I arrived at my Eyam, the destination of the Peak Pilgrimage during an August afternoon. The last day had involved more hills than I expected and after a quick visit to the church I checked into the superb Eyam Youth Hostel. An hour’s rest on my bunk bed, however re-invigorated me and I walked back down to take a further look at the village.
Eyam is known as the “plague village”. During an outbreak of the plague during 1665 and 1666 the local vicar persuaded the villagers to stay put in isolation in the village to confine the outbreak there rather than spreading it further around the area. During this act of sacrifice 276 people died – their names are listed on a scroll in the local Church.
One of the last to die was the Vicar’s wife, Catherine Mompesson. At the time of her death, the quarantine had been lifted and she is the only villager actually buried in the Churchyard. All other bodies having been buried in fields and gardens around the area.
The families were left to bury their own dead. Church services were also relocated to the natural ampitheatre of Cucklett Delph; the idea being to further isolate people and to avoid the spread of the disease.
Particularly moving were plaques on three of the houses listing the victims from those dwelllings.
I also took a short walk out of the village and up (another!) hill to Mompessons’ Well. This is named after the Vicar of Eyam at the time of the plague. Mompesson’s well was used, along with the boundary stone I passed on my way into the village, for the locals of Eyam to exchange money for food with other villages. The well was also used to show where the village boundaries were. Vinegar was used to disinfect the coins, which would be left by the villagers of Eyam, in exchange for food and medicine.
Eyam is a pretty village, full of history and the story of the villagers and their sacrifice really very moving.
It was a suitable destination for my own short pilgrimage. Time I had to reflect on my own life and decisions made; time to re-connect with Nature and hopefully improve my fitness a little. For me, our lives are always a journey, moving onwards, as on a pilgrimage – lessons are hopefully learned as we grow and develop. I find that I am happiest in Nature, and with those people who are also growing and on a similar path to myself. It is great nowadays to have people I trust to bounce things off and to protect myself so that I remain spiritually and mentally healthy.
The sundial reminded me of the passing of time – and the preciousness of each moment.
As always, the lovely T arrived in the red Hyundai to transport me back home to spend some of that precious time with him and my beautiful grandson, son and daughter-in-law.
(See – I found one!!)