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Sawley Abbey by the Ribble in Lancashire

River Ribble Sawley Abbey Lancashire

The River Ribble, close to Sawley Abbey

The River Ribble rises in Yorkshire but comes to maturity in Lancashire. Not long after crossing from the white rose county to the land of the red rose it flows past Sawley. More accurately, I suppose, one should say the village of Sawley grew up by the banks of the Ribble. Before there was much by way of a village there was the Abbey, and before them both there was the Ribble.

Sawley Abbey ruins Lancashire

The Ruins of Sawley Abbey

On a warm Summer afternoon it is nice to stroll around the ruins of the abbey, maybe sitting for a rest after a walk by the river. There are no extensive building such as those over in Yorkshire at Fountains Abbey or Rievaulx, or for that matter further west into Lancashire at Whalley, but this is a pleasant spot surrounded by beautiful Lancashire countryside and English Heritage have provided information boards giving something of the history of the place.

Sawley Abbey Pendle Hill Lancashire

Part of the Sawley Abbey Ruins with Pendle Hill behind


For centuries Yorkshire was divided into “Ridings”. Then in 1974 a modernising generation of politicians and bureaucrats decided that history had to be replaced by administrative convenience. New counties were created, among them North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire. Historic names and boundaries may have gone, but fear not. History refuses to be sidelined.

There is a lot of history in the areas around and to the east of Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon. Combined with beautiful countryside the history of this area makes for an excellent holiday. Castles and abbeys, on their hills and in their river valleys, add interest to country walking. Indeed for many people they are the focal points for their visits; pleasant walks simply add to the enjoyment of the history.

North York Moors Sutton Bank

North York Moors National Park Information Centre, Sutton Bank

Cistercian Abbeys – “Three Shining Lights”

In the Summer of 2015 I spent a few days in the area, based on the outskirts of Harrogate. I’ll leave that attractive spa town for another article and concentrate on a day of Cistercian abbeys. Incidentally, I don’t recommend following my example and packing all this into one day. I was short of time but a more leisurely visit would, I think, be preferable.

At that time I’d never come across the phrase, “The three shining lights of the North”. It was more recently that, while reading about northern abbeys I noticed that this title had been given to the three Yorkshire Cistercian abbeys of Fountains, Rievaulx and Byland in the centuries before their dissolution.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey Yorkshire Northern England

One corner of the Fountains Abbey grounds

I’d been to Fountains Abbey before, more than thirty years ago. On reaching what I remembered as the entrance I was surprised to find a sign pointing round a corner, up a hill and along a lane to the visitor centre. This leads me to my one and only criticism. The visitor centre could scarcely have been built at a more inconvenient place for anyone with limited walking ability, and that’s a lot of National Trust members.

I looked around at the people. Other than two groups of school children with their teachers the average age must have been well over sixty. The ruins are beautifully preserved in a wonderful valley setting, but the visitor has a lengthy walk down a steep hillside – and of course the return is up that same steep slope. Just as I was leaving I discovered that it is still possible to get in via the old entrance down in the valley – but only if you are eligible to use the disabled car park.

I’ll not go on about this at length but am disappointed in the National Trust for its seeming thoughtlessness. I say “seeming” because I know that location decisions can be complex. Now that things are as they are, however, much more attention should be paid to the needs of families with small children and of the elderly. Many who are not registered disabled nevertheless find steep slopes a problem. True, there is a courtesy bus, but I only spotted it as I was leaving. How well is its existence advertised?

Fountains Abbey – The Abbey Ruins.

Fountains Abbey - Yorkshire Cistercian Abbeys

Fountains Abbey – More of the Ruins

The abbey ruins are extensive and really need an article to themselves, but here’s a shot taken at the opposite end from the first one above. I must also in the not too distant future take a walk around the adjacent Studley Royal 18th century water garden. The combination of abbey and water garden are classed as a World Heritage Site. There’s also a watermill that I’m told is well worth an hour or so, and I love old watermills. That alone is a good enough reason for a return visit.

And so to another abbey …

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey Yorkshire

Rievaulx from the road coming up the valley

This was my first visit to Rievaulx Abbey, although I had read about the remarkable combination of industry and spirituality demonstrated by the monks of the Cistercian abbeys. Of course that applied also to Fountains, but Rievaulx, to use what I recall of the language of one of the information displays, was their “Northern England business headquarters”. Founded in 1132 Rievaulx became one of the major abbeys of the North.

