Hucklow and Foolow - preparing for Christmas in the depths of the Peak District

The Bulls Head, Foolow

The Bulls Head, Foolow - Credit: Archant

Derbyshire Life visits Hucklow and Foolow to see what life is like in the depths of the Peak District when the snow is falling and it’s that time of year again

St Hugh’s Chapel and the village cross at Foolow

St Hugh’s Chapel and the village cross at Foolow - Credit: Archant

A covering of snow brings a magical transformation to the upland villages of Hucklow and Foolow. Cosily wrapped in their fluffy white coats, the cottages in the two villages look as if they have put on an extra layer to protect them from the rigours of the Peak District winter. Under their snowy camouflage, they take their place in seasonal street scenes that are pretty enough to grace any Christmas card.

Although snow cannot be guaranteed at Christmastime, even in settlements that stand almost 1,000 feet above sea-level, Great Hucklow undergoes a magical transformation during the festive season, with or without the addition of snow, and the spirit of Christmas is equally evident in Foolow, thanks to a very special event that occurs there on the evening of Christmas Day.

From early December to Twelfth Night, every building in Great Hucklow is fronted by a large, brightly illuminated Christmas tree, turning the village street into a dazzling ribbon of light. The illuminations will be switched on this year on 5th December, when mulled wine and mince pies will be served on the village green; a local brass band will provide accompaniment to the singing of carols and there will be a visit from Father Christmas. Illuminated trees will also be provided for the neighbouring villages of Grindon and Little Hucklow.

These displays are organised by a group called Community Spirit, which has been arranging events in Great Hucklow since 1987. Peter Hilton, the group’s new chairman, said: ‘The money to pay for Hucklow’s lights comes from proceeds from our 100 Club and our August Gala Day, when we have stalls and games, as well as a fun display by the “Doris Dancers”, Hucklow’s all-male dancing troupe. With the help of proceeds from a buffet supper, we also make donations to charities, with the Air Ambulance Service and the Nepalese Earthquake Appeal being among the beneficiaries this year.’

The Old Hall, Great Hucklow

The Old Hall, Great Hucklow - Credit: Archant

A further indication of the community spirit in this Peakland village is an impressive list of additional annual events. Clive Lee is responsible for organising the Hucklow Hobble, a walking weekend which took place in the Yorkshire Dales this year, and he is one of the coordinators of the Hucklow Fell Race, which follows a 10km route over the moors, before heading back to the village. Peter Hilton’s wife, Nicola, organises Great Hucklow’s well-dressing and the Queen Anne pub hosts an Easter Bonnet Competition.

The seventeenth-century hostelry has a cosy atmosphere, a roaring fire, home-cooked food and a choice of real ales, including Belgian Blue, a beer specially brewed for Christmas by the Bradfield Brewery. Family-run by Angela and Glynn Ryan and their daughter Carolyn, the Queen Anne has been given the AA Dinner Award every year since 2011. Sunday lunch is a great favourite here and a Christmas menu is provided throughout December, while two-course lunches are available at a special price during the week throughout the year. And anyone seeking to get away from it all this Christmas can stay at ground-floor B&B accommodation in this great country hideaway.

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Another wonderful place to get away from it all is the Nightingale Centre, which has Visit England 4-star rating and hosts walking groups and all manner of conferences and meetings. The centre will be serving their famed Christmas lunches over the festive season and hosting two-day residentials, when guests can relax or sing carols around the fire in the festively-decorated lounge, breathe in pure country air by walking in the grounds and enjoy good food, much of which has been grown organically in the centre’s ever-expanding vegetable, fruit and herb gardens.

Thanks to other innovations introduced by manager Stella Burney, the centre’s green credentials extend well beyond growing their own food. These comprise air-to-air heat sources, rainwater harvesting and the illumination of dark areas by sun tubes that catch and refract natural daylight.

Main Street, Great Hucklow

Main Street, Great Hucklow - Credit: Archant

For 15 weeks per year, accommodation at the centre is exclusively reserved for groups of inner-city youngsters selected by a charity called SaCH (Send a Child to Hucklow). Stella Burney says, ‘Many of these young people will enjoy their very first taste of the countryside during their week with us and all of them will have new experiences that will help them to forget their troubles and get away from the things that have hindered their emotional or social development. And we now have a very special treat in store for them in the form of our reconstruction of an iron-age roundhouse, where they can gather to enjoy stories or sing in the lantern-light.’

The Nightingale Centre was founded by the Unitarians, who also built a place of worship in the village. This is where the children who attend Great Hucklow’s C of E primary school will enjoy their carol concert. Other festive events organised by the school include a Christingle Service at St Barnabas’ Church in Bradwell, a nativity play, a Christmas lunch and a party at the school.

The community spirit that is so evident in Great Hucklow is also reflected in the involvement of parents at the school. Headteacher Rachel Purvis says: ‘We have a really cohesive school community – all our parents are on first name terms and one of the reasons why we can offer such a good educational experience is that the parents are fully behind what we do. They have raised unbelievable amounts of money, enabling us to buy new furniture, play equipment and computers.’

The school stands on high land immediately below the Silence Heritage site, an area of woodland and grassland on 4.5 hectares of former lead-mining land between Great Hucklow and Foolow. One of Derbyshire’s most picturesque hamlets, Foolow is set around a duck pond and a village green, where there is a village cross set on a stepped base.

The duck pond and the green are overlooked on one side by the 17th-century Old Hall and the 18th-century Manor House. On the opposite flank, there is a former Wesleyan Reform Chapel, fronted by a Tuscan porch, and the pretty little church of St Hugh’s, with its small bellcote and an unusual oval window above its porch. The church is clearly well looked after by its members.

Foolow also has a well-kown pub called the Bulls Head, which has been a social centre for village life for at least 250 years. With its white-painted façade and a roof-line broken by four dormers, the hostelry is the epitome of the sort of traditional country inns featured in illustrations on Christmas cards. Like the Queen Anne at Great Hucklow, this is a family-run hostelry, being managed by Jonathan O’Connell and his mother Marilyn, who are ably assisted by Jonathan’s daughter Niamh. The pub will be open every day during the Christmas period for home-cooked food and drinks. It even offers a drive-you-home service to any customers who live within six miles.

Whereas Great Huckow welcomes the spirit of Christmas with its illuminated Christmas trees, Foolow has its own unique way of bringing the spirit of Christmas to its residents. On the evening of Christmas Day, a group of carollers tours the village, pausing at each house to sing a carol chosen from a repertoire that includes a number of carols specially written for the village. One of them is actually called ’Foolow’. The singers are accompanied by a fiddler on some occasions and, of course, this charming Christmas pageant is given an added touch of magic whenever there is a fall of snow.

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