Posts Tagged ‘Ripon Cathedral’

Sunrise Walk For St Michael’s Hospice

Sunday, September 26th, 2010
Sunrise Over Studley Roger Deer Park

Sunrise Over Studley Roger Deer Park

We’re off en famille this early in the morning – actually, far too early – for a sponsored Sunrise Walk for 6 miles from Sawley to Ripon Cathedral, raising money for St Michael’s Hospice.  St Michael’s Hospice is a local palliative care charity for people in the Harrogate region, offering end of life care regardless of illness, but with it being best known locally for those dying of cancer.  Our 9 year old son, Jay, was especially keen to do this walk, so our 7 year old daughter is having a sleepover with some friends, so we can get up and out this early in the morning.

[Rest written on our return]

At 5am this morning, it was pitch black and there were no cars on the roads, plus there is a cold bite to the air.  Jay kept on saying that being up this early just did not feel right, which is certainly correct from his point of view.  I do not know whether others have noticed, but the air definitely changed on Thursday last week and that wintry bite has crept into the atmosphere.  I really could do without another harsh winter like we have had for the last two years.

We arrived at Ripon Market Square and set off in coaches to Sawley where we registered along with 180 others in the village hall.  As always, everyone else was dressed for the occassion, all togged up in Goretex jackets, hats, gloves and walking sticks and special walking boots, whereas we came casually attired in normal weekend rig out and some trainers; our clothing seemed to suffice as we were not climbing the Matterhorn.  They reckon that the pledges had racked up about £11,000 in money that would go direct to patient care, which is really excellent.

Just after the sun had risen at 6.30, we set off from Sawley along country lanes, skirting round Fountains Abbey before cutting through the deer park at Studley Roger and into Ripon, finishing at Ripon Cathedral at between 8.30am.  At Ripon Cathedral, we were warmly greeted with bacon sarnies cooked by Anthony Sterne’s Appletons crew, then we went home to collapse.

Bacon Sandwiches From Appletons Butchers By Ripon Cathedral

Bacon Sandwiches From Appletons Butchers By Ripon Cathedral

The walk through the deer park at Studley Roger was beautiful.  The deer were out and about and there was a tremendous stag with massive antlers that seemed to watch our every move as we passed near his herd.  Unfortunately, I forgot my zoom lens so was unable to take any dramatic photos of the deer.

Ripon, Religion And Football

Monday, July 5th, 2010

For someone with little spirituality, I spent much of last Sunday at religious events.  Both of them were for Ripon Cathedral Choir School, which is celebrating 50 years since its foundation by Ripon Cathedral.  Proof that little old Ripon can be a great, visionary place.

Ahmadiyya Girls Singing Song

Ahmadiyya Girls Singing Song

The first was a really special event called “Building Bridges”, which was a curry lunch together with members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Bradford (note i).  I have to admit to not having a clue what this was going to be like, so was gobsmacked to find a packed marquee, including local Mayors from Bradford, Ripon and Pateley Bridge as well as at least 50 from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and over 100 from Ripon Cathedral Choir School, including the Dean and the Canon in Residence at Ripon Cathedral and lots of children.

Links to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Bradford were forged by the former headmistress, Tish Burton, and are a great and growing part of the School’s ethos.  I am not here to preach or even explain – you can find all this out at and – rather I simply want to say that peace, understanding and integration can best be solved through meeting together over good hospitality and talking together in the right mental space.  As a result, I talked about football and cricket, while have blagged some of the delicious recipes (which I will hopefully be emailed), and we have agreed that the Steenberg family and at least one other family will visit their mosque in Bradford during the summer holidays.

