Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North East coast day 5 - Fountains Abbey

North Yorkshire Cistercian ruins of Fountains Abbey in the evening gloom

My last day in the North East and I decided to visit Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire on my way back down south. Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey sits in an enclosed valley within Studley Royal Park, which also features an 18th century landscaped garden, including the Water Garden, created in 1718, which is one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. It is studded with a number of follies including a neo-Gothic castle and a palladian style banqueting house.

Unsurprisingly in 1986, the entire parkland including the abbey was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was recognised for fulfilling the criteria of being a masterpiece of human creative genius, and an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history. Fountains Abbey is owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage.

Temple and lake in the mist at the water garden at Fountains Abbey in Ripon North Yorkshire
The Temple of Piety is on the right, and one of the many follies that dot the garden is situated in the tree line
on the left.

It was not a particularly glorious day for photography, there was a real chill in the air, it was very overcast and the light itself had a grim pallor to it, but it created a certain atmosphere to the place so I made the most of it while I was there.

As there quite a few people milling about around the ruins themselves, along with families kicking footballs about on the grass in front of the magnificent remains, and generally ruining the whole character of the environment by having inconsiderate fun, I decided to start at the Water Gardens. 

Studley Royal Garden temple reflection at Fountains Abbey
Temple of Piety and a statue of Neptune.

Thanks to the frigid conditions, a late afternoon mist had started to form over the ornamental lakes which only added an extra allure to their already handsome elegance. After walking around the large pools for a little while I took a few shots of the Temple of Piety, which was situated at the head of one of the lakes, next to some very impressive European Larch and Scots pine. 

Tree reflection in the misty lake and the Cistercian ruins of Fountains Abbey in the background
Looking towards the abbey through the mist, from the edge of the water garden.

I then continued around the lakes looking for some interesting images before finally making my way back to the ruins themselves. By this time it was getting on a bit and most people had left, which meant I had a much less cluttered view of the abbey. So I spent the remaining daylight having a stroll around the exterior of the ruins and seeing what shots I could find

National Trust Cistercian ruins at Fountains Abbey under cloud
The River Skell and one of the entrance bridges to the site.

Remains of a building at Fountains Abbey in North England
Remains of the Guest Houses.

Main building of the Cistercian Fountains Abbey on an overcast day
Brothers' Dormitory, Nave and Tower.

Magnificent ruins of Fountains Abbey under a stormy evening sky in North Yorkshire
The church is on the right, with the remains of the of Monks' Hall and Chambers in the foreground.

By the time I started on the interior the light was beginning to fade, and I think I had the place to myself, I couldn’t see or hear anyone else around, and the atmosphere of these monumental ruins was really beginning to close in, which suited me just fine.

Vaulted roof of the Cellarium at the ruins of Fountains Abbey
Often labelled as the Cloisters, this part of the abbey, probably one of the most photographed areas of it, is
the Cellarium, where the food would have been stored and the Brothers would have eaten and socialised.
Although it looks like there is plenty of light coming in, I had to have an exposure of over two minutes as it
was so dark in there. I couldn't even see the roof and had to guess where to focus.

Massive walls tower above at Fountains Abbey run by the National Trust
A view along the Nave.

Remains of the huge Cistercian monastary at Fountains Abbey
Looking towards the other end of the Nave.

Once I had completed my circuit of the monastery remains, predominantly because the light had faded so much it was difficult to confidently get anything worthwhile, I returned up the hill towards the visitor centre and started my journey back to the south of the country. But I definitely knew I wanted to return to Fountains Abbey, it really was quite spectacular.

Historic remains of Cistercian Fountains Abbey in the North of England

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