Have you ever visited a place where the people of its past seemed as present as if they were still there? As though something of their story still lingers in the streets, in the walls, in the discarded ruins.
I find some historical sites are just that - historical. They are interesting or attractive or informative. Then are those that 'live' and tell a tale; those that leave footprints in the dust of my soul.
The small village of Eyam (pronounced Eem) is one such place for me.
I grew up in the city of Sheffield, in the north of England. We lived on the outskirts of town, close to the Peak District National Park. Being a family who loved to get out and about, we often took drives out of town, visiting the rugged moors and quaint villages. One road took us past a pile of precariously balanced rocks which, when looked at from the right angle, reminded us of a squatting toad. Another road took us past a fern-covered hillside - christened 'Crunchy Bracken' after memorable autumn traipses through its browned and crunching leaves.
A particular family favourite, especially whenever we had friends or family visiting, was the small rural church in Hathersage in whose cemetery lay the remains of Little John; the friar of Robin Hood fame. There were always groans of despair from my sister and I when we knew that was to be our destination - I think we had visited once too often. Funnily enough, when I took Craig on a trip down memory lane on a visit from South Africa to the area, where did I take him? Yep, to Little John's grave!
The other place I took Craig was Eyam. As with Little John's grave, this was not my first visit to this small village nestled in the Hope Valley. As a primary school child, I piled onto a bus with my friends and was driven there for a day out - education away from the classroom. We were given worksheets and instructions to find all the major points of interest, from the stocks on the village green to the row of pretty cottages with their flower-filled gardens. We meandered through green fields of nibbling sheep to the ancient boundary stone. We looked at the old gravestones in the cemetery.
I went there with my Nan, and we had tea and hot buttered teacakes in the village cafe.
I went there on a walking tour with my friend from high school, long after I had moved out of the area. Now living in Cornwall, we took a train to Sheffield and from there bused out to Derbyshire. And spent a day exploring Eyam.
It isn't the grey slate cottages or the soaring tower of St Lawrence's Church that sees me returning again and again. Nor is it the green fields or the wooded hillsides. It isn't even those hot buttered toasted teacakes from the local cafe.
I have visited and revisited Eyam on so many occasions because I am transfixed by its story. I am gripped by the people who lived in Eyam as far back as 1665; a people who set aside their personal suffering for the good of their neighbours when faced with the arrival of the deadly plague which was ravaging London at the time.
And when we found ourselves, in 2020, confronting our own plague - the Covid-19 pandemic - I was reminded again of the people of Eyam. I found myself wandering the streets of memory and being again stirred by the lives I met. Men and women of bravery and courage, men and women of faith. Men and women simply doing what they felt was right, little knowing that they would be used as examples of fortitude and sacrifice some 350 years later.
I heard their voices and wanted to tell what they said. I wanted to give them a wider audience, a larger stage. I wanted others to walk the streets of Eyam. And so I wrote a novel - Given Lives.
Would you like to help spread the story of Eyam?
There's still space on my Launch Team! This isn't a lifetime commitment - I just need your help for the month of August...
What will you need to do?
Read 'Given Lives'
Join me in a private Facebook group where we can all meet and get excited about Given Lives together. Not on Facebook? I'll create a dedicated Whatsapp group where you can still be involved. And I'll send regular emails to everyone on the team
Share promotional posts, all created for you, on your own Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter pages. Not on Facebook? No problem - share with your friends on email or Whatsapp
Share your favourite quotes as you read
Buy a book - for yourself or a friend
Write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, other online review platforms
I hope you're keen to join me. If you are, click the button and sign up now! A new window will open where you can enter all your details. You'll then receive a welcome email from me. I'll meet you at the launch pad!