Football Game At Ripon Cathedral Choir School

Football Game At Ripon Cathedral Choir School

My enduring image of the lunch is actually not the food, although it was delicious, nor the speeches by Dr Iqbal and the Dean of Ripon Cathedral, which were both poignant, but of the children playing outside the marquee – the boys in a fully integrated football game and the girls all on the zip wire; my son says they were really good forwards as well as decent goalkeepers.  No racial barriers even considered.  If our children can have open eyes and have no prejudice then the world will be a better place.  It brings to mind possibly one of my top ten songs – Youssou N’Dour’s song with Neneh Cherry called “7 Seconds” (note ii) and the lines:

“And when a child is born into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin it’s living in
It’s not a second
7 seconds away”

Which says to me that no child is born with prejudice and that it takes time for that to be instilled into them.  But that loop can be broken, and will be, if parents and adults prevent it from creeping into their psyche.  Events like Building Bridges, the World Cup (and football generally) and music showcase how all people are one and the same.  

The second event was Choral Evensong in Ripon Cathedral sung by the joint boys’ and girls’ choirs of Ripon Cathedral Choir School.  This was Ripon Cathedral Choir School at its musical excellence, with a full church and the beautiful sounds of a sung evensong, with the senior brass group playing Telemann’s “La Réjouissance” as the Choir and Clergy processed, finishing with the eerily spiritual Dismissal echoing out of the South Transept.  I found the complex musicality of the Anthem that combined words from Ecclesiasticus 1 with Psalm 119 to music by Philip Moore truly magnificent and baroque.

I was also intrigued by the Old Testament Reading as read by the current Headmaster, Christopher McDade, poignant as it captured my thoughts from within the Northern Thornborough Henge the other day:

“Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise.  But of others there is no memory: they have perished as though they never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.  But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children…Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out.  Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.  The assembly declares their wisdom, and the congregation declares their praise.” Ecclesiaticus 44

Enough said.

(i) Ahmadiyya Muslims are a minority and integrative strand of Islam that believe in peace.  They suffer persecution within Islam itself due to their peaceful and integrative outlook as well as their belief that their own founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet since the rest of Islam believes that Muhammad was the last prophet.  In May 2010, about 100 of their believers were killed in two mosques Lahore by the Taliban.

(ii) As an aside, I remember watching this video almost daily on MTV when staying in Dublin, while working on the flotation of the Irish Permanent Building Society.  My love of this song and all Youssou N’Dour’s works has grown every day since then and I never tire of N’Dour’s style.

Water Walks In Ripon – Alongside The Skell

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

As you walk through the centre of Ripon alongside the River Skell, you get an appreciation of how many bridges there are.  Sure, Ripon isn’t Venice with its profusion of quaint, romantic curve bridges that play on the imagination nor the strong, engineered lines of the great industrial bridges of Newcastle.  However, Ripon does have a lot of bridges packed into a small area.

For the short walk across Ripon, there are 11 highly functional bridges connecting Ripon between North and South, between the old and new parts of the city, and even as you get to Fisher Green a ford and 2 sets of stepping stones.  Towards the North, there are 2 further bridges over the Ure – North Bridge and the Duchess of Kent Bridge – and Hewick Bridge as you leave the east of Ripon going towards Boroughbridge and York; then there are 4 footbridges over Ripon Canal.  And all of this is in a short distance of 1 – 2 miles (2 – 3 kilometres).  Bridges have always been important to city life – Hewick Bridge and Bishopton Bridge had chapels attached to them to encourage pilgrims to pay for their upkeep – but there were no pontage dues or Bridge Wardens in Ripon.

We start this short city walk where we left the previous walk by Borrage Lane, that is at Borrage Bridge but facing eastwards.  The first thing to notice is the beautifully converted piece of local industrial architecture – the old Williamson Varnish Factory.

View From Borrage Bridge Past Williamson Varnish Factory

View From Borrage Bridge Past Williamson Varnish Factory

You walk along the river for a bit before coming out to cross over a road and past the Williamson Drive Bridge built for the newly built housing around the old Williamson Varnish Factory.  Then we follow another river path that is parallel to the very old road, Barefoot Street, which used to connect Borrage Bridge to St John’s Chapel.  The river bank opposite is dominated by overhanging trees arching over the languid water as it flows slowly through the city, channelled by hard engineered stone and concrete walls to protect the riverbanks and houses from the Skell in spate.  Brown trout can be seen hovering in the river and range in size from 3 inches to about 8 inches in length.

