White to Dark Day 2 (Part 2) – Eyam to Hathersage

Published 22 September 2019

A cairn on Eyam Moor
A cairn on Eyam Moor with Hathersage in the background

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. And after a morning reaching Eyam, I was finally about to cross that divide.

It was here that the White to Dark definitely crossed the White/Dark border. No doubts about that one at all. One minute I was on a grass topped hillside, with sheep everywhere. Then I crossed over a stile into moorland covered in so much heather that it looked like I had entered a completely different world.

This was a dramatic. This was wild. This was – for my money, anyway – what the Peak District was all about.

Eyam Moor was the highest spot I’d walk on all day. And up here the cold wind chilled the bones as strong gusts blew over the hillside. I’d been looking for a sheltered spot to sit and eat my lunch. Lunch I should really have eaten in that cosy spot in Eyam, but hadn’t. And now there was to hide from the wind.

So I plodded on. And as I did, my destination came into view. There it was. Hathersage. One of the larger villages of the Dark Peak. It’s big. It has a branch of Go Outdoors and everything.

Behind it stood a destination for another day. The mighty Stanedge Rocks, and the moors all around it. Moors that the White to Dark would send me over on my third day of walking.

Hathersage, and Stanage Rocks behind it
Standage Rocks is where the third day of the White to Dark goes.

As it happened, I didn’t spend that much time on Eyam Moor. After a mile or so, the path started heading downhill to some woods to a stream. There was a scene that looked tranquil and idyllic, if a little muddy. Then the White to Dark made its way towards Highlow Hall, an Elizabethan era manor house, reputedly haunted one Elizabeth Archer.

The story goes like this. Elizabeth had been courting owner of the hall, Nicholas Eyre. Eyre, being that kind of person, was also couring Elizabeth’s sister, Gertrude at the same time. Somehow he managed to do this without either knowing. For a while anyway. And then one day Elizabeth found her beau and her sister together.

This can’t have been a particularly pleasant discovery for Elizabeth. And what may have happened next, could have been even worse.

Elizabeth mysteriously left the area without a trace.

It’s true that she could have moved away to make a new life for herself, away from those that knew what had happened. But many locals believed Eyre had murdered her, and buried the body in the hall’s grounds.

Either way, if anyone knew what happened to her, or where she went, they weren’t saying. And she was not seen again locally. At least, not for a while.

Eyre and Gertrude married. And one or two years after their wedding, Eyre reportedly saw the ghost Elizabeth in Highlow Hall. Legend has it that she’s been around ever since.

Offerton Hall, in the shadow of Win Hill
Offerton Hall, in the shadow of Win Hill

From Highlow Hall, the White to Dark could have taken a quick and direct route to Hathersage. Instead it took a meandering detour along a track to Offerton Hall, and then down a hill to the River Derwent.

True, this path would take the walker to an enchanting set of stepping stones. But it also required people to walk a mile down the busy A6187 not long after.

It was as if they were trying to taunt me. Look, we won’t go to Silly Dale, but to make up for it, we will walk along tarmac for a couple of miles. Yes. the stepping stones were nice. But were they that good? I was less than convinced. Still, at least the road had a pavement. Nothing worse that walking down a busy A-road that has only a narrow and bumpy grass verge. Well okay there is. Having no verge at all, and having to walk in the road as traffic zooms inches away from you at 50mph. Be grateful for small mercies, I thought.

Stepping stones across the River Derwent, near Hathersage
Not the easiest stepping stones to cross, but they did lead to a busy A-road! Rejoice!

Still, Hathersage wasn’t that far away. Walking into the village proper, I closed off another chapter of the White to Dark, before catching the train home.

Well, I say train. It was a rail replacement bus service, but hey, that’s a whole other story entirely.

Next time: The final stretch starts with some amazing rocks, and a huge amount of wind.

Entering Hathersage
The end of day two on the White to Dark

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