Monday, 5 September 2016

Yorkshire Holiday 2016: Back to St. Mary's and Fountains Abbey

When we had walked to Fountains Abbey the first time this holiday, it was a little too early for St. Mary's to be open. I had intended to go back another day, and that day was the 5th of August.
This time, I set off late enough to be there when it would be open, and after walking across the fields we know rather well by now, through the village of Studley Roger and up the long hill through the deer park, I arrived at the church.

As on previous visits, I find that I discover something different every time - in spite of it being a relatively small building, St. Mary's is so rich in detail you can't possibly take it all in at one visit. That day, I focused on the organ:

The architect, William Burges, designed the organ to look like a medieval house, with the upper storey and its windows projecting over the ground floor. The organ maker was up for a challenge in two ways - firstly, he had to build the organ so that it fit the specification of Burges' "house", and secondly, because he was a bell founder and not an organ maker. One of the leaflets you find at the church tells you that apparently, this bell-foundry origin of the organ's pipes is audible in its sound, and that the organ is very unusual for that. I've not (yet) heard it being played, and I'm no expert on organs, so I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. But I found it an interesting detail.

The picture of the angel in the centre of the organ house is for my Mum!

You can read more about the building, its architect and the story behind it on older blog posts, if you like. Type "St. Mary's" in the search bar in the top left corner of my blog - or simply look it up on wikipedia.

From there, I walked on towards Fountains Abbey - again :-)

But this time, once I was there, I took a different route, using what is called the "upper ride", a path leading around the estate on top of the ridge instead of in the river valley. The views from there are beautiful, too:

Just like the path along the river at the bottom of the valley, the one at the ridge goes all the way to Studley Royal. Of course, the layout of the river and ponds in that part of the vast estate is visible even better from there than from the ground.

These pictures were taken from the highest point of the path, where it first leads through a woodland area and then opens up a little to reveal a small "temple" and a tower, both erected there for John Aislabie's and his visitors' pleasure:

Next to this small building (which is what this building was made for) a dark tunnel opens. Walking through, you can make your way back down to the bottom of the valley:

From there, follwoing the path you arrive at the lake. I walked around it and on to Seven Bridges Valley, where I'd been a few times in the past, but not last year (I think) and definitely not yet this year:

As you can tell, the river was completely dry after the first bridge, something I remember from a previous summer (also on my blog, I think) when it was - for Yorkshire - very warm for a long time.

I did not go round the back, so to speak (through the woods and past the farms), but retraced my steps through Studley Roger to Ripon, and Matchbox Cottage.


  1. Thanks for sharing another lovely Yorkshire walk. Fountains Abbey is such a special place. I may have mentioned this before but twice when I was in primary school, school trips were organised to Fountains Abbey. We travelled by hired buses and it seemed so far away. We took packed lunches and I kissed Susan Dean and Audrey Taylor on the back seat.

    1. Thank you for the angel, my dear, and for the organ, you know, your Dad loves organs and organ music very much.

    2. Hello Mum, you are welcome! I was hoping you'd show Dad this post, I know how much he loves organs and organ music, and this one is really special I think.

      Neil, I am glad you have good memories of visiting Fountains Abbey! Of course you could have kissed Susan and Audrey on the back seat of the bus no matter where your school trip went, but I am sure these kisses made that special place extra special.

  2. Who needs guide books with your posts Meike? This was a particularly interesting one. St Mary's is definitely worth a visit too.

    1. Thank you, Graham! Yes, St. Mary's is worth a visit. The volunteers are friendly and knowledgeable but also leave you to wander around on your own if you prefer that.

  3. Wonderful. I love those close-ups of the organ.

    1. Thank you, Monica! I found it fascinating, very unusual.