The naval officer in the abbey (sorry about the poor quality photo...I was trying not to be intrusive)
Fountains Abbey is part of the 760 acre estate which comprises Yorkshires first World Heritage site. This much sought after status conferred for its wide variety of buildings and gardens spanning different eras of English history. It is a privilege to be strolling around alone, or so I thought, so early in the day. The gates don't open to the public until 10 but my son and daughter-in-law have treated me to a short break in a National Trust apartment in Fountains Hall, the magnificent Elizabethan manor house within the estate. While they sleep I have wandered off to explore the ruins and ponder on nearly 900 years of history. It is a fresh spring morning. Swathes of golden daffodils and crisp white snowdrops line the River Skell which runs beside the Abbey. My only company, whirling flocks of doves which make their nests high in the crumbling walls, hooting pheasants and the rabbits and squirrels which caper about in the early morning dew. It is quite magical and I relish the opportunity to explore alone.
|Our accommodation - Fountains Hall|
So, here I am five centuries later, wandering through this vast crumbling ruin, thinking of the lives lived here. The cellarium, or dining room, oozes atmosphere and retains its glorious vaulted ceiling. The bell tower soars defiantly to the sky and the massive church, with its lush, green carpet of grass is a peaceful meditative place. I move through the cloisters, chapter house, guest houses, and even the toilet blocks which hang out over the river so that the waste could drop straight in. No eco-warriors amongst those monks! I linger in the warming room where huge fires were lit from November until Easter and which was the only place the monks could warm themselves against the bitter winter. As a self contained town the abbey would once have hummed to the sound of bells and prayers, chants and industry but this morning it dozes quietly by the gentle murmur of the river, its mute, ivy clad walls standing testimony to the awesome skills of medieval builders and masons.