Skip back to the next-to-last post from here if you want to know where we've been on the 21st of August before reaching a place so beautiful it absolutely deserves its own post: Byland Abbey.
Why is it, I wonder, that we find one place more beautiful than another? I know it is not always down to the purely aesthetical value of a building, a monument or a landscape. It is also not necessarily "good" or "bad" weather that makes the difference, or the people with us. Most likely it is a combination of various factors that determine why and how some places struck a chord with us and others don't, or at least not in the same way.
Byland Abbey was very much a surprise to me. Again, it was upon Aunt J and Uncle B's suggestion that we stopped there on our way home from Helmsley to Ripon. I'd never seen it before and was looking forward to exploring somewhere new.
By the time we arrived at the ruins, it was already 5.00 pm - only another hour, and the small English Heritage kiosk where visitors pay admission and can buy souvenirs would be closing.
The ruins are pretty much in the middle of nowhere; there is one building (an inn) across the road and another house (not visible from the ruins) a bit set back from the road leading past the grounds, but that's it. This solitude of course is a large part of the place's charm.
Add to that the play of sun and clouds on a late summer afternoon, the quietness of only three people on the vast green space with the old honey-coloured stones, and you may begin to understand what made this last part of our great day out so special for me.
Again, I took many more pictures than the ones I show you here:
Aunt J bought a book from the kiosk, and I borrowed it until our next meeting which was going to be the following Sunday. From that book, I learned some interesting things.
For instance, the abbey was moved several times before the monks finally settled for where it is now. There was also information about the day-to-day running of the abbey; it wasn't so different from a large company, and certainly required good management skills on the side of the monks. Daily life was rather harsh, as one would expect from a Cistercian abbey.
What is now visible mostly dates from the late 12th century. In 1538, the abbey was dissolved, and stripping of the buildings of anything valuable began instantly. The lead on the roof and the strong wooden beams holding it up were taken down right after the monks moved out, and so the buildings lay ruined almost from Day One after the dissolution. Being roofless, exposed to the elements (and used as a very convenient version of a medieaval B&Q for the surrounding villages), it didn't take long for the abbey to look the way we find it today. It is actually surprising that there is still so much left of it - especially the floor tiles, something that is rarely found in other ruins from that time.
There is a small museum in the grounds, but we didn't have enough time to go in. I very much hope to return for another visit of this beautiful place next year.