2015.07.24 – Big City Life

2015.07.24 – Big City Life

So far on this trip, we have had two rest days: one in Grasmere and one in Keld. On both, we have managed to clock in 13-15 miles. Rest days indeed… Richmond was our last shot at a true rest day, so we planned out a route that would show us the city sights without proving too taxing.

After a leisurely and late breakfast, we wandered over to the Norman castle. As one of the oldest standing castles in England, it has quite a story to tell. Constructed in the late 11th century to mark the northern extension of the Norman Conquest, it was built high on the hill using the Swale as its main defense system. As a student of military history, it was wonderfully exciting to imagine how it would be defended or attacked. Yet despite my fantasies, the keep never saw any action, even though it was eventually strengthened against a potential Scottish invasion. Much of it remains today and is remarkably accessible thanks to the English Heritage Association.

Despite its overwhelmingly medieval presence, the castle has actually been used numerous times throughout British history. Many of these purposes have been closely linked to the military, but it also housed conscientious objectors during WWI. Most objectors who refused front line service supported the war effort in other ways, but these sixteen prisoners refused any work that would eventually cause human suffering. For their refusal to help, they were imprisoned, tortured, sentenced to death, and eventually forced into work camps for their crimes. Their story remains in the etchings and inscriptions that they carved into those prison walls. Personally, it was not a tale that I expected this Norman castle to tell, but I am glad that the record of that injustice has survived, even if it is on the walls of an 11th century fortification.

After touring the castle and its grounds, we headed off towards Easby Abbey, a short walk alongside the Swale. Easby was an abbey, like many others, that suffered directly under the reign of Henry VIII. Yet after Easby’s initial destruction, the land was given to a family that did not erase its past. They cared for the ruin, preserving what was left of the shattered abbey. Now, it remains as a skeleton of its former glory, but is far more intact than any other abbey or monastery from that era. Wandering its halls, kitchens, store rooms, and staircases felt otherworldly. Such a treat.

After the Abbey, we headed back into town for some lunch and then parted ways for the afternoon. Dad had some bookstores he wanted to peruse and some work to do, while I wanted to curl up next to the Swale and do some writing. I grabbed some snacks and my notebook and was soon seated at a table beneath the keep overlooking the falls. I even got to see some local kids jumping off the falls… Not too shabby if you ask me.

We reunited for dinner and attacked the Indian menu once more. It did not dissapoint, even though my appetite wasn’t really up to the challenge. Afterwards, we picked up some supplies for the trail and then headed back to bed. We’d done some walking, plenty of eating, a lot of learning, and been fairly lazy. A perfect rest day on the Coast to Coast.

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