Yorkshire walk - Richmond
PUBLISHED: 12:47 10 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:47 10 May 2015
Explore beautiful Richmond before heading for a gentle valley walk
Swaledale has a reputation for being Yorkshire’s most rugged and dramatic valley, hemmed in by high hills and drained by its fastest flowing river.
However, there’s a gentler side to it too, the perfect counterpoint to the imposing giants at the dalehead. This walk sets off almost from within the shadow of Richmond’s brutally intimidating castle and explores the altogether gentler landscape of its lower reaches and finishes with a delightfully simple stroll beside the bewitching Swale.
Although Richmond is forever dominated by the great stone keep of the huge mediaeval castle the Normans built almost 1,000 years ago to let the conquered Saxons know that England was under new management, what we see today is essentially a Georgian town and that is nowhere better exemplified than by the vast Market Place, surrounded by the buildings of its Georgian heyday and this is where the walk starts.
From the top of the Market Place go up Finkle Street and turn left onto Newbiggin. At the end turn right into Temple Terrace and at the main road bear left into Victoria Road. Where this curves to the left, take the right fork up Westfields beside the West End Stores. From here, with the finicky navigation behind you, the road climbs straight and true past the last of the houses to begin a long traverse of the fellside with views across lower Swaledale ahead and to Richmond behind. Carry on along the quiet lane for almost half an hour until the tarmac ends by Whitcliffe Farm and it becomes a track. About 50 yards further on, opposite High Leases Farm, take a stile on the right to climb half left up the field to pass above a large patch of gorse and onto the escarpment above the trees.
The path meets a wall which it follows leftwards to a double stile. Cross this, heading in the rough direction of a pair of masts ahead. When the path forks keep left, hugging the escarpment, to pass to the left of a prominent block of conifers to reach the obelisk which marks Willance’s Leap.
This elaborate monument marks the miraculous escape of a local draper, Robert Willance, who was out hunting here in 1606 when he became enveloped in mist. His disorientated horse bolted into the gloom and carried him over the cliff. When Willance came round he found the horse dead and himself with a broken leg. Fearing gangrene might set in because of the cold he sliced open the dead animal and thrust his leg into the carcass. The unorthodox treatment worked and he was eventually rescued. To celebrate his good fortune the spot was marked with first a stone and later the obelisk. More memorials have been added over the years and it makes a good spot to stop for a breather and admire the view.
From the monument, stay on the downhill side of the wall, following it across the hillside and round the rim of the sharply cut side valley of Deepdale. A farm road climbs up the bed of the dale and when it meets the path double back leftwards to follow the tarmac downhill. At a cattle grid take a signed path on the right, heading down towards the river. It crosses the route of the Coast to Coast Trail but ignore this and carry on downhill to the riverside, curling round below the farm buildings.
The path crosses fields beside the Swale before entering woods and passing a peculiar memorial to a dog owner, named only as Jane, and, according to the inscription, put there by her former pets which she used to walk here. The path then follows farm tracks to reach the main valley road. Cross straight over, still following the river downstream to the Round Howe picnic area and car park. This would make an alternative starting point if Richmond should be bursting at the seams.
At the end of the car park, cross a hefty footbridge over the river to enter Hudswell Woods and follow the path down the river bank. When the track forks it is possible to follow a rough but scenic path by the water’s edge if the river is not too high or alternatively to take an easier and slightly higher track through the trees. Both emerge by the stone arches of the Green Bridge below the castle walls. Cross the bridge and climb back up the hill to the Market Place, where there are numerous options for refreshments.
Start/finish: Market Place, Richmond
Distance: 7.5 miles/12km
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Country lane and grassy tracks
Parking: Pay and display parking in Richmond
Refreshments: Wide choice of cafés, pubs and hotels in Richmond
Map: OS Explorer 304 Darlington and Richmond