I was correct regarding the nightmare effects of the ginormous cherry Eton mess I devoured last night. I spent the night being constantly harassed by dreams of what to do about sorting the rubbish when we leave on Sunday. There’s quite a long and detailed description of the rubbish disposal in a folder in the kitchen. It is quite explicit, with regards to the sorting. My dreams were concerned with having to sort the rubbish into a number of bags, one of which we would have to take with us and put in a bin somewhere else.
Dreams aside, we spent a lovely day in and around Ripon. From the oldest bit of cathedral in England to the oldest rock formations, from a Victorian church to a Michelin starred taster menu, it was a day of massive contrasts.
A selective history of Ripon in one paragraph
Ripon is the third smallest city in the UK. In 672, Wilfrid decided to stick a Benedictine monastery there which, eventually, became the cathedral. In 1326, the English were forbidden from wearing foreign cloth and Ripon decided to develop a cloth industry. This changed to the manufacture of spurs, a decision which proved to be another good move. Lots of various royal personages stayed over in Ripon and there was a lot of religious movement given the proximity of Fountains Abbey. It became a city in 1865
Down from the market square, at the end of Kirkgate, is the cathedral.
St Wilfrid was buried in the crypt, which is deep beneath the cathedral. I know because I visited it.
It was based on the cave that Jesus was put into after the crucifixion though I’m not sure how the designer knew what that was like. The crypt is down a long, narrow corridor ending in a small room. While it’s the oldest bit of the church, it’s far from interesting and not something a claustrophobe should do. And I didn’t see Jesus. Or Wilfrid.
Two things I really enjoyed at the cathedral were the embroidery and the number of memorials around the walls. Both tell the story of Ripon in different ways. I particularly liked this tribute to a much loved teacher.
There’s also an interesting connection between Ripon cathedral and Lewis Carroll. His father served as a clergyman there for a bit. The church suggests that a young Lewis Carroll may have sat, staring into space, coming up with Alice in Wonderland while there. The misericords in the choir are used as evidence. I can’t say because they were roped off because of the plague.
Once again, the church proves that its belief in god is not complete. How can an all powerful god not protect its followers from a virus? For my part, it seems that their god is a bit shit.
Unlike the market in Ripon which is definitely not shit.
Apart from the wonderful stalls, there’s this lovely Cabmen’s Shelter. It was donated to the city by Sarah Carter (daughter of a former mayor) for the use of the cabmen waiting for fares in the market square. It’s been renovated a couple of times. It’s not used as a shelter any more. But it looks lovely.
We’d walked up from the cathedral and wandered around the stalls for a bit before settling into a convenient bar for a beer (me) and a coffee (Mirinda). Of course, we’d normally go to a pub, but the only one in the square was a Wetherspoons. So a bar it was.
Suitably fuelled up, we then retrieved Max for a drive to St Mary’s church at Studley Royal. (Note that anyone wishing to drive to the parking area nearby, will need to go via Studley Roger.)
Frederick Vyner was kidnapped and murdered by Greek bandits in 1870. Some of the demanded ransom money was given to the bandits but, after Fred was dead, the remaining ransom money was used to build a couple of churches. I’m not sure why. Normally this sort of thing is a thank you to god. This would seem to be the opposite. Maybe they didn’t like Fred.
Anyway, St Mary’s was begun in 1871 and consecrated in 1878.
It’s not a church any more. Not an active church, anyway. Inside, it’s an extraordinary confection of tiles, wall paintings, stained glass windows and a mosaic floor. It all looks very Victorian.
I rather liked the mosaic floor, which extends throughout the small choir and altar area in the east of the church. The floor is a bit fragile so English Heritage (who looks after it) have roped it off. This annoyed Mirinda a bit because she really wanted to walk on it.
The stained glass is particularly fine though rather Victorian. For instance, the depiction of Adam and Eve has them dressed rather than naked.
The Victorians were just a bit sensitive.
Having had a good gander at St Mary’s and laughed at the true believers in their masks, we headed for the most amazing site of the day. You can keep your stupid, less than all powerful gods when mother nature can do this:
Around 320 million years ago (long before god was around) a mighty huge river was here, starting to wash away and erode the rocks. Then, around 100,000 years ago, as the glaciers retreated, the rocks were moved and scraped, creating the forms we saw today.
This is Brimham Rocks, a large swathe of land owned and managed by the National Trust.
Of course, because humans have always been a bit dim, the shapes of the rocks have been ascribed to druids. Claims of druidic work was first put forward in the 18th century. This lasted up until the 20th century, when geologists managed to explain how it really came about.
It is an extraordinary place and well worth a visit. I would suggest arriving early on a lovely day, with a picnic and spending the best part of your time wandering around, admiring the various shapes, inventing meaning and generally gazing in wonder at how the natural world is far greater than we are. You should also interact with the rocks.
The woman on the left of the photo was impressed by Mirinda’s pose. Mirinda explained to her that, in China, we’d witnessed people making strange poses for the camera rather than just standing and smiling, making the point that it made them stand out in a crowd. The woman was far more amazed that Mirinda could lift her leg that high, saying she couldn’t hope to do it.
We weren’t alone in our connection with the rocks. A couple of women were sat atop a particularly stark boulder. They were back to back, creating a wonderful image. Their view must have been spectacular.
Wandering around the rocks was an amazing, dare I say, religious, experience. It’s very difficult to imagine things over hundreds of thousands of years; a little bit of erosion here, little bit of scraping there. It doesn’t need a god to explain it. And perhaps that’s why we, as humans, have a disconnect from the rest of the planet. We have a very useful imaginary friend that we can use to explain the inexplicable.
Back at the house we had a brief respite before heading off for our huge treat at Grantley Hall.
Mirinda had booked us into the Michelin starred Shaun Rankin restaurant at Grantley and it was, quite simply, amazing. A culinary journey, they boasted, and boy did they deliver. The food was extraordinary (a taster menu) and the service perfect.
Here’s a photo of Lord Snotterbury about to receive his next course.
Obviously, I had the wine flight with mine. It included (along with some very fine wines) a pilsner. This was a bit odd but a refreshing addition to sip with the second of three desserts.
An amazingly amazing place.