White to Dark Day 2 (Part 1) – Litton to Eyam

Published 15 September 2019

Foolow village church and duckpond
Foolow’s vilage church and duckpond.

Created to celebrate 25 years of Country Walking Magazine, the White to Dark is a 27 mile walking trail through the Peak District. After a short first day from Bakewell, day 2 sets off from the village of Litton, and is a perfect day for a comparing the differences between the Dark and White Peaks. Although as I found out, it doesn’t get very Silly.

The bus pulled up at Litton’s small stone bus shelter. Exactly half the passengers got off, leaving only two people on board. Although the bus driver who had so intently stared at my ticket twenty minutes earlier, wouldn’t be lonely. Waiting for him at the bus stop had been a party of three.

“Your 65” it declared on its side. I was honoured to have some ownership of this bus route. One that connected Buxton with a host of villages and hamlets, and the bright lights of Sheffield.

As the bus pulled off, I wriggled my rucksack onto my shoulders, stared at my map, and set forth. Off once more on the White to Dark. Day two of it. A day that would take me from this small village to the excitement of a slightly bigger village. That of Hathersage. And it would also see me cross the border. I’d bid farewell to the White Peak with its limestone walls and sheep filled fields. And I’d say hello to the dramatic, wild, heather-topped moorland of the Dark Peak.

And what an adventure that would be.

An uprooted tree and Peter's Stone at Cressbrook Dale
An uprooted tree and Peter’s Stone at Cressbrook Dale

My first task was to return to Cressbrook Dale; the Dale that had been the grand finale of day one. And grand it had been. Well, until the heavens opened.

But rather than head back to the valley floor, the route followed a road ran along the top of of the west side of the dale. Road walking yes, but there was a good view. For from the side of the road you could get a great view of Peter’s Stone. This local landmark is a curious, but attractive, lump of limestone. It gets its name from its supposed resemblance to St Peter’s Basillica. Well, if you say so. I also goes by the name of Gibbet Rock. This is because the site was once where the bodies of executed criminals were displayed. Because that would deter others from a life of crime or something. At least it would until the abolition of gibbeting in 1834.

A hop, skip and a jump took me to the hamlet of Wardlow Mires. Hamlet seemed a little strong. It was a few farms, a couple of houses, a roadside diner, and a tiny pub called the Three Stags’ Head. The pub’s sign featured three very real looking skulls on its sign. Animal skulls that is. Stags, I would guess.

The Three Stags' Heads at Wardlow Mires
Based on the size of the building, the Three Stags’s Heads at Wardlow Mires must be a very small pub. And one I’d quite like to visit.

It looked like an interesting pub. Given the size of the building, it can have been little more than a couple of small rooms. Alas it was far too early to investigate. So instead I walked through a farm, then along a track to the edge of Silly Dale.

Now, if I was creating a walk that would be going near to somewhere called Silly Dale, I would make sure my route went right through it. It’s a no brainer. Who wouldn’t? Come on! Everyone would want to walk through Silly Dale!

Everyone except, it seems, for the people who put together the White to Dark. For the route they devised, bypassed it completely. Walked right on by. Never gave it another look.

What is wrong with these people? Silly Dale had a path the White to Dark could have gone down. Okay, so it would have added at least a mile onto the length of the trail, but people would have understood. Everyone needs to go to Silly Dale!

Looking into Silly Dale
For some reason the White to Dark neglects to go into Silly Dale.

But no. This simple pleasure was not to be mine. Yes, I could have made my own detour. But what would I have missed if I did? It could be something amazing! So I looked at Silly Dale with woe, and carried on following the White to Dark proper. I ignored the entrance to the Dale of Daftness, just as those at Country Walking magazine had done. Still, I got to see something amazing instead!

Well, okay. I didn’t. In fact it was rather dull. A few fields and the odd wall as I walked to village of Foolow. Instead of getting to see what made Silly Dale so, well, silly, I got to sit on a bench next to a duckpond. Four geese stared at me as I did. And I knew they couldn’t work out why I hadn’t gone to Silly Dale.

Foolow was an adorable village. And also on the 65 bus route I noted when the bus sped past me, heading back to Buxton. There was also a tiny church. And next door to it, a former Methodist chapel. A little down the road sat a pub that looked to be bigger than both of them combined.

Foolow village church and duckpond
Foolow’s vilage church and duckpond.

After a quick rest on the bench, I set forth through more fields, past some more drystone walls. But the White to Dark would soon be changing. I could see it in the nearby hills. Heather moorland. And when you can see heather moorland, you know you’re on the edge of the White Peak and will soon be crossing the border.

I once tried to find a definitive map of what was classed as the Dark Peak, and what was the White. I failed to find anything other than an outline map. It showed the Dark Peak as an inverted U shape that sat on top of the White Peak like some kind of beanie hat. There were no town or village names. No context of where the borders were. So I left the endeavour non-the-wiser.

But if there is anywhere that is likely to be a Dark/White Border Village, it’s Eyam. There’s limestone drystone walls to the south, and wild looking hills to the north. And a village full of stone buildings in-between.

Eyam village green, with a set of stocks in the foreground
Get your rotten tomatoes at the ready in Eyam

There was a patch of grass on the road opposite the entrance to Eyam Hall manor house. Round the edge were some benches, and I perched on one. The hall’s grounds included several craft shops, and I sat and watched people walked buy, loaded down by their purchases. Temptation for many had come from the village brewery, based on the number of people carrying cardboard boxes with bottles inside.

Nearby were the old village stocks, now preserved as a reminder that punishments for crime change with time. And to my right, the only old building in Eyam made out of brick. This knowledge imparted to me by an information sign right in front of it. It was one of several such signs dotted around the village. If something was likely to be of interest, it had a panel next to it to tell you all about it.

The manor house and village museum were still closed for the winter season. The beer bottles looked heavy and impracticable to carry home. So with little else to detain me, I headed out of the village via a steep dirt track that would lead me to Eyam Moor.

Next time: the Dark Peak is entered, there’s tales of ghosts, and stepping stones are crossed.

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