Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Rievaulx Abbey

The last destination to be ticked off The List during our trip to North Yorkshire last September is Rievaulx Abbey.

I know I have already visited Rievaulx Abbey as a child, and it did seem a little familiar. Maybe it was memories of climbing over the maze of ruins and running round all the hiding places that came back to me.

Out of the three Abbeys we visited, this seems to have the most remaining, and the largest site. There was also a visitor centre detailing working lives of the monks of the abbey. This is also maintained by English Heritage (so the corporate membership we have really did pay off on this trip!) Rievaulx is a tiny village near Helmsley in North Yorkshire. Going down the tiny roads, which no doubt are treacherous in bad weather, led us to the first glimpses of the church within the abbey complex. The abbey dates back to 1130 and contains some of the oldest surviving buildings of the Cistercian movement (English Heritage). I understand from the information available that the abbey was a major architectural influence on the monastic church.

We could have easily spent a whole day around Rievaulx Abbey. We took a picnic and spent a good few hours there wandering through the archways, round the walls and along the paths. A good place to explore.

Kirkham Priory

Our trip to North Yorkshire allowed us to visit two other places on The List. The first was Kirkham Priory.

As previously detailed, the house teams at my primary school were named after local abbeys, and Kirkham was my team.

Kirkham Priory is the most familiar to me of the three on The List to visit, with it being on the banks of the River Derwent between Malton and York, and it comes into clear view from the train as it passes through. Having said that, again, it is one of those places that I don't actually recall visiting. I know I must have been there at some point, but if I did, I was probably at an age where I wasn't really paying much attention.

Kirkham Priory is maintained by English Heritage and I was interested to learn that the site was used in the time of Winston Churchill as a testing ground for D-Day operations. Who knew? Clearly not me!
Of the ruins themselves, the most striking and famous is the gatehouse with its intricate carvings. I didn't actually get a decent photo of this though! As the photos show on the English Heritage website, much of the remains are almost like a floor plan, but the size of the priory is still obvious.

The site is open and peaceful, even the passing trains do not interrupt the tranquility. If you are in the area, do visit for a lovely break away from the bustle of York.