Northern England Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey – Some of the Abbey ruins

This was a major international agribusiness enterprise. It had its ups and downs. Like agricultural businesses nowadays it was vulnerable to the weather and to diseases of crops and animals, not to mention the predations of bands of Scots coming down over the border. Then there were the uncertainties of futures trading on the medieval European wool market which, just like commodity markets today, was not without serious risk.

In the case of Rievaulx it was the combined problems of animal health and market risk that led at one period to its having to be rescued from bankruptcy by the king. But Rievaulx bounced back until the monastic closures in the reign of Henry VIII. In 1538 Rievaulx, after more than four hundred years, ceased to function either as a place of prayer or of business, and its buildings were made uninhabitable.

Rievaulx Abbey Ruins Yorkshire

More of Rievaulx Abbey

Although above I’ve emphasised the business side of things it must not be forgotten that the abbey was at its heart a centre of Christian prayer and worship. In those days there was no secularist pressure to push faith into the margins of life, away from business and public affairs. Life, both public and personal, was less compartmentalised, more integrated. One of the early abbots, Aelred, was not only an effective administrator but also a much appreciated writer of both historical and spiritual literature, some of which is still in print today.

To my mind, though I admit that it is a matter of taste, the ruins of Rievaulx are even more impressive than those of Fountains, and much more accessible. The standard of upkeep is a credit to English Heritage. But now we must move on to …

Byland Abbey

Byland Abbey, Yorkshire

Byland Abbey

My third abbey of the day was Byland which also belonged to the Cistercian order, although not initially. The community was formed under the Savigniac order in 1134. Initially based in the North West, the monks moved several times before eventually settling at Byland in 1177. By this time the Savigniacs had been absorbed by the much larger Cistercian order.

Sadly Byland Abbey is not open every day, and I’d arrived on a day when the gate was securely locked. Further exploration will have to wait but here’s a second photo taken from the road alongside the site. Byland did not reach the eminence of Fountains and Rievaulx, and there’s not as much left of the ruins, but it was a significant centre for the Yorkshire Cistercians and I’m sure another visit will be well worthwhile.

Byland Abbey Yorkshire Northern England

Byland Abbey Ruins

Rievaulx and Byland are both within one of Yorkshire’s two national parks, The North York Moors. There’s a lot more to be said about this in later posts, and also about nearby Helmsley and Thirsk. I’ve got the photos and just have write the words.


Back to the Lake District

It’s some time since I put anything on this site about the Lake District (in fact it’s some weeks since I uploaded anything at all!) so although I’ve not forgotten my plan to have more about Lancashire and Yorkshire today’s picture is of Bowness on Windermere.

Bowness on Windermere Cumbria

Boats at Bowness on an October afternoon

It was only when writing the first paragraph above that it occurred to me that if I’d been writing it a little over forty years ago then some of the view here would have been Lancashire. Although Bowness was in Westmorland most of the lake itself and the western shore was in Lancashire. Ah, how the world changes.

Anyway, the photo was taken a couple weeks ago in the afternoon of a beautiful day, of which we’ve had quite a lot recently. Yes, the Lake District is great around the seasons.

Although I’ve not been writing much here in recent months I have been assembling a collection of photographs of both Lancashire and Yorkshire, including several of the medieval Cistercian abbeys, as I’ve travelled around. I just have to put some words to them now.


Ravenstonedale – Twixt Eden and Lune

Ash Fell to the Howgills by Ravenstonedale

I’m still trying to get a decent photograph of the Howgills from the top of Ash Fell. Somehow the weather or the time of day (sun angle) always seems to defeat me. Anyway, here’s my latest and despite its inadequacies I’m using it here to illustrate “Twixt Eden and Lune”.

The Eden and the Lune are the two main rivers of this part of the country, the Lune flowing south and west while the Eden runs north and west. Here at Ravenstonedale is the divide between Lunesdale (or Lonsdale) and the Eden Valley. The streams through Ravestonedale village join and flow as Scandal Beck into the Eden. Anything to the west joins the Lune.

Ravenstonedale Town Head to Wild Boar Fell

Actually Ravenstonedale needs to be thought of in two different ways. It is a village, but it is also an extensive parish. The parish spans the watershed and supplies both rivers. My second photograph for today (above) is taken from Town Head, at the top of the village, and looks out over that part of the parish to the east, toward Wild Boar Fell where Scandal Beck has its source. The image below is from close to the A683 Kirkby Stephen to Sedbergh road looking up toward Will Boar Fell in the background.