View From Bondgate Bridge

View From Bondgate Bridge

All too soon, we have reached Bondgate Bridge, where the mill race would have entered the river again.  Opposite us, there is a quaint little white house where the owner has placed a cheap looking plaster cast of a fisherman on their wall.  Ironically, someone was fishing for their tea on the bank opposite but seemingly with little luck in spite of lots of brown trout clearly visible and rising to the surface for insects.  Once again, we need to walk over the road by St John’s Chapel and down again on to the other side.  Here you walk along a short while with a recently renovated playground opposite us on a water meadow at Bondgate Green.  And it’s but a short walk to Archer Bridge.

I went under Archer Bridge and continued on the south side of the Skell.  Opposite, you can see the white-painted backs of some of the old buildings connected to Ripon Cathedral, while we walk on towards the Water Rat Pub past Alma Weir with its ineffectual salmon leap.  Alma Weir is one of the places where the Environment Agency measures river flow, but they have also realised that it can cause the water to back up the river, so causing flooding in its own right.  As a result, under the Ripon Flood Alleviation Scheme, Alma Weir is to be removed and the river gouged out to lower it and hopefully make this part of central Ripon less prone to flooding.  The Water Rat and Alma Weir are the location of the world famous (okay locally quite well known) Annual Duck Race held on August Bank Holiday Weekend.

Alma Weir In Ripon

View Across Alma Weir To Ripon Cathedral

Here, I crossed over the wooden Alma Bridge to the north side of the river.  Now follow, the river for a short while before you can see the remnants of an old mill race in a small patch of greenery.  Now, you cross another wooden bridge where Priest Lane dips down to ford the Skell by Wolseley Center’s ugly brown buildings.

Ford in Ripon In Yorkshire

Priest Lane Ford In Ripon In Yorkshire

We’re now firmly back into parts of Ripon that suffer from flooding.  Obviously, the Priest Lane Ford gets unpassable a few times a year, but now we’re entering the Fisher Green area of Ripon which can get pretty wet.  We walk along the Skell’s south bank past the back of some industrial buildings where Interserve is doing work on the Flood Scheme and a strange little building by Fisher Green Bridge that houses NDS, which offers training in rock music ranging from guitar playing to drumming.  Fisher Green Bridge is a classic sturdy piece of Victorian industrial architecture that was built to last; it was formerly the bridge for the railway line that was removed under Beeching and has been collared for the Ripon bypass.  If you look up to the road you can see that the A61 has widened the original bridge simply by cutting off the sides, bunging on some wide concrete slabs that overhang the bridge base by a couple of metres each side and then stuck the edges back on again – sensible but you would not have known this from the road above.

We walk under the bridge and are basically in the countryside.  Save for a few houses on the north side, the small green space northwards between the A61, the Skell to the south and the curving Ure to the east is given over to farming and washlands, which are used for walking by locals.  The houses here along the Skell are all subject to flooding and you can see many of the houses have sandbags to the ready or sturdy floodgates to protect their properties.

Crossing River At Fisher Green in Ripon

Stepping Stones Across Skell

Here I crossed the river over some stepping stones set into the river and walked a short distance along a wide green grassed footpath to the point where the Skell meets the Ure for its journey onwards towards the Humber.  Here, there are a few trees but I must admit that I would like to see more – I can imagine an avenue of trees holding together the river bank and soaking up the water when the rivers get bloated.  The trees around here include sycamores and willows as well as decorative cherry trees, while the river banks are currently covered in flowering wild garlic.

View Towards Fisher Green in Ripon

View Towards Fisher Green in Ripon

Water Walks In Ripon – A Walk Along Borrage Lane

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I have been spending a few minutes every day exploring the waterways of Ripon over the last month as part of some course work.  It has been really enlightening and an abject lesson in what you can miss on your doorstep when you keep your eyes closed and your nose to the grindstone of daily toil.

