It's only eight in the morning but suitably warm in just shorts and short sleeves, sitting on the summer bike, as I descend through the zig-zags towards Robin Hood's Stride suggests that summer may have finally arrived on the day of the summer solstice. There is no hint of the annoying Achilles' issue which recently necessitated a week off as I pedal past the half mile of stationary traffic waiting to negotiate the roundabout in Bakewell. A queue which includes all of the vehicles which passed me after I joined the main road two miles further back. On I smugly spin, and it's not until I reach the one-time Station Inn in Hassop that the blue Toyota pick-up with the sheep in the back manages to pass me for the second time.
Up and down, up and down, up and then finally, wheeeeeeeee, down to the traffic lights at Calver where I have to take a brief enforced rest. No sign of the Toyota and sheep. Green, and it's off again. Up through Stoney Middleton, increasing the distance between myself and the following tanker carrying powdered limestone, as I pass the lost Royal Oak and former Grouse Inn. I'm going well this morning, I thought. Turn right into Eyam Dale and my progress slows, which is hardly surprising, for the road starts to point upwards a fair degree as it enters the plague village.
Eyam, despite only being a dozen miles from home, doesn't get that many visits from me. Being bit of a tourist hot-spot, on account of its link with the outbreak of plague in 1665, means that its cafés and tea rooms are somewhat pricier than similar establishments in other villages. Even when the ten per cent discount given to Lycra-clad arrivals by the one housed in the former Bold Rodney pub – watch this space! – is taken into account, greater value for money can be obtained elsewhere. Being half Scots – that's the half from the waist down, the half where my pockets are to be found – I favour getting my refreshments elsewhere.
Anyway, the relative value of the village's refreshment establishments is somewhat of moot point as I hadn't come for oatcakes and Americanos, but to find and photograph a bygone boozer – the Town Head Inn. Besides, it still wasn't yet a quarter to nine on a Tuesday morning and nowhere was open.
As I approached the village church I spotted yet another bygone boozer and thought that I may as well snap that one whilst I was here. Pictures duly taken I set off again. Was that a pain in my heel? It'll be OK.
On past the plague cottages...
...and along Main Street heading towards Foolow and I found my quarry – the former Town Head Inn.
I've had this photograph in my collection for quite a while and as it's so local I'd always been meaning to track it down, but never had. Until now.
It really hasn't altered very much at all.
The sign on its end wall states that it was built in the 1660s. Was that before or after the plague outbreak? I've no idea.
Even if it does date to the 1660s, the first reference to the place by name that I've come across is in William Wood's 1859 publication The History and Antiquities of Eyam...
That's not to say that the place wasn't serving before then. George, amongst the cotton spinners and besom makers, is recorded as a beer seller in the village in 1831, quite possibly operating from the same building.
Before then? Who knows? If the origins of the pub are lost in the mists of time then what about its end? It was still in operation in 1894 when it was leased to John Smith's of Tadcaster for the sum of £25 per annum, so may very well have still been a John Smith's house when Thomas Bowers was there in 1901.
He was still there a decade later...
...but now the trail runs cold. I can find nothing more about the Town Head Inn after this date.
Pub located, and photograph obtained, it was time to continue on my way. I try to set off up the hill towards Foolow. Not a chance! Every pedal stroke produced an eye-wateringly sharp stab of pain. I tried lowering the saddle a shade to see if that would help. Nope! Nothing for it but to abort the rest of the ride, turn around, and go home. That was easier said than done.
Downhill all the way back to Calver was easy enough, but remember that earlier wheeeeeeeee down to the traffic lights? The climb back up was slow and painful and with a ten minute rest afterwards. Each climb required a spell of recovery time to allow the pain to subside. I thought about rescue but Mrs. Bygone Boozer was on an eighty mile ride with friends, heading in the opposite direction and the nearby nephews and spouses were all at work or cycling in Italy. I'd just have to struggle on. Which I did. Slowly. And painfully.
Once home, I managed to get a GP appointment the following morning. Yes, the very next day! And the result was? A referral to someone who knows more about Achilles' tendons than she does. When? Just eight days later. That all sounds pretty good to me. The only downside is that I mustn't pedal until then, but if it's going to be as painful as that ride home then there's no chance that I'd want to.
Eyam's plague may have ended in 1666 but my own personal plague persists. Cardiac concerns and pulmonary problems, then shoulder setback and now tendinopathy trouble. That race in July is now certainly off the cards. Bring on the 2023 season. Either that or the pentobarbitone.
The photograph of the plague cottages is © Stephen McKay and is reused under this licence.
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