Scandal Beck flowing down from Wild Boar fell

This is fantastic walking country. The combination of the Howgills and the Upper Eden Valley attracts many who love tramping over the lesser known areas of our beautiful country. You don’t find the Lake District crowds here. There are no day trips to Mallerstang, except of course those passing through on the scenic Settle-Carlisle railway line (which has a station at Kirkby Stephen if you’re wondering how to get here without a car).

Kirkby Stephen centre

Some people may choose to stay in Kirkby Stephen, the local “walkers’ town” (above) or in Sedbergh, England’s “book town” at the southern end of the Howgills, but there’s accommodation in Ravestonedale itself and with the Black Swan (below) and the King’s Head there’s no reason to go short of amazing food at the end of the day.

Ravenstonedale Black Swan

The Howgills: The Less-Trodden Cumbrian Fells

The Howgills are much less well known than many of the Cumbrian fells, and yet they’re more accessible than most, being close to the M6 motorway and the towns of Sedbergh and Kendal. Their western slopes are right alongside the motorway as it passes through the Lune Gorge between Junctions 37 and 38.

Howgills Cumbria

The Howgills from the west, viewed across the M6 motorway through the Lune Gorge

Getting to the Howgills

I suppose that most people coming up from other parts of England to Cumbria for an holiday drive up the M6 and either leave at Junction 36 near Kendal for the southern and central lakes such as Windermere and Grasmere or continue a little further up to J40 at Penrith en route to Ullswater, Derwentwater or the Western Lakes. Leaving at J37 and heading east one quickly comes to the small town of Sedbergh (officially a “book town”) and around it is a world of rural quiet very different from the bustling centres of the Lakeland tourist honeypots.

From Sedbergh head out on the road toward Kirkby Stephen and the Eden Valley. As you go north up the valley of the River Rawthey the eastern slopes of the Howgills are on the left.

Cautley Spout Howgills Cumbria

Looking toward Cautley Spout from Cautley in August

The Howgills in Winter

Below is a 2015 winter scene with Cautley Spout, a long cascade of water crashing down the fellside – in fact England’s longest.

Cautley Spout and the Howgills in Snow

The Howgills and Cautley Spout – a Winter scene

The Howgills from the North

I was looking just now to see whether I’d ever written anything here about the Howgills in the past. The answer is almost nothing. In June 2012 I posted a few photographs of the Upper Lune Valley and one of them shows the Howgills from the north as a range of hills against the distant skyline. I promised then to get some better shots. It’s past time I kept my promise so here’s at least a provisional offering, a snowy scene from this past week.

Howgills Ravenstonedale Cumbria Winter

The Howgills from the North (near Ravenstonedale) in Winter


Interesting Days in East Lancashire

In my last post here I announced the planned resurrection of the “Around-England” sites after a year’s unavoidable hiatus. Today, then, we start an “East Lancashire season” by referring briefly to a few of the area’s many interesting places in which a visitor (or for that matter a local) can spend enjoyable hours.

“East Lancashire”. This area, from Blackburn, Darwen and the Rosssendale Valley to Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Colne used to be a textile production powerhouse. There were pits producing coal for the mills, tall smoking mill chimneys, and weavers’ shuttles by the tens of thousands clattering away from morning to night. At the same time on the outskirts of the towns and up into the hills and along the river valleys was splendid scenery, and dotted here and there historic country houses, some open to the public.

East Lancashire Industrial Heritage

Today the mill chimneys have gone but newer industries have emerged, especially in the area of aerospace engineering. There are also some excellent industrial museums determined not to lose the memory of the town’s past industrial greatness.

The Lancashire textile industry differed considerably from town to town. In particular there was a marked distinction between a spinning town and a weaving town. At Helmshore Mills they spun cotton into thread that then was woven in weaving mills such as Queens Mill, Burnley.

Towneley Hall - Burnley - East Lancashire

Towneley Hall, Burnley, East Lancashire – April 2012

Two East Lancashire Country Houses

I’ve mentioned Towneley Hall several times in the past and am currently planning a further much longer article with additional photographs. Gawthorpe Hall, now in the care of the National Trust, also provides a most interesting half-day visit especially if you’re interested in textile arts.