The first thing that happened was that it was plain and simply good fun – just the beauty and a sense of excitement as you found new things.  Secondly, Ripon really is a little gem of a city, forgotten and a bit tatty at the edges, but truly beautiful with countryside and farmland encroaching into the city.  It’s a green place, teeming with wildlife, and defined by its rivers.

Ripon is an old place.  It’s not Roman, but must have been inhabitated by local Britons before St Wilfrid rebuilt the monastery and cathedral of St Peter’s & St Wilfrid’s in the 7th century and that now defines and dominates the cityscape and skyline.  But it’s when you walk the rivers that you realise why Ripon was built where it is and why also it must have been inhabitated for many years prior to St Wilfrid.

There are three rivers that define Ripon – the River Laver, the River Skell and the River Ure (or in older times the River Yore which hints at its older pronunciation).  All the rivers have their sources in the Yorkshire Dales.  The Laver forms a border for Ripon on the west, meeting the Skell at the western edge of the old city and then the enlarged Skell flows through the centre of Ripon and where it used to form its southerly border.  The Skell then flows out of the old city and meets the Ure at its eastern edge, before the Ure flows past Hewick Bridge and off to Boroughbridge.  After a name change at Linton-on-Ouse, the Ure becomes the Ouse flowing through York, Selby and Goole before flowing into the Humber Estuary at Faxfleet and by England’s largest tidal reedbed – Blacktoft Sands.  The Ouse is the river of North Yorkshire and York is the second city of England.

So the three rivers create natural boundaries to the old city on the west, south and east.  Then you have the low lying hill by the Skell, where Ripon Cathedral now sits and would have allowed you to watch over the shallow valley in all directions.  The rivers are also flooding rivers and the area south of the Skell, where the canal and Dallamires Lane is located, would have been wet and boggy land, further protecting the city, while the surrounding land is good farmland that was mentioned in the Domesday Book.

So Ripon would just have seemed a great location to start a new settlement and I cannot believe that monks were the first people to notice this at the comparatively late date of 650AD.

Back to the walk, I started on Borrage Lane by Borrage Bridge and wandered along this small lane that has houses backing onto the River Skell and must regularly get flooded.  There’s a house here with a plaque stating that Wilfred Owen, the war poet, stayed here when recuperating in Ripon in March 1918 before going back to France and the trenches and death literally days before Armistice Day on 4 November 1918; how peaceful and idyllic Ripon must have seemed then and how dirty, noisy and cruel the war must have seemed as a distant memory only for him to have to return.  In his famous collection of “War Poems and others”, it states in the preface: “having much free time outside the camp, took a room in a cottage near the river where he could work in peace.  In this pleasant retreat, poems begun earlier were heavily revised and new pieces written.”  He decided to go back to the front when Siegfried Sassoon was injured with a head-wound and parting in September wrote presciently to his mother “When I go from hence let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable.”  Because of him, we should all have etched onto our hearts the last 4 lines of one of his greatest poems:

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”…And yet we still go to war for glory!

At the top of Borrage Lane just before it curves northwards, I followed the path onto a green swathe that acts as a water meadow along the River Laver and wandered up to Laver Weir by Bishopton Bridge.  Here, I watched the water pouring over the weir – quite mesmerizing and peaceful. 

There used to be a dam here by the bridge called High Cleugh Dam, which diverted water along a Mill Race that went down the middle of Mallorie Park Drive, Skellbank and Low Skellgate all the way to a duck pond at the bottom of Duck Hill, before flowing back into the Skell by Bondgate Bridge.  A cleugh means a cleft with water running through it, which is exactly what this is!  There’s a memory of these mills outside the Hugh Ripley Hall where two millstones are placed in the steps up into this community hall; this was the site of the High Mill.  These mills declined after the High Cleugh Dam was destroyed in a flood in 1892 ending the flour mills of High Mill, Duck Hill Mill and Union Mill.  In fact prior to then even, Ripon used to be the centre for textiles of the north before Halifax took over in the sixteenth century and Ripon entered centuries of economic stasis.  Also, a bit further down river, there is more of the mill race on the north side of the Skell by Alma Weir, but more of that another day.

