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Autumn colours in Billy Bank woods, Richmond, Swaledale
Autumn colours in Billy Bank woods, Richmond, Swaledale

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Route No. 113 - Sunday 31 October 2004
Richmond, Easby Abbey,circuit - 10km
Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales . . .

Map: OS Explorer 304 Darlington & Richmond at 1:25000

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base
View the route in Google Earth


Monument in the cobbled market square at Richmond This morning was quite foggy in the vale of York, but as we drove north up the A1 to Richmond we left the fog behind. We parked in the cobbled market square at about 10.30am in one of the very few remaining spaces. It's a very interesting little town with many historic buildings and of course the castle. We set off down the hill from the market square into Frenchgate and turned right onto the main road towards the river Swale. Just before we reached the bridge over the river and after we had passed the church, we turned left into a narrow street called Lombards Wynd (map ref.NZ 174010). At the end of this street we turned right on to a lane that follows the Swale towards Easby. There's a good view back up the river towards the town with its castle on the hill top.After about 400m we reached the drummer boy stone. Legend has it that there is a tunnel from Richmond town to Easby Abbey. A drummer boy was sent along the tunnel from the Richmond end whilst the listeners on the surface followed the sound of his drum. The stone marks the spot where the drumming stopped and the boy was never seen again. Well that's the story anyway.We continued along the track to Easby Abbey and spent a little while looking round the ruins. Then we continued along the track by the river for another 400m to the old railway bridge over the river (map ref. SE 184998).

The old railway bed is now a footpath and we followed the railway path for over 1km to the main road (A6136) at map ref. NZ 175009. Here we turned left along the main road for about 100m to turn right onto Priory Villas and took the path in front of the houses across the field to the road at map ref. NZ 170005. There's a good view of Richmond Castle across the river from the river bank. At the road we went straight across and followed the path climbing up through the woods. The autumn colours on the steep wooded bank were an amazing mixture of bright greens, gold and every shade of orange and copper. From the top of the woods we followed the path across the fields to Round Howe woods, a very pretty National Trust property. At map ref. NZ 154005, we turned right to follow a path down the steep valley side to a footbridge over the river at map ref. NZ 157008. We crossed the bridge to a car park, and clean public toilets where you could park (£2.50 all day) to start and finish the walk if there is nowhere to park in the town. From the car park we walked up the slope to the main road (A6108).

At the road we turned left for about 100m and then turned right off the road on to a track for about 200m. Here we turned right onto another track called "Green Lane" on the map, and followed the track up the hill passed a small herd of belted Galloway cattle to a mettaled lane at map ref. NZ 153015. We turned right onto the lane and followed it for about 1.5km back into Richmond. Just as we reached the Reeth road in Richmond we spotted a plaque high up on the side of an end terrace house, that proclaimed this was on the centreline of totality during the total eclipse of the sun on 29 June 1927. There is a contemorary report of the eclipse on the BBC web site and a map (from NASA) of the area of totality showing the path of the shadow from Liverpool through Richmond to Darlington and out into the North Sea. We made our way back into the market square and found a very good fish & chip shop with a nice restaurant where we had a very enjoyable meal before setting off back home. The whole route took us about 3 hours and was almost 10km.

Museum in Richmond market square
Museum in Richmond market square

The path to Easby Abbey
The path to Easby Abbey

Ruins of Easby Abbey
Ruins of Easby Abbey

River Swale below Richmond

River Swale below Richmond
River Swale below Richmond

The Drummer Boy Stone
The Drummer Boy Stone

Ruins of Easby Abbey
Ruins of Easby Abbey

Autumn woods above the Swale
Autumn woods above the Swale

Richmond Bridge below the castle
Richmond Bridge below the castle

Belted Galloway Cattle
Belted Galloway Cattle

Richmond Castle
Richmond Castle

Path through Billy Bank Wood
Path through Billy Bank Wood

Fungus covered log
Fungus covered log

Background Notes:
This route a low level walk in the north of the county from Richmond in Swaledale. The walk is about 10km (6 miles). It starts in the market square although you could just as well start at the car park by the River Swale at the National Trust's Billy Bank Wood on the western edge of the town. Anyway starting from the Market Square the walk follows the road down to the river and takes the riverside path heading downstream. After less than a kilometer you reach a stone post with a plaque that explains the story of the little drummer boy. Apparently centuaries ago some workmen uncovered an entrance to a tunnel at Richmond Castle that was believed to lead all the way to Easby Abbey. A small drummer boy who was able to squeeze through the gap into the tunnel was despatched complete with candle and drum to make his way along the tunnel whilst the bold adults followed the sound of his drum on the surface. At this marker post, about half way to Easby Abbey the drumming stopped and the little drummer boy was never seen again. Apparently there was no rescue mission! A final twist to this story concerns the Rev. Charles Dodgson who's pen name was Lewis Carroll. He lived in Richmond many years later and would have heard this story. It is thought he could have used the idea of this entrance to a subterranean world as the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Whatever the truth of this, the walk continues along the river bank to Easby Abbey which is well worth a visit. The abbey, dedicated to St Agatha, was founded in the 1150's and was occupied by the White Cannons, an order founded in Northeastern France in1120. The abbey was abandoned in the 1530's as part of Henry the eight's purge. It's managed nowadays by English Heritage and admission is free. A little way beyond the abbey the route crosses the river on a disused railway line and follows the railway bed back to the edge of Richmond. The walk follows a path across the fields to Billy Bank Wood on the south west corner of Richmond and after negotiating many tight stone squeeze stiles we drop down through the woods owned by the National Trust to the river side and a bridge over the river to a car park where as I mentioned at the beginning you could start and finish the walk if you wish. The route crosses the river and climbs up the valley side opposite to follow a track back down into Richmond. As you re-enter Richmond there is one more thing to look out for and that is a record of a total eclipse of the sun. It's quite rare for a total eclipse to cross Britain. There were only two in the last century. One in 1927 and one in 1999. High up on a house on the road into the town is a rusting yellow plaque that marks the centre line of the solar eclipse of 29 June 1927. It's one of a series of such signs erected by the AA to mark the route of the eclipse which entered Britain at Cardigan Bay in Wales and moved northeastwards out of the country at Hartlepool passing through Richmond on the way. When you get back to Richmond market square there's one last thing to do and that's visit a tea shop in the town to round off the walk.
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