A Tour of the Abbeys of Yorkshire

IMG_0919I have always been fascinated by the Yorkshire Abbeys. Majestic , serene and magnificent. The stones reaching skyward and calling the eyes upward to a larger and more spacious place. Ruined in the main , yes.But enduring , despite the abuse they have suffered with wilful destruction and romantic neglect.

Why the fascination with these stones on stones from long ago  ?  Was it the family visits  to beautiful places for picnics and culture ? to edify the  trip to the Dales and make it more than a pretty pretty place of curbside daffodils and gamboling lambs. Perhaps , it was the school trip , with Mrs Elsie Brown of Ford House , Leeds Girls’ High School , on my eighth birthday to  Kirkstall Abbey . I remember that day so well .. May 16th … year x .  I had been given a Brownie Box  camera for my birthday and took it with me .  I took a photograph  of that day ..  and I can name some of  you , yet .  Jane Gillgrass, Penelope Frieze, Bryony Williams , Amanda Pullan , Elizabeth Carr,   and others Class 1B   Ford House ,Leeds Girls’ High School in year x .  Thank you . To all of you , for making that event so memorable, so enjoyable and so poignant.  I cannot just lay my hands on the photo , although I was sure I knew where it was. No matter to me, because you are all there in my memory. Sorry reader, that I cannot show this to you today .

So I stand at the threshold of a trip to visit all the Abbeys of Yorkshire  … well most, perhaps, nay some of them .  ( 24 and 4  Nunneries ) And on a bike … at about the right pace to appreciate them and love them and in a very small small way try to understand the greatness of them . For over 400 years the monasteries of Yorkshire were big and busy places. Significant in learning , schooling , caring , in commerce , in healing and in spirituality.  How shocking that in the main , today they are thought of as  monuments,a past glory and not as the great outpouring of Christ’s love on a very needy place. Did you hear , anyone , what  Justin Welby said as he was enthroned as Archbishop , this week ?  ” St Benedict set out to create a school for prayer, and incidentally created a monastic order that saved European civilisation.”

Hello ?  Are you Listening ?  This is transformational stuff ! … Prayer to the living God …It’s transformational today with the just the same power of Jesus that roused Benedict and the monks of the village of Cîteaux, near Dijon, forming the Benedictine and Cistercian orders. 

So is this trip a pilgramage?    Well , no not really … I’m not taking enough time to be so fit as to think only holy thoughts all the way … I’ll be thanking  God that the wind isn’t blowing , or if it is, that someone once planted trees for shelter .. I’ll be crying out for strength to pedal onwards and cross because a strong wind may make me  pedal hard downhill.   I’ll be so so grateful for a bed .. and sleep , waking as a shock that it’s almost pedalling time again .  But, yes I do want to partake in a sense of history , of wonderment and of awe.  I am praying to capture the heartbeat of the lovers of Christ who settled amongst the wild and rugged country of Yorkshire , taming land ,animals and communities to the glory of God .

I shall start with Kirkstall as number one ;the date ? it  is still slightly open . It was to be early April , but the weather has so hampered training , it may be pushed to May .. but no later .  I shall take water , museli bars and soap and spare tyres . But also a Bible and Rule of St Benedict .. and perhaps a highway code .


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