Monday, 12 September 2011

Fountain's Abbey

Today was one of those days that I wonder what I have been doing all my life. Why has it taken me 37+ years to discover this place?
Mum and Dad have done a brilliant job of organizing our trip. Having spent an entire summer here about 15 years ago, as well as several other brief stays in Yorkshire since then, they are certainly experts on the area and were so excited to show us around this little piece of heaven. They put together a flexible itinerary with all the spots that they thought we would really enjoy seeing and on the list was a place called Fountain's Abbey. Sounds quite lovely in name and from the brief description we got it sounded like a nice way to spend the day. What an understatement!
We arrived on the grounds at about 10:30am. We were told at the admission desk that the grounds were open presently but could close at any time due to some very high winds in the forecast. There are some very large, old trees on the site that are a risk to tourists. However, since we were already there and it was open we decided to venture in. We walked down a rather steep hill (Yorkshire is lousy with steep hills!) and could see the very tip of the ruin peeking over the treetops.

As we made our way through a forest and out the other side what unfolded before us was nothing short of breathtaking. We were absolutely awestruck!

Fountain's Abbey was a Cistercian monestary founded in 1132 in the Skell Valley by a group of 13 monks that were sent into exile from St. Mary's Benedictine Abbey in York. With the will to return to the simple teachings of St. Benedict they set off to start a new Abbey with the support of the Archbishop of York. The Abbey was built over hundreds of years and became a spectacular piece of masonry architecture housing hundreds of monks. Ultimately it became the richest Abbey in England. But all this came to an untimely end when Henry VIII's disagreement with he Pope regarding his divorce from Catherine of Aragon as well as his need for funds became reason to start closing the abbeys. He asserted his power over the Catholic abbeys that were challenging his authority and ultimately closed them down one by one, seizing their assets and dispersing the monks.
What is left today is the shell of what must have been, in its day, one of the most magnificent buildings in the country (and perhaps the world).

As we walked from room to room you could almost visualize the monks in their robes, soberly moving around in silence and reverence.

The clouds floated above us as the ceiling where the stone ceiling once was. It was mesmerizing to be in a place with such history, with such stories.
Flowers and ferns grow from between the stones that are left of the walls. Beauty and life in a place that has fallen to ruin. Such beauty. Really, there are no words.

Noah and Eden skipped and giggled as they playing in and out of the ruined rooms. Matt walked silently, almost never taking the camera from his eye. Everywhere he turned was another stunning photo. And yet, none of these pictures truly capture the energy of this place. I guess you cannot truly capture history in a still-shot.

We walked back up the hill 2 hours later, hungry and satisfied. I felt full with the beauty of the place, warm with the sunshine on my face and genuinely blessed to have spent a piece of my life in such a wonderful part of history.

We went to the pub.

After a delicious lunch of game pie and beer, we decided to check out some urban life. To Harrogate, the small city very close to our cottage. It was a nice afternoon for a stroll. Quite windy but still mild and enjoyable. Also hilly, as I have mentioned before. We walked about an hour before we found the Mark's and Spencer's and I went in search of a childhood memory. My sister and I used to eat ourselves sick on Salt &Vinegar chiplets from M&S. I found them and bought three bags. They taste the same and tonight I feel a little sick, I admit.

We picked up Indian food and had a lovely feast at the cottage and we reminisced about the Abbey again while admiring Matthew's photos. Another brilliant day in Yorkshire.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Unbelievable pictures, and your description of this place was moving.....felt a lump in my throat....Loved seeing the pictures of the kiddies!! Say hi to your mum and dad.....what a great time you all must be having!!!!!

  2. You're so lucky to have such a great photographer with you!