Sunday, 27 July 2014

Eyam

We are currently sitting in a tent in the centre of a camp site somewhere in the Peak District. It's all getting rather crafty. All the kids are drawing pictures by lamp light and Nathan and Sam are knitting.

Under normal circumstances we'd be outside, no doubt sitting around a camp fire. It's a lovely summer evening, but the midges are EVERYWHERE! I have never seen midges like this before. The air is thick with the things. Poor little Jago is covered in bites. Thankfully we've opted not to sleep with everyone else on this campsite. When it all gets too much, Sam, Matt, Nathan and I will drive away!

We've been in Derbyshire pretty much all day today, although the morning started in a Travelodge in Loughborough. I've never been to this particular town before, nor shall I again as it's a nasty dump of a place which made me briefly ashamed to be a Midlander!

We were on the road and out of there really very early and tried to have breakfast in Chesterfield, which was another mistake. Chesterfield is another town which should only ever be passed through. You can see its weirdly crooked church spire from the train, and that, I suspect, is all that's worth seeing! The only high point of that particular part of the day was discovering a shop which sold kitchen tiles called Crock-a-tile. You've gotta respect a pun like that!

We ended up in a little village just inside the Peak District where I had a glorious giant Yorkshire pudding with a vegetarian sausage inside.

We spent much of the day in Eyam, which has gone down in history as the village which effectively, (and selflessly) quarantined itself during the Great Plague of 1665/6. The disease ravaged the village, and killed more than three quarters of its residents. Deliveries for the village were left at two boundary markers. A stone, which still exists, had a series of holes bored into it, which were filled with vinegar to disinfect the money the villagers left to pay for the goods which were deposited there.

There are some astonishingly sad stories of bravery and tragedy. Apparently one of the first symptoms of plague was a change in the perception of smell. The local vicar's wife, after refusing to flee the village to safety, remarked one night how sweet the air smelt. Her husband knew instantly that she was coming down with the plague and within three days she was dead.

Many of the houses in the village are marked with plaques listing those who died in that particular dwelling. Lists of entire families. Hopelessly sad and yet the town is so beautiful.

We walked to the boundary stone and looked at the picture-perfect view down the valley towards the outside world, and wondered for some time how those poor people must have felt. Surely there would have been a temptation to run away from the village, because by staying they would almost certainly be signing their own death warrants. And yet none of them left...

We are staying in a guest house above a pub in the village of Hayfield, which, we discover, is where the BBC costume drama The Village is filmed. Many of the shops and caf├ęs have decided to keep the oldy-worldy signs which were made to give the TV show early 20th Century authenticity, and the place is absolutely stunning, nestling in a valley surrounded by hills covered in dry stone walls which seem to glow in the sunlight, like pieces of a giant quilt.

The Peak District is truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited!

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