Easter Sunday – if you celebrate tradition, Happy Easter. I do miss not having an Easter egg – send me one in your thoughts.
Today I thought I’d take advantage of the sun and, with a friend, drove across the Humber Bridge into sunny North Lincolnshire and paid a visit to Thornton Abbey. This is an English Heritage site so it cost a couple of bob to get in but for a local, it’s worth every penny.
Thornton Abbey - sounds like a BBC drama series!
Now this isn’t Alton Towers, no rides, no attractions nor is there anything to do particularly; this is a place of tranquillity, peace and quiet in the middle of lovely countryside.
Thornton Abbey these days consists of a huge and unique gatehouse, lots of green field and a ruined Church. Nice weather was a big benefit today because it’s a popular spot for visitors to have picnics on the lovely grass in amongst the ruins of the Church.
The Church was founded as long ago as 1139 for Augustinian Canons and indeed on the front of the gatehouse is a surviving statue high up on the wall of St. Augustine himself. William le Gros, Lord of Holderness and Earl of Yorkshire, the founder is buried in the Abbey grounds.
What is impressive about this place is the incredible, unique and imposing 14th century gatehouse as you enter the site via a barbican, a sort of causeway from the car park. I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a strange construction and you can enter the gatehouse and move up to the upper floors up spiral stone staircases.
Above, one of the many twisting passageways on the upper floors
Hidden everwhere are hundreds of carvings, gargoyles, faces, weird creatures, green men, statues, some weird, some frightening, some benign, some weathered beyond recognition but all entertaining in their own way.
Uneven brick narrow passageways is the only way to visit the first floor great hall which is now a sort of history of the Abbey which is very informative. This used to be the Abbot’s court room.
Up to the second floor and there is a large hall; wooden floorboards, bare and expansive, it is atmospheric. It was probably divided into smaller rooms centuries ago. Leaded windows provide a dusty view onto the outside world. Sadly, I guess that for severely physically disabled people, a trip up to the upper floors of the gatehouse is not possible, even if you could get up the narrow spiral staircases; there are multi levels and steps in the passageways. (The grounds offer no such obstacles.)
Above, the second floor hall, which was probably sectioned into many rooms, centuries past.
Leaving the gatehouse you wander across a lovely meadow and grassed path with earthworks either side demonstrating evidence of centuries of activity in the grounds behind the security of the gatehouse.
Above, on the grass path looking back to the inside of the gatehouse
Arriving at the derelict church, the chapel still survives and on a rainy day, you can get a small amount of cover to keep dry which I think is in the surviving parlour. The outline of the church is still there and very clear and there are gravestones which are protected by plastic sheeting which is a shame because they can’t be read. The nave and cloisters can be seen in the walls that remain.
The atmosphere in the grounds is wonderful. No sound of traffic, sheep bleating in a nearby field, skylarks twittering high above the field, a heron floats lazily by toward the Humber and a swan passes by in the opposite direction toward nearby ponds. Crows, ravens, swifts, pigeons, finches flit and call; insects, bees, butterflies go from dandelion to clover to lilac to chestnut tree flowers all of which provide a heady scent on the warm, sunny, spring breeze. Trees and bushes are dotted everywhere surrounding the site. I watched for ages a tiny, tiny bee with legs laden with pollen looking for more in the microscopic plants hidden in the grass.
Even if you don’t believe in God, it can’t be denied that nature is bloody wonderful.
If you have to travel a long way and don’t have an interest in the history and can’t marvel in the elaborate buildings, then this is probably not for you. But if you ever end up near Scunthorpe or the Humber Bridge and have a couple of hours to spare – go for it – you won’t be disappointed.
It’s open 10am to 6 pm most days; it has a car park, very small shop and excellent toilet facilities. The sat nav will take you straight there with ‘DN39 6TU.’ If you need any more information, contact English Heritage on http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/
I hope you are enjoying all this lovely spring weather in the UK although a lot of you have had rain and a few thunderstorms – nothing like that here although we do need the rain.