Saturday, 7 November 2015

Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Park, Ripon, North Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved Abbeys in England. Built in 1132, this Abbey has been standing since Marco Polo went on his voyage from China to Persia, the black death killed a third of Europe's population, the Forbidden City was constructed in China, King Henry ordered the dissolution of the Monasteries, the industrial revolution and even the first mission to the moon. 

My boyfriend and myself decided to get National Trust memberships when I moved to the North for a year for work - there is so much history in the North - there must be loads to see, right? Fountains Abbey was recommended to me before I moved to Leeds - so it became a must see. The day was wet, windy and pretty miserable (I don't believe the weather has changed from this since), but we drove there regardless.

Fountains Abbey in the misty rain
To our surprise, the wet weather was actually a blessing in disguise. The entire World Heritage Site was empty, just us and the National Trust Volunteers present. We were able to see the Abbey in its full glory - the yellowed autumn leaves framing the mysterious building. The rain caused a foggy effect that gave the entire site a spooky feel. It has been said that on some dark nights, a ghostly choir can be heard chanting from the Chapel of the Nine Alters - maybe it wasn't just the misty rain that was haunting us!

Studley Royal Water Garden
The Abbey itself was an amazing building, made of Marble and several stories high. But this was not the best part of the estate - in my opinion, it was the Studley Royal Water Garden. Following the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry the VIII (an event that would have directly impacted the day-to-day life at the abbey) the estate was sold to a Merchant - Sir Richard Gresham - and the abbey and its grounds entered private hands. The most notable owners being the Aislabie family - John and William. Between them, they created an exquisite water garden that still looks the same way today, as it would have looked back when it was first designed and built.

Fountains Abbey from Anne Boleyn's lookout
Surrounding the water gardens are the most picturesque views and forestry, with winding paths that snake up the hillside. Every path is bordered with Pheasants - the males far more brave than the females. One of the winding paths takes you to Anne Boleyn's lookout - although it is believed she never visited Fountains Abbey, there is a headless statue there, watching over the abbey, which is believed to have been made in honour of her!

Another part of this World Heritage site is a deer park, where local wild deer run freely! Seeing these beautiful animals in England was amazing - they seemed so much more majestic than the deer we got close and personal with in Japan! During this time the rain cleared up and the sun (and unfortunately, all the other tourists) came out and we were able to see the Abbey in the sunshine. What this building must have looked like all those years ago when it was in its full glory must have been an extraordinary sight to have seen, and one I wish we had the opportunity to see today!

The glorious, Fountains Abbey

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