Sunday we were out in search of that ever elusive pathway to the top of Fin Cop, but first there was a shot we had seen from the road and a possible Saxon Cross to visit. One out of three wasn’t a brilliant start. We got the shot but, failing to find the church where the cross was supposed to be we ended up wandering off down a road too narrow to turn round and go back the way we came.
As so often happens, this turned out to be a good thing, as the signpost said Wormhill. Now this, of course, in a land where dragons and serpents feature so largely in folklore and myth, had to be worth a visit. There are records of wolf hunting here in medieval times and the last wolf killed in England is said to have been at Wormhill Hall some six hundred years ago. Today that is a sad thought, but how can we judge the very different lives our ancestors led back then?
The road to the village winds high above Miller’s Dale, with spectacular views over the serpentine valley as it climbs to the summit. The church, sadly was closed, but we wandered around the exterior, noting the cross shaft and its base and a couple of unusual tombs. The design of the tower is also very different from others we have seen and it may well need a return visit one of these days to try and see the interior. The well and village stocks still stand on the green, but this time we had other fish to fry… and it had begun to rain quite heavily.
We headed back for a second attempt at finding that footpath and in search of sustenance. Again we had a partial success at least… tea and scones with jam and clotted cream at the little café on Monsal Head and the beginnings of a footpath. I had seen a possible path the day before but we could see no way down to it other than over the top of a rickety field gate. Not for the first time I threw dignity to the winds and we hoiked ourselves over the gate, my companion disentangling me from the remnants of old barbed wire, and we were finally on to the path.
August or not, the weather felt more like late autumn and was threatening rain. At a corner of the hill the walkers signpost pointed back to Monsal Head and onwards to Ashford… no arrow for Fin Cop, though we could see it clearly enough from there across the walled fields. We also noted a half hidden path protected, quite efficiently, by brambles and a sign that said ‘access land’. After a hundred yards or so we gave up before our clothes and skins were sacrificed to the brambles. Clearly we were going to have to do some far more precise research for this one. Later investigations point to ‘no public access’, though I’m not so sure about that and with luck we can at least find out who to approach for permission.
We headed back, for once defeated. Temporarily at least. The café, by this time, was closed and it was raining again, so we decided to head for home… until, on impulse, I turned towards Eyam, the village that had quarantined itself during the Plague, and the moors above. We stopped at Mompesson’s Well where supplies were once left for the isolated villagers, the coins left in payment sterilised in vinegar to prevent the spread of the disease.
It is high above the village still in a lonely field by the roadside. We have visited the village on several occasions now, and seen the memorials and graves, read the history and the terrible stories of loss, yet for me this place brought home the isolation and fear they must have felt more than any other. The water in the little well is crystal clear and still holds coins, offerings or wishes, and I can imagine that the villagers at that time must have felt a need for both. It is a place of quiet and calm today, but the water holds memory somehow. We paid our respects and moved on.