Sunday, June 8 – Eyam and Chatsworth

We were up at 6.20 this morning, for we intended seeing something of Derbyshire.  During breakfast, rain settled in, and some delay was caused by minor adjustments, and I was fitting a front brake.  At 8.45 however, we made a start with capes on, and soon traversed the maze of streets to the Stockport road.  We settled down to it, for we had no hope of the weather clearing, but that mattered little.  I had no mudflap on, and my feet were soon a sorry looking mess.  From Stockport we had a monstrous four miles to Hazel Grove, where we started climbing along the Buxton road, through High Lane and Disley.  Level now, we made a fine pace through Furness Vale to Whaley Bridge, where we turned for Chapel-en-le-Frith.  After an easy, fast run past Coombs reservoirs, we reached Chapel, and started the steady climb through Barmoor clough, until we reached the windswept moorland village of Sparrowpit, 1217 ft high.  How romantic are the place names in this locality!  A fine run downhill on the rain-soaked highway, brought us to Peak Forest, then a steep climb uphill to 1225 ft brought us to the High Peak Temperance Hotel, where we had a refresher in the shape of oranges.  Now we were dropping, 1180 – 1132 – 1013 – the feet dropped, the miles of moorland desolation rolled behind, the rain came down heavier, now the ‘Cathedral of the Peak’ was in sight – Tideswell church.  We crossed Lane Head, and swooped down to Wardlow, noticing a mass of isolated limestone at the head of Littonfield Dale.  It is shaped like a round pedestal, and is known as ‘Peter’s stone’.  Came a slight climb to Bronterfield, and again we started dropping, entering first a well wooded valley.  A moment later, the limestone crags were forming a wall on each side, and we were in Middleton Dale.

It is impossible to adequately describe those rough, gleaming white cliffs, the beautiful rain cleansed foliage hiding the lower masses, one needs to see to understand the incomparable Derbyshire Dales.  We rode slowly, fully occupied with the beauties around us, and the chalky, sticky road transferred its surface to our persons, and made our machines a thick white, dauby mass.  The Eyam road came into view, and leaving Middleton Dale, we entered the lesser but finer, Eyam Dale.  It is narrower, more densely wooded, and the crags are split and broken in a thousand places, giving the whole a jumbled mix up of wood and rock, and producing some wonderful colour effects.  Here, for the first time, our capes came off, after nearly forty miles of drenching rain.  The road was steep, but we gladly walked the half mile of wonderland to the quaint village of Eyam, famous in folk-lore and history, yet unspoiled by popularity.  We had lunch here, in one of the clean, old-fashioned cottages.  We had only time for one of the ‘Lions’ – one could spend a week here, so we traversed the Grindleford road for a hundred yards to a gate.  Leaving the machines by a wall, we followed a footpath for a quarter mile, until we reached our objective, the ‘Riley Graves’.  They stand in a ring protected by a low wall, with an entrance facing the path.  There are seven gravestones covering the remains of eleven people, one, a kind of vault, covers one, and the other six, just a plain date and name stone.  This is a sad echo of the great plague of London of 1665-6.  The plague was brought to Eyam in a bundle of theatrical clothing, which immediately affected all concerned.  So severely did the village suffer, that of 350 inhabitants, 259 perished.  These graves belonged to the Hancocke family, seven of the eight members dying of the distemper, all within the week Aug 3 to Aug 10, 1666.  A cordon was placed round the parish, and no one whatever was allowed to enter or leave.  Any transactions from the village were allowed in money only, the coins being placed in troughs of ever running water.  This method appears to have been successful, for the pestilence was kept confined to Eyam.  The troughs may be seen by the roadside today.  The churchyard is full of the graves of victims.  Much could be said about the plague village, but there is not room here for anything but the merest facts.

We retraced our steps to Eyam, and back through Eyam Dale into Middleton Dale again.  The Dale soon ended in Stony Middleton, where huge masses of overhanging limestone hung precariously above the houses.  Then Calver was reached, and crossing the Derwent, we made our way by the valley to Baslow, where we recrossed the river.  The views and scenery were splendid, and the time passed only too quickly.  Entering Chatsworth park, we passed the gates of the richly endowed and beautiful village of Edensor, and soon came in sight of Chatsworth House, a wonderful example of modern architecture, but it was too far distant to get a close look.  We stopped a moment, however, for it is in a very pretty setting, and then carried on through the pastoral park to Rowsley, where we joined the Bakewell road.  A pretty stiff headwind kept us busy as we rode by the Wye, past that famous, ancient pile, Haddon Hall, to Bakewell.  Pausing a moment to make sure of the route, we carried on again to Ashford, and past the village we found ourselves once more amongst the Dales.

The wind became formidable, and the sun, which had contrived to appear since lunch, had brought out a large number of cars and chara’s.  Passing the entrance to Monsal Dale, we came into Taddington Dale, a wonderful confusion of wood and rock and flowers that no artist could hope to equal, however exaggerating he might be.  The wind and gradient found us out of the saddle, but it was quite enjoyable walking.  After about two and a half miles on ‘shanks’ we entered Taddington, the reputed highest Derbyshire village, 1,150 feet.  A long, level, mile, full against the wind, but disclosing fine views, was now covered, to Topley Pike, where we stopped a moment to view the fine limestone gorges, Chee Dale and Great Rooks Dale, which lay below us.  A swoop down into pretty Wye Dale, then a hard pull through despoiled Ashwood Dale brought us to Buxton.  We were getting hungry, so we pushed on through Burbage and along towards Macclesfield.  We were now on the five and a half mile climb, and a rough five and a half miles it proved to be.  We walked about four, and whilst about halfway up, a storm met us.  Before we could get our capes out, it had soaked us, and when we did manage, it ceased.  The only thing that we cared about was that it washed half of the white Middleton Dale off our bikes, and we had a kind of affection for it.  We looked travel stained!  At last, after a gigantic struggle against the wind, we reached the Cat and Fiddle, 1,690 feet high, and England’s second highest Inn.

The subsequent almost seven mile run down to Macclesfield was much of an adventure for we had several narrow shaves from motors.  One was deliberately intended, and after nearly sending us through a low wall, he turned and laughed at us.  We saw him stopped by the roadside a little later, (a motorcycle and sidecar) and gave him a piece of our minds.  When we took his number (a Bolton one, too!) he grew alarmed, and tried to put us off, but we were ‘having nothing’, the whole thing was so obvious.  Such incidents as that are only too common, and have done much towards fostering that ill feeling between cyclists and motorists. Tom and I have decided opinions of motorists as a whole.  From Macclesfield came a hungry rush across to Alderley, where Mrs Powell laid us the best in the house – as usual – and we did it full justice.  The Bolton secretary was just leaving as we arrived.  At 8pm we started back along the main road via Handforth.  Tom punctured at Cheadle, but we soon put it right, and at Didsbury, we parted.  I got home at 10.15.   This has been another glorious run – one that, I think, will take some beating.             112 miles