I have had to give this day it's own post as I went a little photo mad here. I have tried very hard to cut down on the number of photos to show you but I just want to show you eVeRyThInG!!! We went to Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Gardens- and it was most definitely my most favourite place of the entire holiday!
The site itself is mahoosive (so big it has three car parks, shops and cafes!). We started at the Visitors Centre and soon found ourselves immersed in woodland and peeking through the windows of a bird hide. We saw lots of pheasants, a jackdaw, pigeons, greenfinches, blue tits and quite a few other birds- even a sneaky furry squirrel trying to blend in whilst pinching the peanuts.
I have never seen so many pheasants in one place, there were hundreds and hundreds of them all over the fields, sitting in the trees, on the gates and fences...everywhere!
You start the trail wandering through the woodland with the hide and then through some fields with the pheasants, and then slowly, slowly, the Abbey comes into view, getting closer and closer....
The approach is from high up on a hill, but the Abbey itself is set in a valley next to the river running through it- quite literally on top of the river in some places. The path down winds itself around the back of the building so you get to see it from quite a few different angles even before you've got there.
The tower was very impressive, looming over everybody.
There was quite a lot of the structure left, and one locked off room still had its original flooring! I wandered off on my own trying to take it all in, camera constantly clicking. Each new section held a new wonder, and the arches!!! Oh the arches were just incredible. Rows and rows of arches, either side of the nave, with beautiful columns and stonework. It was so beautiful!! A photographers dream.
Underneath in the Cellarium, the arches and columns were breathtaking. It just went on forever!! (I am being very restrained with the photos I am showing you here, I must have taken about 40 of this room alone!).
Even the doorways had layers of arches, and looking through the arched windows to more arching windows behind was like gazing into a Ben Nicholson mono print! See how they all appear to go in different directions, layering up in all different sizes?
That must have been such an impressive window in its heyday.
We wandered around the Abbey for about two hours, completely losing track of the time. But eventually we moved onwards, walking through the valley along the stream until we reached the Studley Royal Water Gardens.
These again were breathtaking and were quite an impressive feat all on their own. They were built by John Aislabie, and later his son William, who were very socially ambitious and wanted to impress all of their friends with a grand Georgian water garden. Well, I think they certainly succeeded in that mission, and they have continued to impress people ever since.
The canals and ponds have been created by taming the river that runs underneath the ruined Abbey. There is currently a renovation program in place for certain parts of the water feature as silt has been building up and is having to be broken up and pumped out of the ponds to dry in a nearby field- probably not something the Aislabie's considered when first designing the garden.
They have special little floating digging machines currently at work in this particular pond, breaking up the built up silt which then flows into a huge pipe and is carried out to the field. The water birds seem to enjoy it as the process brings all sorts of tasty nibbles up to the water surface for them to snack on.
There are lots of different follys around the gardens, partially hidden by trees- beautiful little secluded hideaways.
This part of the garden was the most impressive. There is a large circular pond surrounded either side by crescent shaped ponds with the canal along the back. The water was so still it was like a mirror.
Another folly, this time of painted wood with a lovely ornate ceiling under the pillared porch.
Inside there was a rather peculiar display of characters from A Midsummer's Night's Dream, all lit up with flowers and shells and feathers.
Fountains Hall isn't really open to visitors, there are a couple of rooms open to showcase some historical items, but mostly the house has been converted into apartments. It is still quite impressive to look at from the outside, and I believe it has been partially built using stone scavenged from the Abbey.
And as if you could want any more, there is also Fountains Water Mill!! First built alongside the Abbey for the Lay Brothers to make bread for the Monks, then adapted and continuously used right up until 1927. The wheel is still turning, although the only grain that is ground there today is for educational purposes for the visiting children.
To cut a very long story short, this is a fantastic place to visit, there is so much to see and do!! We had a very very late picnic lunch in the car park afterwards, completely walked off our feet but with hearts and cameras full of the most incredible memories.
We did have time for just one more thing that day, a quick trip up the Dales to an art installation that Dad wanted to see.
The Coldstones Cut. This huge sculpture was created by Andrew Sabin, and is basically two swirling upward pathways leading to viewpoints over the dales and Coldstones Quarry. The structure itself is at the top of a very steep hill (our legs got a brilliant workout this holiday!!) so the views all around are amazing.
At the top of the swirls there was a really cool information ring which had lots of towns, counties and countries written on it, with how far away they were from that point. We managed to spot Tunbridge Wells and Brighton!!
Looking out over the quarry was really cool. And even with the clouds threatening overhead, we stayed for quite a long time watching the lorries come and go, and the men driving all of the vehicles along those narrow winding roads. Dad took his binoculars so we had quite a good view.
Eventually we made our way back down the very steep pathway to the car and home, just before the rain set in.