Despite a grey start, the weather was very kind to us for our visit to Jervaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire. Not far from Ripon, this privately owned Cistercian abbey is located on the A6108 between Masham and Leyburn.
Since the dissolution of the monasteries in the mid- to late 1500s, the property has been in private ownership, passing from family to family. In 1971, the Burdon family bought the abbey, and it is now in the hands of Ian Burdon and his family. His daughters run the tearoom, which was opened in 1994.
But apparently it had been put there with neither the knowledge or consent of the Abbot of Sevigny (whoever he was), and he refused to provide the abbey with any monks. By about 1156, it had been moved to its present location, also close to the River Ure, and was dedicated to St Mary.
During its heyday, the abbey owned half of the valley you can see today. It was the original home of Wensleydale Cheese and it was known for the breeding of horses. In 1279, Abbot Philip of Jervaulx was murdered and he was succeeded by Abbot Thomas, who was originally suspected of the crime. But when another monk fled, the charge against the new abbot was dropped.
The abbey setting is very tranquil and peaceful. You can understand why they chose this location to settle. On the day we visited, sheep were grazing and dozing on the property and didn’t move as we strolled past with the dog – until he barked …
After we visited the abbey, we took a right turn at the gate and headed downhill towards a little bridge. Then we turned right again onto a public footpath that ran alongside Harker Beck, which runs into the River Ure.
Our walk was only 1¼ miles there and back, and we met some sponsored walkers on their way back. (See below.)
When we arrived at the abbey, there was a special event in full progress. Herriot Hospice Homecare, had arranged a series of fundraising walks, and had been joined by Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton, who also donated some of his books to be sold.
We chatted with Catherine, a volunteer, who told us all about the organisation, the event and what’s happening in the future. The interview can be seen on the video.
Because of this special event, there were extra volunteers strategically placed around the site and extra bowls of water for dogs. There was also a raffle taking place and lots of information about this splendid organisation.
It was established in 1992 to provide free personalised hospice care to people in their own homes, but is also useful as the nearest physical hospices are often a long drive away from this rural area.
Tin flowers painted to look a little like poppies can be bought in memory of a loved one for £20. They can then be planted throughout the grounds of the abbey or they can be taken home. We saw quite a few dotted around both the abbey grounds and the garden outside the tearoom.
The abbey is open from dusk to dawn and there is an honesty box at the entrance and in the tearoom car park. The suggested donation is £3 per person, £2.50 for a guidebook and £1 for the car park.
The tearoom is open from 10am until 4pm during the winter months (February half-term until Mother’s Day, and October to November), and from 10am until 4:30pm during the peak season (Mother’s Day until October).
Dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a lead as the abbey is amid working farmland. Bowls of water are provided in the courtyard.
Picnics are permitted in the grounds of the abbey, but not in the tearooms courtyard or in the car park. Indeed, while we were there, several families were enjoying picnics on the lawn.
There are two unisex toilets inside the visitor centre, which is inside the tearoom.