Autumn feels like quite a long time ago now; we’ve well and truly descended into winter (at four-pm my house’s average temperature is 13.5 degrees celsius). But back in October G and I decided to make the most of a stunning Yorkshire autumn and drove out to Bolton Abbey in the south of the Dales. It’s a large estate managed by the Devonshire family since the 18th century, and includes the stunning Strid Wood, a picturesque village and the ruins of the old Priory. We spent a quiet, overcast day exploring all three, marvelling at the landscape and the lack of other visitors.
I loved the Strid Wood, so-called because of the ‘Strid’, a section of the River Wharfe where the space through which the water passes narrows to such an extent that it is forced through at breakneck speed and pressure. Warning signs shout Danger from the trees. The impressive force can’t be captured in a single frame; even film doesn’t really do it justice.
From the woodland we drove round to Bolton Abbey village itself to have a look at the ruins of the Augustinian Priory, which was destroyed during the dissolution in 1539. To get there we meandered through the village; it was late afternoon on a Sunday, and the place felt like an old movie set. Everything was a little bit too perfect: every shop signposted in the same way, every street cleared. It felt like nobody really lived here; you just passed through. A village designed for tourists, I felt. Pretty as it was, there was no real life, so we passed through to the ruins.
On summer days you can cross the river via the stepping stones, but the water was so high only the signpost gave any indication that they were even there. We passed the ice-cream van as it closed up and picked our way through the cemetery and the ruins themselves. In some ways this felt more alive than any part of the village; the bricks had long fallen, but the Priory’s human history was palpable.