The small upland Derbyshire village of Foolow, with its light grey stone houses is one of the most picturesque in the whole of the Peak National Park. Pretty limestone dwellings cluster round the neatly sculptured village green, the centrepiece of which is the duck pond. Visitors often stop to picnic and watch the ducks swimming on the pond and admire the idyllic scene.
It was not like this in the days when Foolow was predominantly a farming community. At that time the green was often muddy and covered with hoof marks made by cattle. The cows were brought in for milking from the fields round the village and drank from the mere before the ducks took it over! There is even an official duck crossing warning sign as you come round the corner opposite the Bullís Head.
The green is surrounded by some fine 17th and 18th century cottages. Also prominent are the bay windowed Manor House and its handsome out buildings, and the Old Hall, split into two residences. The village cross now stands on a plinth in the centre of the green and bears the date 1868, when it was moved from where the chapel gates are positioned. In front of the cross is a bull-ring that once stood by the roadside. Behind the pond there is an ancient well enclosed on three sides by a stone wall.
On the limestone uplands, water used to be a rare commodity before piped water arrived. Foolow, having several natural wells, was attractive to settlers. Travellers in medieval times, between the established settlements of Eyam, Stoney Middleton and Tideswell, would no doubt also use the wells to quench the thirst of the animals they were driving.
The discovery of rich veins of lead along Eyam and Hucklow Edges to the north of the village, and the Watergrove Mine to the south, led to the opening up of lead mines. In the early 18th century, the population of Foolow was considerably greater than it is today. With the decline of lead mining the villagers returned to farming, but there are no longer any working farms in the centre Foolow. The Bullís Head still survives; it is last of five pubs that once helped to quench the thirst of hard drinking lead miners.
The delightful little Anglican Church of St. Hugh, across the road from the pond, was originally a smithy. The foundation stone for the church was laid in August 1888, the official opening taking place just before Christmas the same year; since then several extensions and improvements have taken place. Local people have made many donations to the church including the brightly coloured tapestry kneelers. They are the work of members of the congregation and are mostly dedicated to the memory of loved ones. Labels underneath the kneelers indicate who they have been donated by, who they are in memory of and who undertook the work.
Almost side by side with the Anglican Church, but a little further back from the road, stands the Wesleyan Reform Church of 1836. It has a particularly attractive Truscan porch entrance and pointed lancet windows.
Piped water only arrived in the village in 1932. Prior to that villagers had to fetch and carry buckets of water. The sewage system came later in the 20th century and soon afterwards newcomers started to move into the village, attracted by the superb location and improved amenities. Now no longer the centre of a farming community, development in the village is tightly controlled by The Peak Park Planning Laws.
Farms still survive outside the village, and on the south western side at Brosterfield Farm there is a camping and caravan site for visitors. It is for the walking and beautiful scenery that most people come to Foolow, to explore the high escarpment behind the village and the many footpaths in the area. For those who want something different they can always visit the Derbyshire and Lancashire Gliding Club, which is situated nearby.
The old custom of well dressing was revived in the village in 1983. Two wells are erected on the village green on the Saturday prior to the last Sunday in August and blessed the same day.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Eyam Hall (Tel. 01433 631976) is a fascinating 17th century manor house that has been the home of the Wright family for over 300 years. Please telephone for opening details or visit website.
Eyam Hall Craft Centre (Tel. 01433 631976) a working craft centre situated in the old farm buildings to the hall. Restaurant and gift shop. Open every day in the summer season except Mondays.
Eyam Museum (Tel. 01433 631371) tells the dramatic story of the bubonic plague outbreak that so decimated the inhabitants of the village in 1665/6. Local geology, archaeology and social and industrial development are all covered in this excellent little museum. Open 28 March to the 5 November from Tuesday to Sunday, plus Bank Holidays Mondays Ė 10-4.30pm (last entry 4pm)
Bullís Head (Tel. 01433 630873) a delightful, traditional country pub with stone flagged floors and an oak panelled dining room. Open Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays apart from Bank Holidays) lunchtime and evenings. Full and varied menu served lunchtime and evenings, Tuesday to Sunday. There is seating outside. Accommodation is also available.
Eyam Tea Rooms (Tel. 01433 631274) popular with visitors for many years and following a short period of closure has now re-opened. It is deceptively spacious inside and there is further seating outside. Take away meals can be provided. Alcohol served on the premises. Accommodation is available. Open every day throughout the year 10.30-5pm (earlier closing during winter months).
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features on towns and villages with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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An easy walk mostly on level ground with good open views on both sides. The walk includes a visit to Eyam, tragically made famous because of the terrible hardships endured by its people during the plague.
Soon after departing from Foolow, a shallow dip is encountered; this is tiny Linen Dale. After leaving it behind, several more stiles are passed through. The views to the left are of Eyam Edge.
Any tourist visiting the beautiful village of Eyam for the first time, not knowing of its tragic history, rapidly becomes aware by reading the wall plaques on the buildings. The inhabitants of this village once endured an epic struggle. In a period of only just over 12 months, from September 1665, 260 people died from the plague out of a population of about 800.