Cobbles, Castles & Carbs

A mindful walking tale from an ill-prepared adventurer

Richmond, a town of happy childhood memories

Another tale of my escapades in the great outdoors, with nostalgia, nature, a story of adventure, mindful walking, talking to myself and, as always, replenishment.

Richmond, North Yorkshire. A place of many happy childhood memories. The commanding Norman castle, the rumbling cobblestones of the market square, the Green Howards Museum, the rushing river and waterfalls. The cute ice-cream van by the riverbank. Oh, and the curious Mr Coleman and Mr Morris shop, with the toy section that provided welcome respite to the frazzled parents of marauding Fab lolly-fuelled youngsters.

Feeling remnants of festive nostalgia — and in need of fresh air and mental calm — I headed to the home of my memories on a gorgeously bright and crisp winter’s day. I felt a warm sense of excitement as I drove there, passing the place of my first ever job — the A1 motorist’s landmark Scotch Corner Hotel — scene of many coffee-spilling, potato-dropping, order-fudging incidents from an awkward sixteen-year-old, excitably whiling away a summer before starting sixth form college. I felt a pang of old-school excitement as I passed through the village of Skeeby, with its houses and the tiny stream that runs through their front gardens. I always wished we could live in one of those as a kid… Oh, to have our own stream! I could never quite get my head round Pops’s insistence that this simply wouldn’t be practical or possible… on our 1970s estate.

With Richmond now in sight, my journey took on an ornithological theme as I spotted a kestrel proudly perched on a fencepost, soon followed by a heron flying alongside me — elegant and quite magical, seemingly showing me the way.

Tummy tickling cobbles

In to town, and, to test out a memory I drove through the market square. Yep, the tummy tickling rumbles of the cobbles are still there, proving they weren’t simply the figment of the vivid imagination of an excitable 7-year-old. Woo hoo!

If it’s good enough for Wainwright…

All parked up and I was ready to go exploring. Such a beautiful, crisp and clear day; I felt it would have been a shame not to head up on to the Yorkshire Dales. So off I went, climbing up and leaving the town behind me as I joined the Coast to Coast path with St Bees Head in Cumbria 114 miles to the west and Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire 76 miles to the east. Sadly, no such mammoth yomps for me today, but plenty of inspiration for future trot-based adventures. I looked back to take in the spectacular views — the imposing castle keeping watch over the town, the river Swale winding its way through the valley, the dotted woodlands and rolling hills of the Dales, and the grand ridges of the North Yorkshire Moors in the distance. I felt exhilarated and very lucky to be there. I came across a Coast to Coast path plaque, with words from no other than the great Alfred Wainwright who summed up the view perfectly, concluding ‘It is too good to be by-passed’. I’m so pleased I took the detour.

Onwards, and I found myself in Whitecliffe Woods where I crunched my way across the hard ground. Despite the bright sun, it was a bracing minus 2 degrees, so what was once a deep, muddy bog remained frozen solid. Just as well, as I didn’t much fancy getting ‘clarted up to the eyeballs’ as we say up here. I walked with the docile grin of someone in their element, joined only by scampering squirrels and chirping birds. If only my twitcher friend Graham had been with me; he would definitely have been able to point out which birds I could hear. Saying that, he could tell me anything and I’d be none the wiser, ‘…a cassowary you say Graham? Ah, how wonderful!’.

Leaving the woods, I met two local gentlemen walking the opposite way. We had a soul-warming chat about the beauty of the Dales, the best place for a post-walk cuppa (always a non-negotiable for me), and the weather (of course). Deciding a walk to Reeth may be a little extensive, given the early twilight and probable non-existent bus service back, I decided on a circular route that would take in ‘Williance’s Leap’. A Tourist Information Centre leaflet had told me of ‘the extraordinary tale of a Richmond man’s brush with death’, so why not indulge in a mawkish mosey? At this point, quite what he had been leaping from, or what became of him was unclear, though subsequent research from the BBC Domesday Reloaded pages tells of a rather grisly event in 1606, with a survival tactic involving Williance’s less-fortunate steed. Grim. From my usual ‘unconventional’ position (i.e. no longer on the trail and in the middle of a sharply-slated slope) I spotted what I guessed to be the point of the great bound and asked myself two questions, producing similar sounding answers… with very different outcomes. Question one, should I climb my way up there? Answer — probably not. Question two, will I climb my way up there? Answer — probably. The last time I’d asked myself the same question and answer combo on a walking ‘adventure’, I chose answer number two… and ended up in the care of Egyptian physician… with a painkilling injection… in my backside. So, of course I once again opted for answer number 2. Up I clambered to the point of Williance’s escapade. The views were stunning. The winter sun shone down, the air was still, all I could hear was my breath. And I just sat… and took it all in. I breathed, and I smiled, feeling yet more of the tummy tickles that arise when I experience these moments of child-like excitement. Only then I realised that the near-incessant, chattering internal dialogue that often follows me had stopped. Peace, quiet and contentment in nature. Delightful.

View from The Leap

But I couldn’t sit there forever (my grumbling tummy by now sending strong messages to that effect). Time to safely clamber down — unlike my own ‘great leap’ on the Sinai Peninsula — and leave the Coast to Coast trail to join a track towards the river, and eventually back to town. I walked across crunching, frosty fields — passing a house blessed with the most amazing views, soon finding myself by the banks of the Swale.

As I trotted the town began to appear in sight (though I must say not as quickly as I’d have liked, given the ‘hanger’ that was beginning to build as I yearned for a replenishing combination of carbohydrates and caffeine). My hands by now too cold to scribble notes, so I recorded ‘voice memos’ to remind me of my views as I walked. Though to anyone else I was just a rambler indulging in an animated verbal ramble… with myself.

A bridge over hungry waters
Arise ye Norman saviour!

I came to a footbridge that took me across the Swale and in to the National Trust’s Hudswell Woods, where I wound my way through trees and grasslands until I once again joined the banks of the Swale. From here I walked across the gigantic, slippery slabs of rock that lined the banks. I ducked under branches and navigated gnarled roots, amazingly managing to do so without my bottom ‘touching base’ with the floor. I was just beginning to feel as though I may succumb to an unfortunate, glucose-deprived end when I spotted the castle ahead. Arise my Norman saviour! I mustered an excitable second wind and picked up the pace, finally reaching the road bridge to cross in to the town. Just a final hill to walk up which, for my weary sparrow legs felt like the epic Travellator that Eunice Huthard (Google her) so valiantly conquered on many a teatime Saturday evening back in the global hypercoloured 1990s.

…and then I spotted it. The tea rooms! My delirious hallucinations of ‘sorry we’re closed’ signs quickly replaced with the joyous sight of elderly patrons slurping afternoon tea. Hurrah! After a touch-and-go battle to remove my muddy walking boots without crashing through the shop frontage, I was in and ready to commence battle with the contents of a refrigerated display cabinet.

And so my story ends, as most of my walking tales do, with an extra-hot cappuccino (which my fellow north-easterner Robbo says makes me ‘la-di-da’, ‘no tea?! Scotty, you’ve changed…’), and a warm home-baked cheese scone with a slab of butter. That, with a local mag, the buzz of the locals, and a front seat view of the market cross sent me in to yet another spell of smug contentment. A happy day indeed. Thank you Richmond, I won’t leave it so long next time.

Let battle commence…




Freelance writer, yoga guide and project manager… a curious combo. Loves walking, running, biking, travel, drinking tea, chatting and faffing.

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Simone Scott

Simone Scott

Freelance writer, yoga guide and project manager… a curious combo. Loves walking, running, biking, travel, drinking tea, chatting and faffing.

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