Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. It is located approximately three miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, near to the village of Aldfield. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The abbey is a Grade I listed building owned by the National Trust and part of the designated Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more of the history of the site go to:
Nerida Bishop had been telling us for ages that this was one place we had to visit and she was right. For our experience we walked through a forest along a cliff edge to reach the abbey ruins. Along the way we stopped at a bird hide to see what creatures were in the forest. The groundsmen set up a feeding site for the birds and one squirrel must have thought he was a bird. Not content with scavenging on the ground he climbed up on to one of the feeders – well see for yourself.
Then we made our way down to the ruins and met the volunteer guide showing tourists through the site and giving us the history. It seems that a number of Benedictine monks decided that life was too easy around York and they had lost their religious way. They formed their own group and were given some lands in this valley where they nearly froze to death but having survived went on to prosper join the Cistercians and suffer the same fate of the Benedictines – victims of their own earthly success, until Henry VIII took all that earthly success for himself.
Well in 400 years they developed this Abbey to the point where it was more palace like than abbey. The ruins tell you that but the giveaway is the last of the Abbotts built a tower for no other reason than to have a tower and show off the wealth of the abbey. Anyway enjoy the photos, they include the water mill which believe it or not was still working until 1936 and then became a generator for Fountains Hall for another 20 years.
Despite the ruins being at the bottom of a cliff the imposing tower was evident from far away. As we climbed down the cliff we could see the body of the church with the large set of storage rooms running across the face of the Abbey. The Abbey is located beside a creek which once ran straight but has been diverted to one side and used to carry waste and sewerage from the Abbey. The roof and windows have been gone for a long time but it is obvious that the weight of the roof and enormous windows caused stresses on the building frame with buttresses built to re-enforce walls and window cracks cover with clever masonry figures.
The watermill although not as impressive has proved to be the most resilient building and it still generates power for the Hall today.
As we departed we made a quick call to the Hall where a wedding was occurring. There was not much to see really but it was interesting to learn that the Lord of the Manor had supported Charles I in the Civil War and lost his fortune for choosing the loosing side.
We have decided to go to the New Forest after seeing an episode of Location Location on TV. Created by William the Conquerer in the 11th century and called the New Forest it is not really that new. We were taken in by the fact that people are required to live in harmony with herds of undomesticated horses donkeys and cattle.
As usual the day is not looking to flash. Grey skies and cool breezes are the order of the day. It takes about one and a half hours to drive to Lyndhurst the largest settlement in the New Forest. We went to the information centre grabbed all the leaflets we could and went off to develop our plan. First of all we took a walk through the village and although it appeared charming when boiled down it was mostly coffee shops and a Ferrari and /Maserati dealership. Oh there is a notable grave in the church yard. Alice Liddel is buried there. Alice was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.
Our plan was to drive to Beaulieu then to another small village which was formerly a smugglers den then onto to Lymington and finish the day in Poole. We set off for Beaulieu hoping to catch a glimpse of the roaming horses, donkeys and cattle. We weren’t disappointed and Kerry even befriended one. Even in Beaulieu the animals had the run of the street. Again the village appeared old and quaint but was largely designed for tourism. Even worse still was Buckler’s Hard. If it was a village then it has been taken over by commercial interests as we could not enter the village without paying an entrance fee.
Next stop Lymington but somehow we got distracted and ended up in Keyhaven looking for Hurst Castle the last prison for Charles I. The castle was built by Henry VIII as part of his coastal defences in the late 16th century. Built for the age of gunpowder it is a low profile with a central keep and external walls in the shape of a clover with defensive towers on four sides. The castle was extended in both WW1 and WW2 and used in both conflicts.
It stands at the end of a remarkable peninsular of pebbles (another tombolo). It is one and a half miles from the carpark and if you miss the ferry (as we did) you can add another half a mile for the trip from the ferry terminal to the foot of the pebble sea wall. Well we walked the sea wall whilst the wind blew and the sky was blanked out by the sea mist. In fact we could not see the castle for most of our journey. The pebbles were hard work to walk on but we both enjoyed the exercise. We missed the ferry at 2.20pm and managed to walk to the castle in time to see the 3.00pm ferry departing.
Inside the castle there are two distinct parts – the Tudor castle and the modern extension. Large Georgian canon stand alongside modern Bofors guns. There is a display on the lighthouse nearby and wartime memorabilia. One of the most remarkable things is the memorial to all people who served in the castle between 1544 and 1955. We caught the boat back to the ferry terminal and picked up the car.
We then drove to Poole which did not excite us at all so we headed for home and dinner at Westers Bar.