam.  As you bear left along the road, you will find yourself overlooking the rolling hills towards Great Hucklow in the west and the distant high moorland behind it, eastwards to the greener and gentler lands on the edge of the peaks above Bakewell and Baslow, and ahead towards the hills that hide the dales due south, on the far horizon.

The road turns right then left, and just here is your stony track, straight ahead, (not right onto Sir William Hill Road). It is only short and before long you will turn right onto a lovely, level, grassy track. Initially it takes you alongside a wood of tall trees then passes Jubilee plantation where purple rhododendrons – interspersed with white clusters of may blossom – look fantastic in May. Continue along here, following the obvious contours of the hill – away from the enticing Eyam moor – to slowly descend where you overlook the deep and lush Bretton Clough; dense, vibrant tree-tops completely cover the steep sides, hiding a secret world below.  Ahead is the singular lump of Abney Low – a farm and wall-patterned green fields break up the otherwise featureless dome; beyond, the White Peak continues likewise until it hits the peat of the Dark Peak, on the wilder expanses of Kinder and the Derwent Moors.

You slowly descend as you follow the curve of the hill which snakes downwards towards Stoke Ford; here you will find paths shooting off in all directions, but stay this side of Highlow Brook and take the slightly upper path on the right. This is a lovely route, taking you through woods and then open land, where you can see the brook rippling below; its not a particularly busy path, so pause for a while to hear the birdsong above the babbling stream.  In spring the woodland canopy you have just passed through hides redstarts,  chaffinches, chiff-chaffs, robins, song thrushes and black caps, whilst crows caw overhead.

The path levels off then drops down again to reach a very pretty cross-roads, where you need to step over stones in Highlow Brook, to pass into Brook Wood  – here the path gently ascends towards Tor Farm – look north to a gap in the far hills; Bamford Edge is on the right and Win Hill on the left.

When you reach a lane at Hazelford, turn right and begin to climb – up as far as Lean Farm where, just beyond, you take a path on the right onto Eyam Moor, a scrubby moorland of low bilberries and scant heather, with stunning views northward to Bamford and Stanage Edges, and to Padley Gorge plus Froggatt and Baslow Edges to the east.

The moorland ends when you reach Sir William Hill Road, and you turn right along it; after half a mile take a path on your left, to head down through fields sheltered by the hillside; another half mile of descent takes you over a road and into woodland; the path is still going down, but now rather steeply wending through trees.  You pass over another road to fields nearer to Eyam and here you might find the odd alpaca or two grazing in the pasture to the side.

Eventually you will end up in the churchyard, where it is worth having a look at the 8C AD Celtic Cross – a remarkable piece of 1,000 year-old stonework.  Inside the church is a wonderful Saxon font , fascinating frescos and a more modern “plague window” – yet another reminder of the village’s dark history.

If you are in need of refreshment and light relief from the gloomy past, the Miner’s Arms stands at the eastern end of the village on Water Lane – it has ghosts of its own – which, for a change, have nothing to do with the plague! Food is served here lunchtimes and evenings. Slightly further afield, in Bretton, The Barrel Inn is also a welcoming hostelry, dating back to the 16th Century.  It serves real ales and good food, and has the most amazing views from its terrace – over five counties if the weather is clear.  Look out for the hang-gliders launching off Barrel Edge!

Simon Corble