Saturday, 23 May 2009

Ascension at Jervaulx

For over three hundred years, between 1156 and 1537, Jervaulx Abbey was the biggest influence in the dale where I now live. The monks who resided there mined for lead, grew corn, ran woollen mills and even bred horses, a tradition that carries on to this day in the nearby town of Middleham which is famous for its racehorses. They also reputedly made the first Wensleydale Cheese, using milk from the ewes. All these activities came to an abrupt end with the dissolution of the monasteries.
Now it is privately owned by the Burdon family (no relation!) who have carefully preserved its ruins. These days it is also famed for having over 180 species of wild flowers growing within its walls.
Once a year, on Ascension Day, (when Jesus ascended into Heaven) there is a church service held there. People bring fold up chairs, rugs and woollies. The sky becomes the ceiling, the grass the tiled floor. Throughout the service you hear the sounds of the countryside intruding into the proceedings - the birds singing, sheep braying, cows mooing, wind whispering through the trees, - all adding to the eternal atmosphere of the event and place.
The photo shows the members of Bedale Brass Band packing away their instruments.


  1. Your writing evokes a lovely peaceful atmosphere - just how it is at Jervaulx Abbey. One morning, a few months ago, I passed by on the road very early. The sun was on the Abbey - it looked magical.

  2. Talking of the sky being the roof, do you know Teihard de Chardin's Hymn of the Universe - the Mass on the World?

  3. We were sorry that our 'away days' in the motor home precluded us from attending the Ascension Day service this year at Jervaulx Abbey. Reading your description brought back memeories of past services there. X Anne