These two houses, on opposite sides of Burnley, are full of history relating not only to the immediate area but also on a national scale.

Ancient History – Romans in Lancashire

Go a few miles out of the industrial towns to the banks of the River Ribble and you reach a centre of ancient Roman history. There was a fort at Ribchester which is now remembered in a museum of Roman times.

… and there’s more …

There’s plenty to keep you interestingly occupied in East Lancashire. The places listed above are given only for starters. Outdoors there’s good walking as well as picnic spots around the river valleys and up into the hills. You can wander round historic abbey ruins and sit in the sun at Whalley and Sawley. Wycollar Country Park includes the quaint old village, beautiful on a sunny day. Indoors there are excellent museums in Accrington and Blackburn, there’s the Pendle Heritage visitor centre at Barrowford, and the castle at Clitheroe. We’ll look in greater detail at more of these over coming weeks.


Change Comes to Around-England

After 6½ years here online Around-England is to become the central hub of a small galaxy of websites, both existing and new. Following something of a hiatus from mid-2013 until recently (due to health issues) I am now in the process of reviving my entire network of North of England websites. All are being relaunched under the Around-England banner and eventually sites relating to areas further south will be added.

The first stage of this revival concerns the bookselling and associated sites. Today I want to mention just two of these. In the near future I’ll say more about several of the others, including Lake District Gifts which, although it contains some excellent gift suggestions, needs bringing up to date..

The Lake District in Books

This is not strictly “new” as I’ve had a successful site with that name since mid-2011. However, it is now completely rebuilt using more advanced software and is relaunched with a changed (although very similar) Web address: thelakedistrictinbooks.uk The website at the old address will continue to function but will not be updated.

All the book categories of the old site are covered by the new one, from Lakeland landscape, travel guides and maps to transport and the historic industries of the Lake District. Walking books include not only Alfred Wainwright’s guides and the more recent Fellranger walking guides from Mark Richards but also a number of titles focused on the needs of particular groups of people such as dog walkers and families with children. And there’s much more, including this coming year’s Lake District calendars for 2015.

Britain through Books

[fsbProduct asin=’B00OQVMC2S’]This is a completely new venture, expanding beyond the Lake District and Northern England. Several of my travel sites (also part of the “revival project”) include either all of England or of Britain as a whole. These now will now be able to link to a parallel bookselling site.

I’m starting with the sections on the North and working down through England. There is already a fair number of titles about Wales, and Scotland will follow shortly. Take a look at what’s there already. There are also approaching two hundred 2015 calendars.

Lake District Accommodation

My Lake District hotel and holiday cottage sites are due for renovation during December. Meanwhile the hotel booking form at the top of the righthand column here provides for hotel reservations not only in England but worldwide, or click on the Sykes block.


Finally, although this site does not need a rebuild it does need a more regular flow of new content. Expect to see much about Lancashire over coming weeks.


Around-England is now in Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen is a village in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, popular with walkers on the surrounding fells and on the route of the Coast to Coast walk from St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay devised by Alfred Wainwright in the early 1970s. It is now also home to the Around-England web sites. After several years in Appleby we have moved further upstream in the Eden Valley.

Kirkby Stephen - glimpse of parish church

The Eden is much younger here than at Appleby, a beautiful smaller stream that has just emerged from Mallerstang, passing Stenkrith Bridge as it approaches Kirkby. Close to the town centre is Frank’s Bridge. (As far as I’ve been able to discover no-one seems quite sure who Frank was). Here’s the river just a short way above Frank’s Bridge.

River Eden near Frank's Bridge Kirkby Stephen

It’s a great privilege to live anywhere in the Eden Valley, and now I can add the benefit of this view from my desk over the houses to Hartley Fell.

Kirkby Stephen

Turning slightly to the right and looking out of another pane of the window I can look over the rooftops and between the chimneys to Nine Standards Rigg.

Hartley Fell from Kirkby Stephen

You can’t see the Nine Standards? Well no, they’re too small, so here’s a blow-up of the same photo. Whether or not I actually see them from my desk depends on the light at the time.

Nine Standards Rigg from my desk in Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen is a marvellous place from which to walk into the surrounding countryside. There’s a great variety available and Ron Scholes has recently issued an update of his popular guide, Walking in Eden.

