Travels with an Eriba
Exploring the North York Moors National Park and Coast
You could spend weeks exploring this area, there is so much to see and do. Our visit, given limited time and true to our major preoccupations, was focussed on the countryside and on several spectacular ruins! We got there from the interesting town of Pickering via a trip on a vintage steam train which runs from there to the coast at Whitby. En route it passes through lovely scenery and some most picturesque stations and small villages.
North York Moors Railway
This is a great option for a fun outing between April and October. The line runs from Pickering to Grosmont, with a link onwards to Whitby. It's been featured in numerous TV series and films, such as the 60s drama Heartbeat, standing in as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films and featured also in Downton Abbey, among many others. The slideshow below features a few of our shots on the journey and a brief stop-off we took in the attractive village of Goathland.
North York Moors - the Abbeys
A Monastic Enclave
Even today there are two "live" monasteries in one small part of North Yorkshire - Benedictine monks live at Ampleforth Abbey near Gilling and Benedictine nuns at Stanbrook Abbey in Wass. Located not far away from these are the atmospheric ruins of two medieval Cistercian foundations at Rievaulx and Byland and the extraordinary remains of the Carthusian monastery of Mount Grace, near Osmotherley.
Medieval Monastic Ruins
We first set out to visit Rievaulx several years ago fairly late on a VERY wet Saturday afternoon. We approached it via a steep, winding lane which had probably started life as a farm track. Like many ancient country lanes in England it was sunken, with trees on either side almost totally over-arching the road. So it was like driving down through a tunnel. Eventually we emerged into a lovely valley and were greeted by the sight of this remarkable ruin.
As it was still pouring with rain we enjoyed some refreshments in the tearoom. By the time we’d finished the rain had eased off and we ventured out. To our great delight everyone else had gone home and we had this wonderful place to ourselves. What a treat! Fortunately, when we visited the following year, the weather was beautiful, though that did mean there were more visitors!
The Abbey was established by twelve white-habited Cistercian monks in 1132, sent from Clairvaux in northern France. It was finally dissolved by order of King Henry VIII in 1538. Nowadays, it’s in the care of English Heritage and is visited by thousands of people every year.
At first sight you might be tempted just to admire the entrance and move straight on, but you would be missing a treat. The most enjoyable feature of the site for us was the large area of 13th century floor tiles in the abbey church. The tiles are richly decorated, and for 13th century work that had been exposed to the elements for so long, they seemed still vibrant and alive with colour. Byland is a lovely historic site; if you enjoy medieval monasteries like we do, but don't like the crowds you might encounter at places like Fountains Abbey, then Byland is perfect.
It is significant for its exceptionally large cloister and the scale of the abbey church, reflecting the size of the community which once lived here. The design of the church was by far the most elaborate attempted by the Cistercians at that time in England, and Byland occupies an important position in the development of Gothic architecture.
Video Tour with Music
Mount Grace Priory
Ruin of a 14th-century Carthusian priory
This is England's most important, best preserved and most accessible of the ten medieval Carthusian houses (Charterhouses) in England. Mount Grace comes as something of a surprise. A Carthusian priory might best be described, paradoxically, as a community of hermits.The individual cells (in fact they are like small houses) reflect the isolation of the monks who lived as hermits, each occupying his own dwelling. Each cell was in effect a private monastery, with its own cloister for meditation and a walled garden. They came together only in the chapel for the nocturnal liturgical hours and Mass, though on Sundays and feast days the monastic day was different. On those days the monks dined together, met to discuss business and discipline, and celebrated all offices in the church.
One of the most attractive parts for a visitor to Mount Grace today is the carefully reconstructed monk’s cell. It makes it easy to imagine both the attractions and the demands of the Carthusian way of life. Extraordinarily, for those times, each cell was provided with fresh water and had an outside toilet with running water, linked to the main building by a covered walkway.
Nowadays there is only one "live" Charterhouse in the UK today in Parkminster, near Horsham, West Sussex.