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Friday, 23 April 2021

Rievaulx Abbey

Our final day out of this mini-break was to Rievaulx Abbey. This was always going to be an interesting one, as the website was a little vague around wheelchair access. I kind of assumed it was going to be similar to Fountain's Abbey but on a slope, and I wasn't far wrong. The main path is gravel and most of the ruins are on grass. Grass can make it harder going in my mountain trike, but it hasn't rained now for weeks, and the ground is nice and hard, which makes it much easier. 

Anyway, again, Covid measures were pretty good, and we felt safe there. The main toilets are out in the car park, and you have to go out through the same route as coming in, so I was glad they weren't for me. The accessible toilet is in the main building. It was pretty good. Like most of them, it wasn't really big enough for me to go in with my trike, so I left it, and Liggy, outside with Neil... my 'essential companion'. I thought that was a nicer description than carer. Well done English Heritage!

The photos from today's visit don't tell a story... they are just nice piccies of the Abbey, many in monochrome, because I love monochrome photography. So I'll just interperse them in no particular way.

Monocrome photo of the monks' eating place, though you wouldn't recognise it as such. It's really just an old stone hall with beautiful arched windows.

The site, as you will see, is built into quite a steep hillside. We decided to start at the top and work down. Actually, the top area was most of the ruins and took a while to get round. It was well worth it though. The main path is gravel and was relatively easy to climb, though I went quite slowly. That goes up to a small museum, though at the moment, it is closed. Later in the day, Neil went for a nosey round the back of it and discovered a massive swarm of bees on a window. I hadn't been bothered by them though all day, and decided I was happy to take his word for it, and that I would be better not to go and have a look. 


A fairly flat grass area with large ruins on the right but lots of small walls on the ground that indicate where rooms once were.

The photo above shows a section that I thought should feature as an accessible maze. For anyone else, walking around could get you anywhere. Most of the walls were small enough to step over, but for me it was a fun game, working out where I could get to and how to get out again. 

At the bottom of the hill, is a row of trees, going across the grass. Apparently, that is where the River Rye used to run but the monks re-routed it. We sat in the picnic area by those trees to have our lunch and it was strange to think we were sitting where the river used to be. We also had yet another lunch time of contemplating whether another membership would be excessive... but in the end, decided to go for it. These places are fab days out but also are causes worth supporting. Like all charities, they have had a tough year and they do a really good job of both maintaining our heritage and providing education to people in a relaxed and fun way.


Monochrome photo of the main building at the top of the site. Two walls remain with lots of arched windows.

There were several areas of flat lawn, which were lovely for stopping, resting and just taking in the views. It's hard to describe the magnificence of the ruins, but there were birds at the top, which we could only just see with the naked eye. We were trying to decide whether it was just pigeons and crows or something more exciting. Fortunately, I had my grandad's old binoculars with me, so we got them out and had a better look. It was nothing exciting but it was also interesting to use them to look up to another building, right at the top of the hill - Rievaulx Terrace - which is owned by the National Trust and only opens one Saturday per month. 


Neil and Liggy (black lab) are sitting together on a large stone, part of a ruin. Neil's face is partly hidden behind Liggy's as he is gently nuzzling her face.

Although this was a very interesting visit, and the weather was glorious, there isn't much to acually do, other than wander around the ruins. For us, that was perfect. I think, even with most children, they could run around, make up stories and be imaginative, and have a good day out. We easily spent four hours there, and only really left because it was getting really hot and Liggy had been a little bit sick when we arrived. She didn't show any signs of being really poorly but just a little tired and although she was happy and seemed to be enjoying the outdoors, when it got hot, she seemed ready to call it a day. Plus, we knew we had things to do back at the campsite.


Monochrome photo of a large wall over a big square lawn. The sun is casting shadows around the left and bottom edge.

Before leaving though, we had a look around the shop. It's always nice to support these places and get a few reminders of the day. The previous night had been quite cold... down to -2oC - and Neil, who is normally fine with just his duvet, added an old travel rug that we keep in the car, to keep him warm. But we do intend to use Zerubbabel all year round, so he suggested buying a new wool blanket to keep in the motorhome, so we've always got something to wrap us up if it's a bit chilly. We also spotted some jars of yummy stuff and bought some toffee apple curd (no idea, but it sounds delicious!) and some horseradish and mustard something or other. 


Monochrome photo, looking up at the main ruin from a courtyard below. The sky and the shadows make it look quite atmospheric and eerie.

Inevitably, there were quite a few areas that I couldn't get to. We expected this. There were also a few narrow spots. We always go prepared for different Liggy situations. She spent part of the day attached to the lead arm on my trike and part just on a normal lead with Neil. She often went around the bits I couldn't do, walking with Neil but she always shows little signs of being concerned about whether I'm okay without her. Eventually, Neil usually finds a way back that puts me in sight but at a distance. This is where she always makes my heart do a little happy dance. We check that there's nobody around and no distractions. and then Neil just lets go and I call her. She runs soooo fast to get back to me. It's the best recall practice because it gives as near to 100% success rate as is possible. 


Me in my mountain trike at the bottom of a flight of wooden steps. There is no way I could possibly climb them but I'm pointing up with a cheeky grin, as though I might give it a try.

I wouldn't call this the best of accessible visits. If you were using a normal manual chair, it might be just too difficult. I wouldn't want to do it without my trike. That said, there were several people with walking sticks and crutches, and there are seats a-plenty, so it depends what you can do and what you want from a day out. Some of the grass banks were quite steep but it gave me chance to learn a bit more about what I can and can't do. Sometimes, I surprise myself by managing something that looks difficult. Other times, I just let Neil go off for a while and I find a nice spot, usually in the shade, to rest and enjoy the views. For me, as long as there's an accessible toilet, and not too many nettles, not too many bees, and preferably no wasps... I'm a happy camper!


Monochrome photo of the main ruins from well back. The grass and smaller ruins are in the foreground.


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