For more on the Eden Valley see my site EdenValleyCumbria.co.uk. It has been growing slowly since I started to build it around eighteen months ago and has reached a point where I’m now starting to acknowledge its existence.

I plan now to recommence regular postings on this site and on the other “Around-England” sites including Eden Valley Cumbria and also a newsy site about the North of England as a whole, Across The North. For more about the family of sites and plans for the future click here.


Wharfedale New Year

Although published here in August this item was mostly written back in January. As it was sitting here almost finished I decided to publish it now to revive the Around England site in spite of the long delay.

Our New Year outing into Wharfedale actually started in Airedale. The previous day had been wet (an understatement!) but Thursday, 2nd January started out bright. Soon there was blue sky over Skipton although everything was still damp from days of rain.

Skipton town centre

After a short photographic walk around Skipton Castle (just about visible above to the right of the parish church) we headed in the car toward Grassington in the next river valley, Wharfedale.

Hebden Beck

As we drew nearer to our destination the skies became ever darker, and the rain started to fall. We decided to give Grassington a miss, a pity because it’s a pleasant place in the right kind of weather but this was not a day for boots and waterproofs but for a drive, with a leisurely stroll in the dry if feasible. We drove on to Hebden and turned right toward Burnsall. The photo here is of Hebden Beck, from the bridge by the crossroads.

This is a land of rivers and becks. Unlike the Lake District the Yorkshire Dales have almost no extensive bodies of water but streams, streams and more streams. Very much like the Lake District, however, they do have sheep, sheep and more sheep.

Sheep above Burnsall

And bridges … . This is the bridge at Burnsall, where we are now headed.

Bridge at Burnsall

The road from Hebden to Burnsall is narrow. Several times we had to go slowly by groups of hardy walkers as they clambered onto the green bank to let us pass. Then the road emerges onto the side of a hill from which (after stopping the car and hoping that another doesn’t arrive anytime soon) we can look down on the valley beneath, the River Wharfe wending its way down from Grassington.

Wharfedale above Burnsall Burnsall

The above two shots were taken from roughly the same spot. Looking dowstream we see Burnsall, and lunch is in sight at the Red Lion, next to the bridge.

Red Lion Burnsall

It was time to leave. Burnley was calling, the East Lancashire town where we grew up and in which we were married almost fifty years ago. Not this time to visit Towneley Hall park but for afternoon tea with the one remaining family member we have in the town.

Burnsall in New Year sunshine

As we climbed the hill out of Burnsall the sun came through again. I pulled over onto the roadside, rushed out to catch the moment with my camera, and landed flat on my back against a slippery grass bank. Ouch!! But I did get the shot.


Personal Note:
Regular visitors will have noticed the lack of new articles recently. Shortly after this one was published I suffered the first of a series of mini-strokes. Although there is no permanent brain damage it became very apparent that I was seriously overworking. I’m planning to keep “Around-England” and other sites going but there will be a delay before more appears here while I do some reorganising of the workload.
– David Murray –
Returning August 2014

Burnley, in East Lancashire, was once famous not only for its football team (“Up the Clarets!”) but also, maybe primarily, for its cotton mills. Burnley and its immediate neighbours were chiefly weaving towns in contrast with spinning town elsewhere in Lancashire.

As a child I recall looking down onto the town from the surrounding hills and seeing nothing but “cotton wool” with dozens of black “pins” sticking upwards out of it. Such was the polluted air; the pins were the mill chimneys. Looking down from the moorland around Crown Point, Healey Heights or The Ridge on the other side of the town it was relatively rare to see much apart from this white cloud except in the second week of Burnley Fair in July when the mills had been shut for more than a week.

Now all has changed, and much of it for the better although in nostalgic moments I feel that I’d like to go again down to Plumbe Street and throw another bit of coke down at the boiler man to catch his attention then run away. (Yes, as kids we used to do that kind of thing! Now we’d probably get an Asbo.) But there are no boiler men on Plumbe Street today. No boiler, and no working mills; no cotton! It’s all changed.

On Queen Street (at the Harle Syke end of the town) though, there’s a working mill with its steam engine still functioning. It’s said to be the only one of its kind left in the world. Today I came across this video today. I hope you enjoy it.

By the way, there’s a museum at the mill. If you’re in the area make your way up to Harle Syke. Don’t miss this important slice of Lancashire history. The link above gives more details of opening hours but in the Summer months it’s open in the afternoons, Tuesday to Saturday.