Fountains Abbey was built in 1132 AD. It is a haunting place and I even photographed a ghost! In the summer of 2008. My friend and I decided to stay in the ancient city of York in North Yorkshire once a Roman stronghold and now home to the famous landmark York Minster cathedral.
We set out on a day trip to Fountains Abbey driving through the Yorkshire Moors and Dale country. The Dales are miles and miles of undulating green countryside with small quaint villages popping up every now and then.
A riot at a monastery in York in 1132 gave rise to this huge monastery set in a small valley which had a gentle river flowing through it. In 1539 King Henry VIII dissolved all monasteries and sold off Fountains Abbey in 1540.
We walked down a small steep woodland valley path and eventually into open grassland. It was like arriving in some sort of majestic heavenly place. Some of the stone used to build the abbey was taken from the cliffs which were around 25 feet high that formed the small valley in which the abbey was originally built. This was indeed an ideal place to build such a wondrous, historical and haunting building.
When we walked inside the abbey much of the roof had gone, long gone. I had not expected it to last anyway after all it had survived nearly 900 years and countless wars and conflicts. There were very few other tourists maybe three or four people having a picnic. It was like we had the place all to ourselves.
The architecture was stunning and the brickwork was so well designed that the thought that I always had of folk from yesteryear not being as intelligent and skilled as they are today was blown out the window (not that this abbey had any windows).
I imagined hooded monks walking head bowed slowly with hands clasped together down these very corridors all those years ago. I sent a shiver down the spine. We walked down in to the monks’ refectory which was the only room to have a roof still intact. The only noise we could hear was screeching of the ravens. I always found it strange that ravens tend to frequent old castles and abbeys. I guess they always have since kings of England always liked to keep them as they loudly squawked when enemies arrived over hilltops and valleys.
After walking around for about two hours with the only sound being the ravens and the gentle river flowing alongside the rear of the abbey we decided to have our lunch. We had taken a packed lunch and went down below the monks’ refectory and sat on two stone plinths. It was a bit damp and dingy down there but one could feel the history all around. The sounds of the ravens was stifled and we couldn’t hear the river any longer just silence and the odd distant screech of some bird in a far away wood.
After lunch I stood and said ‘I’ll grab one more photograph and then we shall leave’. The chamber was long and we did not see a single person down there throughout our lunch break. I took the photo (see below) and when I checked it later on my digital camera I noticed a ‘person’ walking across the vista. I could not for the life of me remember seeing anybody else down there and the picture clearly shows a person walking towards a brick wall (with determination). I remember taking the shot and certainly there was nobody there when I cued it up.