I pootled back down the River Laver to where it meets with the River Skell by Borrage Lane and wooden bridge that crosses over the enlarged Skell.  This is a great place to play pooh sticks, but today I was more intrigued by where some steps up a bank by the Skell would lead to and where the path on the south side of the Skell came out back in Ripon.  Anyway, the steps led to a field which takes you back to Whitcliffe Lane and the houses in that area plus Ripon Cathedral Choir School, while the path is a short walk back to Borrage Green Lane and a playground that was donated to the children of the city in 1930 by the widow of the last Williamson of the now converted varnish factory by Borrage Bridge in the centre of town. 

Meeting Of River Skell With River Laver In Ripon

Meeting Of River Skell With River Laver In Ripon

Wooden Bridge Over River Skell

Wooden Bridge Over River Skell

If you were to walk across the field and then along Whitcliffe Lane now (May 2010), you will firstly see Ripon Cathedral Choir School which provides the beautiful young male and female voices for the sadly, hardly supported singing within Ripon Cathedral; it’s such a waste of talent that no-one listens to Evensong every evening or the sung services in Ripon Cathedral as the talent is amazing for such a small area that is Ripon.  Also, you should have a nosey at the school’s main building as this was the former finishing post stand for Ripon Race Course for many years – it’s actually back to front, i.e. the front of the school is actually the back of the stand; this was Ripon Race Course’s second location, with the first by the Ure on the far side of North Bridge.  This year and further down Whitcliffe Lane, you will see a quaint ceremonial gas lamp outside one of the houses and this is where the current Mayor of Ripon lives and is inscribed with the words “The Right Worshipful Mayor of Ripon”, and moves around dependent on the current appointee.

It is amazing how green and interlocked with nature this part of Ripon is – farmland cuts behind Whitcliffe Lane and the Skell all the way up to the centre of the city by Borrage Bridge, while modern housing creeps ominously close but has not yet removed this belt of green.  Then on the south side of Borrage Lane you walk among trees and the appetising aroma of wild garlic – masses of wild garlic and other riverbank plants.  Ducks swim with their young broods of 4 or 5 ducklings, and the swallows dive and dance in the skies above the farmland.  Save for the constant drone of cars, buses and lorries in the background, you would never believe that you were literally just feet away from urban life – albeit rural city life.

South Bank Of River Skell Opposite Borrage Lane

South Bank Of River Skell Opposite Borrage Lane

Also, you can see why Borrage Lane floods regularly – its banks are lower than those on the south side by about 2 or 3 metres, while the riverbanks have suffered erosion, especially close to Borrage Bridge.  Also, like many rivers the Skell is deceptive – small, gentle flowing for most of the year, it will suddenly fill up as rainfall and snowmelt rush into it from the moorlands into the Laver, Kex Beck and Skell, all merging quickly and simultaneously in central Ripon to create a rapidly formed flood head that finds the lowest and weakest place to break the banks.  The first place to go for these flood waters to find some freedom is Borrage Lane. 

Gabions Provide Softer Riverbank Edges By Borrage Lane In Ripon

Gabions Provide Softer Riverbank Edges By Borrage Lane In Ripon

Most of the flood protection is home made concrete and solid walls, but nearer to Borrage Bridge gabions have been put in that create a softer edge to the riverbanks that also allows river life to flourish.

And there is loads of river life right here in the centre, and on the edge, of the city – wild garlic, ducks and ducklings, fish (like grayling, brown trout and salmon are slowly wending their way further up the tributaries of the Ouse), native crayfish, bats, skylarks, swallows and supposedly lampreys, water voles and sometimes otters.  This is a part of England that is coming back to life as the countryside is cleaned up and people stop exploiting and fighting with nature, and letting it co-exist with us, enriching our lives.

White House, Ducks And Riverbank From Borrage Bridge In Ripon

White House, Ducks And Riverbank From Borrage Bridge In Ripon