Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Place in My Heart Mini Series: A Yorkshire Castle

It's been a long time since I feel I have properly written on my blog, without tips or tricks or tutorials that is. The last couple of months my brain has been occupied by work. Well, that's what I have been telling myself anyway. I think perhaps my brain has been buried in work, because I want to busy it. Over the next few months there are going to be some big life changes and it is tiring to think about them all of the time. I have a habit of 'over-thinking' (a polite euphemism for obsessing) and this leads to panic, as not everything I want to happen is within my control.

It's at times like this when everything is a bit too much that a trip to Yorkshire would be ideal. Through my family around North Yorkshire I have found some of the most peaceful places and a landscape to inspire clarity in my heart. This isn't so much a travel guide, but I would recommend you read on AND plan some time here in your England travel itinerary.
Richmond, Yorkshire is the home to my Uncle and Auntie (and at one point my Nanna too). It is a market town on the River Swale; cobbled, hilly market place, old book shop, a covered market, some cute art shops and the obligatory cream teas. Perched on the top of the hill, is Richmond castle which majestically looks over the stunning countryside below, the mounds dropping away to form cliffs in front of which the crows nest in the surrounding trees.
You can climb the keep of the castle and survey the lands beyond you. You might think that the summer would be a great time to do this, but give me this castle in the wind and rain and I am at my happiest, my calmest. Not many people want to stand at the top in this kind of weather; often there is nothing much to see but the moody clouds and rushing waters of the Swale. But when you're trying to think, achieve clarity, there is nothing like the buttress of the weather to knock you into shape. Some of my biggest decisions have happened here - when no amount of 'over-thinking' or chatting with friends would help me to see what it was I really wanted from my heart.
Just five minutes from the castle (quite thankfully as I usually end up pretty cold, soaked and emotionally stunned from being in there) is the covered market and the sort of cake stall that you'd probably live in Richmond just to visit everyday. There are always between 10-15 different types of homemade cakes and unlike major coffee chains, a fat slice of it and a steaming hot cup of tea is waiting for you for less than £5. The old folk who run it too are proper Yorkshire folk - none of the southerner 'immigrants' that swathed the place in the nineties. This is normally where I meet up with my family who can't understand my obsession with the castle and have long since given up trying to visit it with me.
Everything about Richmond, to me, screams family and peace. Trotting down to the parks by the River Swale, you will see people there at all times of the year (unless flooded). In the Spring and Summer, when the water is lower people paddle across the rocks, swing into the cool waters with their friends and skim stones. There is even a flag safety system like the beach. One year, the rain was so bad the Swale knocked out a stone bridge, such was the force of the water and not a small one either...either way the coppery colour of the rocks glimmers in the sunlight and the tree-lined banks brim with wild-life.

The old railway station is a great place to wander to next. It's been converted into a café, cinema, artisan space. Just to sit in the airy hall enjoying another Yorkshire tea and scone, before visiting the brewer, cheese-maker, jam shop or artisan ice cream shop is a real treat. I recommend the 'Fire-eaters Chutney', the 'Strawberry & Champagne Jam' and 'Chilli Jam' too. It tops whatever is going on in the shops and then some. Emotionally testing times on castle tops require a significant amount of hearty food to feed the soul and this is the place to do it.

Except the pubs of course. Richmond is packed full with traditional drinking holes, many of which my uncle has taken us to over the years, full of local friends, gossip and music. After a good walk in the dales, where the only company you might have are rabbits, sheep and the odd other walker, a good catch-up in the pub is an excellent idea. Every time I have been on a walking holiday up north, it has been freezing, but a great experience. If the cake-shop is closed, you can guarantee the pub won't be and a good drop of ale, or in my case a glass of wine, will warm your cockles.

I haven't been to Yorkshire since Easter 2011, a short time after my Nanna died. It felt different; a bit emptier. My heart would give anything to go back - even if it's just for enough quiet to blow away the cobwebs and put me back on the right path. It's crazy to think there are places on earth that have this effect on anyone....or is it just me?
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Alyx said...

Oh, man!! I want nothing more than to hop on a plane to Britain right now! Yorkshire looks absolutely gorgeous, I think it would have a special place in my heart, too! Thinking of you as you are going through these major changes in your life, Rosie! Hope all goes smoothly for you as you finish out this school year!

Cocalores said...

I agree with Alyx - I want to go to Britain as soon as possible =) English small towns are adorable! xo

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