After our last staff meeting of the academic year I headed north in preparation for tomorrow's exam board at the University of Cumbria. With the Papal visit, an audit and the Richmond Theatre show I'm not sure how much time I'll get off this summer - so I'm grabbing every chance to give myself a couple of days freedom every now and then - starting with a short break in the North.
It was a lovely drive up the M1 and by late afternoon I found myself pulling off the motorway and into Richmond where I wanted to take a brief pit stop. I don't know North Yorkshire very well, but basked in low light and warm sunshine I wondered why I'd never taken the trouble to visit before. With it's square high up on the hillside commanding views of the hills and dales all around, Richmond felt like a time worn town in Tuscany or Umbria rather than cobbled wool market a few miles shy of Tyneside.
The Georgians, as with Bath, capitalised on the town's popularity and prosperity and there's a gorgeous walk that they planned around the base of the castle that allows you to see the rich valleys, gurgling water falls and the Swale river. They liked their walks and views. How content they must have been. Back in the centre Samuel Butler's now wonderfully restored Georgian theatre was the surest sign that the bourgeoisie had arrived.
I found a quiet road out of town and headed without passing another car out across stunning Swaledale, following close to the coast to coast path that I'd like to walk one day soon. It took about an hour to cross the deeply beautiful pass, before winding down into Kirkby Stephen - a town Ruskin thought the most beautiful in England - and the beginning of the Lakes.
Carlisle was just a short spurt up the M6.