Friday, 11 September 2015

Beautiful Byland

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.

16 comments:

  1. I can see why this place captured your heart. It is so bitter sweet to see ruins which Henry VIII caused when everything was stripped from so many abbeys. I hope you return to spend more time and share more beautiful photos with us.

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    1. Bitter sweet, yes, Terra, that fits it.

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    1. Solitude and majesty describe it very well!

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  3. Very beautiful, indeed.....It makes me think a lot about the people who built it and the people who lived there. Lucky that you were able to read your Aunt's book. It makes me so sad to think of the destruction that took place. People have created so many things which are beautiful and meaningful and others have torn them down and still are. I think I am going to have to concentrate on the way in which the creative spirit never dies or I will be too upset.

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    1. I am sorry that my post made you think of all the awfulness that's going on in other parts of the world right now, and made you upset.
      Yes, I kept thinking of those who worked and lived there so many centuries before me, too. What would they feel like if they saw the place in its present condition?

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  4. It looks like a beautiful place. I'm also interested in what it is that makes a place so amazing. I do think the setting is important. To me, the weather also is. When I think of places I have seen only once, it is often the way it looks against the sky, how the shadows fall, etc. Sometimes I look at a place in the rain and imagine it in the sunshine, and it seems quite different to me.

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    1. You're right, Jenny. It is a combination of weather, company (or the lack of it), our personal mood etc. that marks the atmosphere of a place for us. I love returning to the same spot in different seasons and weather, to note the changes, but of course there are many where I've been only once and will most likely never return.

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  5. Wow, I can see how one could spend hours walking around that place - especially in good photo weather! Meike, just so you know, I've been scrolling through several of your other holiday posts in the Feedly app on my phone, without commenting (because it's such a procedure on the phone going to the actual website to comment) - I'm hoping to find the time soon to go back and have a "proper" look on the computer though.

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    1. It's enormous! The expanse is not really visible from the road, but once you've entered by the main door way and start looking around, you are in for a surprise. At least that is what it was for me.
      I'd love to spend half a day there, bringing sandwiches and a blanket.
      Thank you for looking at my posts even from your phone!

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    2. I'm back, catching up with your holiday posts :)

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  6. I hope I live long enough (and am fit enough) to visit these places you are tempting us with. I've been round a lot of ruined abbeys in my time but that looks quite large compared with many.

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    1. I had no idea it was so large! I'd seen one or two photos before, but always only of the front wall with the three doorways and the lower half of the big rosette window. When I walked in and turned right, I couldn't believe how large and well structured it is.

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  7. Since I am so familiar with the Monastery in this county which is also a Cistercian abbey, I have strong feelings when I see the ruins of the monasteries in England. St. Benedict, I must do a post about him!

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