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Richmond's Drummer Boy

Following in the steps of the Richmond Drummer, to Easby Abbey.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 20min

Ascent/gradient 656ft (200m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field and riverside paths, a little town walking, 20 stiles

Landscape Valley of River Swale and its steep banks

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 304 Darlington & Richmond

Start/finish NZ 168012

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads for most of walk

Parking Friars Close long-stay car park

Public toilets Friars Close car park and Round Howe car park

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1 Leave the car park and turn right, then left at the T-junction. At the roundabout go left, then go right at the next roundabout down Dundas Street, bending right into Frenchgate then left into Station Road. Just past the church, take Lombards Wynd left.

2 Turn right at the next junction and follow the track, passing to the right of the Drummer Boy Stone along the path. Leaving Richmond behind, go over two stiles and follow the waymarks towards the Abbey to another two stiles. Turn right along the track and right again, this time down the metalled lane which leads to the Abbey in the village of Easby.

3 Go to the left of the car park along the track. Where it divides, keep on the higher path, then go right by Platelayers Cottage over the old railway bridge. Follow the track bed for 400yds (366m), and go left over a cattle grid, to follow the track right, to the road.

4 Turn right, and follow the road for ½ mile (800m). Turn left up Priory Villas, bearing right to go in front of the houses and through three gates. Keeping parallel to the river, cross some playing fields and pass a clubhouse to a road.

5 Cross the road, and take a signed path opposite, to the left of the cottage. Climb steeply through the woodland, through a gate and a stile, bending right at the end of the woodland to a stile in a crossing fence. Turn right over the stile, and follow the signed path over 12 more stiles. Just before reaching a gate, go right through a wall gap and left to another stile.

6 Turn right, to go through a gate. Follow the track as it bends downhill to a bridge. Cross it and walk to the lane. Go left and left again at the main road. After 200yds (183m) go right up a gravel track, to a junction.

7 Turn right, and follow the track uphill, bearing right then left near the farmhouse, to reach a metalled lane. Turn right and follow the lane back into Richmond. Go ahead at the main road and follow it as it bends left to the garage, where you turn left back to the car park.

The first part of the walk follows much of the route taken by the legendary Richmond Drummer Boy. At the end of the 18th century, the story says, soldiers in Richmond Castle discovered a tunnel that was thought to lead from there to Easby Abbey. They sent their drummer boy down it, beating his drum so they could follow from above ground. His route went under the Market Square and along to Frenchgate, then beside the river towards the abbey. At the spot now marked by the Drummer Boy Stone, the drumming stopped. The Drummer Boy was never seen again. Now the walk is re-enacted each year, with a local schoolboy playing the drum (but walking above ground!). The Green Howards Regimental Museum in the Market Square can tell you more about the drummer boy and his regiment.

Easby Abbey, whose remains are seen on your walk, was founded for Premonstratensian Canons in 1155 by the Constable of Richmond Castle. Although not much of the church remains, some of the other buildings survive well, including the gatehouse, built about 1300. The refectory is also impressive, and you can see the infirmary, the chapter house and the dormitory. Just by the abbey ruins is the parish church, St Agatha's. It contains a replica of the Anglo-Saxon Easby Cross (the original is in the British Museum) and a set of medieval wall paintings showing Old Testament scenes of Adam and Eve, on the north wall, and the life of Jesus on the south, as well as depictions of activities such as pruning and hawking.

After the Abbey, you'll cross the River Swale on the old railway bridge, and follow the track bed for a while. This was part of the branch line from Richmond to Darlington, which opened in 1846. It was closed in 1970. The station, a little further along the Catterick Road, is now a garden centre, and the engine shed a gym. Look right over Richmond Bridge as you cross, to see how the stonework differs from one end to the other. It was built by two different contractors, one working for Richmond Council and one for the North Riding of Yorkshire. In the hillside below Billy Bank Wood, which you enter beyond the bridge, were copper mines dating back to the 15th century. After you have climbed the hill and crossed the 12 stiles (between Points e and f), you're following the old route of the Swale, which thousands of years ago changed its course and formed the hill known as Round Howe.

Where to eat and drink

Richmond has many places for food and drink. The King's Head Hotel in the Market Square has meals, sandwiches and afternoon teas. One of the places that locals recommend is the Frenchgate Café, with its bistro-like atmosphere.

What to look for

Wynds are a feature of the Richmond townscape. A northern term, from the Old English word for 'to spiral', these narrow lanes usually link two wider streets. You'll see Friar's Wynd to your right, beside the Georgian Theatre Royal, as you begin the walk, and just after the parish church you will turn left along Lombard's Wynd. This was once part of the ancient route up from the banks of the River Swale to the north eastern area of the town around Frenchgate - 'Frankesgate' in the Middles Ages. Both these names suggest that this part of the town was once occupied by foreign workers; they may have been helping to build the castle. Finkle Street, that runs north west from the Market Place, has a name that is often found in Yorkshire towns and means 'crooked'. West of the Market Square is Newbiggin, the 'new settlement' - new, that is in 1071 when the castle was begun.

While you're there

Visit Richmond Castle, which looms over the Swale Valley through much of the walk. Its keep, more than 100ft (30m) high, was complete by 1180. Now in the care of English Heritage, the castle's central ward is surrounded by high curtain walls with towers. Inside the keep are unique drawings done in the First World War by conscientious objectors. They were imprisoned here in squalid conditions.

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