The road trip had seen me roaming through Teesside and it eventually took me to Richmond, North Yorkshire to pay a visit to the Nomadic Family Unit grandparents. I had not seen Grandma and Grandpa Nomad for almost a year so as lock down had lifted, a visit to them was well over due. In visiting them, I also was able to suck up the comforting furry love from Jock, a loveable black Labrador. I have been missing Mr Nomad and the furry Nomadic children immensely so to visit my family provided me with enough emotional support to carry on with my solitary journey.
Richmond is a picturesque market town in the civil parish of North Yorkshire and is the gateway to the magnificent Yorkshire Dales. This stunning town can be found on the edge of Swaledale, which leads the way to the entire Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The town exists around a large cobbled market place at the centre of which is a rather splendid obelisk built in 1771 to replace a medieval cross that stood before it. However, Richmond is a town dominated by the foreboding ruins of Richmond Castle and the area is steeped in medieval history. This Norman castle was a military stronghold and built in 1071 on land gifted to Alan the Red of Brittany by his kinsman, William the Conqueror. The town was initially called Hindelag, but then it became known as Riche-Mont, meaning Strong Hill, hence the modern day name of Richmond.
The castle is imposing and intimidating, and the formidable Keep which is the best preserved part of the castle, towers some 100 feet over the town. The Keep walls are some 11 feet thick and the building is a 12th century addition built over the original gate house. The cobbled market place was originally the outer bailey of the castle.
King William the Lion of Scotland taken at Alnwick in 1174 was imprisoned in Richmond Castle, as was David II after his defeat at Neville’s Cross in 1346. Charles I lodged at the castle during his journey south in 1647 after he had surrendered to the Scots and obviously prior to his unfortunate beheading. The foreboding nature of the castle represents the brutality and harshness of life in medieval times, and a very different way of life to how we all now exist. Still, it is an unforgettable and magnificent building which cannot fail to impress.
My wanderings took me down to the waterfalls in Richmond where the river Swale is alleged to be one of the fastest flowing rivers in England. The riverside is beautiful providing many walkways in the stunning country side and the waterfalls are raging but spectacular. The river steadily seeps through North Yorkshire and is in the main, peaceful and tranquil, until there is much rain fall and it transforms into an angry and turbulent torrent to be feared.
I have many fond memories from the water falls as I spent much time here in my youth and notwithstanding the noise from the aggressive water falls, I felt strangely at peace here although I longed to share such intimate moments with Mr Nomad.
I moved on to visit the ruins of Easby Abbey. This is a Premonstratensian Abbey at Easby also known as the Abbey of St Agatha and it was founded in 1152. It was home to Canons, as opposed to monks. They lived together as an order of ordained priests but because they were not monks, whilst they did take vows, they were not ordained.
In 1536-37, it was suppressed, became dilapidated and fell into ruin. These ruins are as spectacular as the castle, utterly spell binding and rendered me speechless in their majesty. They conjure up images of medieval days gone by and left me in wonderment as to how such buildings were constructed before the days of heavy machinery while lamenting their destruction.
As with a lot of such ancient sites of interest, there are numerous ghostly stories and fables about spooky goings on and there is the town legend of the Little Drummer Boy. He was a young member of an 18th century regiment and as the legend would have it, he was sent by soldiers to investigate a tunnel which allegedly ran underground from Richmond Castle to Easby Abbey. He was to enter the tunnel and continue playing his drums to guide the soldiers above, and those drums apparently ceased suddenly and the little drummer boy was never seen or heard from again. He vanished into thin air and a stone marker to commemorate the boy and that point at which the drumming silenced can be found lying between the castle and the Abbey. In 1349, the town of Richmond’s population was decimated by the bubonic plague and a ‘plague stone’ can be found in the cemetery at Easby.
The ruins of Easby Abbey became a favourite subject for artists including JMW Turner. The parish church, St Agatha’s Church was built before the Abbey with parts of it dating from 1100. It is contained within the precinct and is still in use to this day, its treasures including rare 13th century wall paintings. These archaic ruins offer a glimpse of England’s rich history and appear in stark contrast to the industrial conurbations within Teesside but all still to be found within God’s Own Country.
Richmond has a strong military background and is home to the Green Howards Regiment. There are two war memorials in the town and one of those is a Celtic Cross dedicated to the losses suffered by this regiment in the first and second World Wars.
Whilst tourism is incredibly important to the local economy, the single largest influence on the area is the nearby British Army base of Catterick Garrison. The base can be found approximately 3 miles (5 kilometres) south of Richmond in North Yorkshire and is the largest British Army garrison in the world. I had found my adventures taking me from Larkhill, the home of the Royal Artillery to a drive by of the largest Army base in not just the country, but the world. It covers around 2,400 acres and in 2017, had a population of 13,000 but there were plans to increase this to around 25,000 by 2020.
The garrison was originally called Richmond Camp but the name was changed to Catterick Camp in 1915 and then modified to Catterick Garrison in 1973. It was constructed in 1914 and after the First World War, became a prisoner of war camp. By the 1930s, many of the camps facilities had been completed and after the Second World War, it was once again used to house prisoners of war. There are many barracks within the garrison accommodating many different regiments and most of those barracks are named after battles. For example, there is Marne Barracks, named after the Battle of Marne fought from 6th- 12th September 1914 during the First World War. There is Cambrai Barracks, named after the Battle of Cambrai fought from 20th November until 7th December 1917 and there is Somme Barracks, obviously named after the Battle of the Somme, a brutal battle fought from 1st July until 18th November 1916. This names but a few of the many barracks in this large and thriving garrison town.
I didn’t loiter too much through the garrison and on my travels, covered significant ground in visiting numerous folk that took me through numerous counties within England. I had a fleeting visit to Darlington, a large market town lying on the river Skerne, a tributary to the river Tees in the county of County Durham and I had also quickly visited a friend in the town of Crook, another market town in County Durham. This town can be found a couple of miles north of the river Wear, on the edge of Weardale.
I also managed to catch up with a friend in East Harlsey, a quaint village some 7 miles from Northallerton, in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire and got to meet the lovely Eric (a stunning thoroughbred horse), and the wild and youthful Hugo (another gorgeous pony).
I had seen little wild life on this safari mainly because of my confinement in a car I suspect. Horses seemed to be the predominant animal spotted, as well as sharing time with Holly the Chihuha and Jock the Black Labrador, in addition to that pesky suburban sea gull and randomly, a solitary duck spied in a field of all places!
This road trip had taken me through many counties in England but this epic journey had provided me with the joys of love! The overwhelming warmth exuded from family and friends made the journey all the more worthwhile and the bliss of the contrasting but beautiful landscape within my home country was fantastic. I realised that whilst I missed Kenya and all it had to offer with its significantly different life style and rugged wilderness, (and my husband and dogs of course!), I missed my homeland and all of those people that make it so special.
Greystoke had to be returned so I reluctantly bid my farewells and returned to my temporary home in Larkhill. The road trip had quelled my itchy feet for now, and I am ever hopeful that my next adventure will see me returning to my husband and completing the Nomadic Family Unit.