We met for a shorter winter walk in Richmond, a market town located at the point on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, where the river Swale opens out into the broader North Yorkshire countryside. The focus of the town is its market place which many people might recognise in postcards and numerous television shows, surrounded by historic buildings and shops, and overlooked by the castle. Easy parking, we were told, but we found even on this cold but bright Sunday morning few spaces remained, and many people were out and about. While we waited for our participants to arrive we checked the local bus, in case anyone joining us was using public transport.
After our usual introductions we set off quite steeply downhill through narrow streets, and soon found ourselves next to the river Swale, which was in full spate after recent rain, and offering good views across rocks and waterfalls as well as back uphill towards the houses of the town perched high above the valley.
The path took us along the river valley for a mile or so as far as Easby Abbey, a substantial ruin now under the care of English Heritage. The abbey was founded in the 12th century, and home to canons rather than monks, until dissolved with some gruesomeness by Henry VIII. We spent a while inspecting the cloister, refectory and other parts of the site, guided by informative notice boards, and also looked briefly at the adjoining St Agatha’s church. Continuing further we reached the path of the old railway line which led us back towards Richmond.
We stopped for a refreshment break at the former railway station, where we found it just about warm enough to sit outdoors. The trains from Darlington to Richmond stopped running in 1969, but the substantial station buildings were very much still in existence, now transformed to a facility known as The Station, with a large café, restaurant, cinema screens, and food shops. Nearby the former engine shed was now a fitness centre, and a swimming pool occupied the site of the large goods shed, so the whole area with its historic architecture and riverside location was proving popular with local people and visitors such as ourselves.
To return to the town we crossed the river again, and this brought us back to part of our route of earlier in the day; however we continued alongside the river below the castle and on upstream into an area of National Trust woodland. This part of our route was a bit more up-and-down, and a bit muddier underfoot, and an interesting contrast to the more open valley we had passed through earlier in the day.
We returned to the town centre through an attractively-located holiday village and arrived back in the market place to find no space available in our intended teashop, but we discovered the historic town hall hosting a fundraising event and plenty of tables with tea and cakes on offer. We had the unexpected bonus of a most entertaining presentation on Richmond’s history and points of interest from one of the event volunteers, an Alice lookalike – we learned about secret tunnels under the market place from the castle, which were apparently the inspiration for the tunnels featuring in Alice in Wonderland and gave us an interesting link back to our walk a few months back when we had visited Lewis Carroll’s home village at nearby Croft.
Altogether we enjoyed a good walk and day out, and we thanked Ken our event facilitator on this occasion, Ivor for supplying pictures, and as always everyone who attended.