Hot Spot: Richmond, North Yorkshire

The glorious Dales and splendid architecture have seen this voted one of the top towns to live in, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

TIhe commuter's loss is the rambler's gain in Richmond. The map of this ancient Yorkshire town may show a Station Road, but the last train journey to Darlington was more than 30 years ago. The station became a garden centre and may soon become a community centre of sorts, and the rail line has become a woodland path. The rail line would have been mollycoddled if they knew then what we know now, but it is an apt symbol for an area that once depended on farming and leadmining and now relies on tourism.

TIhe commuter's loss is the rambler's gain in Richmond. The map of this ancient Yorkshire town may show a Station Road, but the last train journey to Darlington was more than 30 years ago. The station became a garden centre and may soon become a community centre of sorts, and the rail line has become a woodland path. The rail line would have been mollycoddled if they knew then what we know now, but it is an apt symbol for an area that once depended on farming and leadmining and now relies on tourism.

Richmond shows its age. It has cobbled streets, Georgian homes and a Norman castle with an immense keep. Also standing are a 12th-century Franciscan Friary bell tower and a Georgian theatre that was accidentally preserved. When the structure was converted to a warehouse, the original pit was covered by a false floor - and ignored for many decades. When the floor was finally removed in the 1940s, the frozen-in-time pit was found in a dusty but unchanged state. The Grade I-listed hall, which has hosted the likes of Dame Edith Evans and Dame Sybil Thorndike, reopened for theatrical business in 1963.

On the northern edge of Yorkshire Dales National Park, Richmond enjoys year-round tourism and, accordingly, its housing stock includes many B&Bs. Andrea Marsella of Bradford & Bingley says that prices have started levelling off after rising about 30 per cent in two years. "Richmond is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales and was voted one of the top 10 best places to live in Britain. Many people commute to Darlington, and with the A1 on our doorstep, some people even commute to York and Leeds. Our property prices are lower, our schools are excellent and we have a better quality of life."

Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) attended Richmond Grammar School. Also associated with the town is Baron Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Association who, as an army general earlier in his career, was based in Richmond. He chose the enormous Catterick Garrison, four miles from town, as a training centre.

Within the Yorkshire Dales are Wensleydale, of cheese fame, Swaledale, which lends its name to a breed of exceptionally hardy sheep, and Arkendarthgale, an erstwhile leadmining centre. All Creatures Great and Small and, more recently, Calendar Girls were filmed in and around the national park.

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Darlington to Kings Cross takes two hours 20 minutes. Teeside International Airport is 18 miles.

Shopping

Richmond has a Co-op superstore, and Catterick has a Tesco. There is an indoor market four times a week, an outdoor market every Saturday and a farmers' market every third Saturday.

Entertainment

Georgian Theatre Royal is a general performance venue with a museum of Georgian theatrical props and memorabilia.

Sport

Richmond Pool offers swimming, and Riverside Health Suite offers a sauna, steam room, spa and sunbed. Richmond and Catterick have 18-hole golf courses.

Museums

Richmondshire Museum has leadmining and transport galleries, a chemist's shop and the set from All Creatures Great and Small. Green Howards Regimental Museum ("Lass of Richmond Hill" is the regimental song) traces the regiment's long history.

Attractions

Friary Tower and Gardens contains a tower, most of which is still standing. Just outside town are the ruins of Easby Abbey, founded in 1152.

Prices

One- and two-bed flats start from £60,000, and three-bed terraces start between £85,000 and £90,000. For around £150,000, Sandersons is selling a three-bed maisonette with garage and communal gardens in a large block, and a three-bed double-fronted semi with small enclosed rear courtyard.

Family homes

Bradford & Bingley has a double-fronted two-bed cottage near a woodland walk at £225,000. A three-bed terrace with en-suite master bedroom is £229,950. A three-bed house with office and large kitchen/dining room is £250,000.

Arkengarthdale

Town End is a period three-bed stone house with a storeroom fitted with electricity and water and walled gardens in Whaw; £245,000 at Charltons.

Long and low

A three-bed two-reception stone house with exposed timber, flagged floors and garage in a small farm courtyard development overlooking open countryside in Gayles, near Richmond, is £265,000 via Charltons.

Tall and light

The five-bed Mallard House has a stable block with five loose boxes, all-weather menage, and around 4.5 acres of grassland in Hartforth. Three rows of floor-to-ceiling windows extend to almost the full height of the two-storey property; £585,000 at Charltons.

Into the woods

Rowleth End in Swaledale is a five-bed pile with conservatory, study, double garage, stores and workshops, grassed gardens, paddock and chalet consisting of a six-berth static caravan/chalet; around £495,000 at Charltons.

Good catch

Bark Farm and Ashlea Cottage in Brompton on Swale, four miles from Richmond, comprise a three-bed house with attic room/office, a letting cottage, and a trout farm on about 2.5 acres; £525,000 at Jackson-Stops.

Estate agents

Charltons, 01748 822525; Bradford & Bingley, 01748 850341; FPDSavills, 01904 617800; Jackson-Stops (Darlington), 01325 489948.

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