Beauty, peace, history, and a wide variety of nature. Not bad for one day out and exactly what I always find on an escape to Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. Situated a few miles off the A59 between Skipton and Harrogate. Majestically the ruins sit on the banks of the River Wharfe, having started its being in 1154 as a Priory for 26 Black Canons of the Order of St Augustine. Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII led to its end in 1539 and the years since lend to the ruins we see today. Why is the village called Bolton Abbey when the ruins are a Priory? Whoever wrote the first timetable when the railways arrived decided that Bolton-in-Wharfedale was too long, but, was also mistaken and wrote Bolton Abbey not Priory.
I know to arrive early before the masses of tourists, first thing you can catch the peace and quiet on the banks and try to imagine way back as not only the Priory stood proud but the workers and barns around to help it run. To cross over the river you have a choice of a good old bridge or have some fun on the stepping stones. The Priory is only a small part of what this area has to offer, I must admit it is a shame that so few visitors go beyond it, from what I see and venture into the pure natural terrain and woods beyond along the river. Today, I was off upstream and through Strid Wood.
Heading off on the North side of the River, opposite the Abbey you gradually climb. Up beyond the the trees that are directly by the riverbank but still in the tree level. A fantastic woodland walk by itself but then, suddenly, at certain points, a big gap appears through the trees and wow, down below, framed by the greened branches the river flows with huge views. Whomever decided to place the benches that lined the path knew exactly where to put them… So much so that you know a photo opportunity was coming, you just wait for the next bench and lookout.
Much of the area is a conservation area, respect to the nature should be given and hard not too given the upkeep of the paths. The variety of trees with the great oaks within is phenomenal, Spring you get bluebells, greenness throughout the year, berries and rare fungi. Birds, squirrels scurrying around and much more. Flowers of all colours adorn the way. There are a couple of opportunities to make the walk shorter and croos over and wander back, but as I have all day I can happily carry on the full 3 and half miles to cross at Barden Bridge.
Coming back on the other side brings you closer to the river and the variety just keeps on flowing. The sun filtering through the leaves as you get back in Strid Wood puts a new spring in your step. Keep looking left, the reflections in the river from the tall trees stalls you in a very good way. Then from the wide and calm, the River Wharf suddenly gets narrow and you hear the gushing water. For one small section you find out why people for centuries came to see The Strid. The calm big river is forced narrow and cuts into the rock. Different times of year and after different weathers this can make for a great spectacle at all levels of water. Not difficult to see why at this point you see many a person perched on a rock, SLR camera hung around the neck. In the 19th Century a path was built to here for horse and carriages so people could come see it. So, you know the rest of the way is going to be a wonderful flattish pathway. Also this enables wheelchair access and those with prams to come up the other way and experience it too.
Before long you break out into the open and see the Priory and village. Great day, great escape, great sights and refreshed with nature.