July 30 – Leaving Piratemania and heading for the UK Mega near Ripon

Ripon Hornblower

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We bid Sue and Mike a fond farewell for being such lovely hosts at the Airbnb after a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit salad and Greek Yogurt, croissants and bread rolls. Before we headed away we returned to Pickering church as we had not been able to see it properly last night. There were three guys there putting up scaffolding on the inside of the nave so we went to see the parts of the church which we had been unable to see before.

The rector’s date from Hugh in 1150 and the font is thought to be of Saxon origin. There is a late 18th-century Heppleworth Pulpit made from wood with an intricately carved lattice work around the top. Also, an alabaster figure of a knight wearing mail and plate armour of 1340 – 50. It is thought to be the effigy of Sir William Bruce. There is a capital with a carved grotesque dating from 1300 when the transept arches were built. The chapel on the south side of the chancel was built in 1407 and contains the alabaster effigies of Sir David and Dame Margery Roucliffe.

In the market square, the market was taking place and we had a quick look around before walking up the Pickering Castle which is an English Heritage site and opened at 10 am. We had a good walk around though without the aid of a headset as they do not have this.

Pickering Castle was originally a timber and earth motte and bailey castle. The original stone structure was built by the Normans under William the Conqueror in 1069–1070. This early building included the large, central mound (the motte), the outer palisades (enclosing the bailey) and internal buildings, notably the keep on top of the motte. Ditches were also dug to make an assault on the walls difficult. The main purpose of the castle at this time was to maintain control of the area after the Harrying of the North. The current inner ward was originally the bailey and was built between 1180 and 1187. Its remains are particularly well-preserved because it is one of only a few castles which were largely unaffected by the 15th-century Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War of the 17th century.

After visiting the castle we headed off towards Ripon taking the A170 to Helmsley. On the way, we stopped at St Gregory’s Minster in Kirkdale where there was Orm Gamalson’s sundial over the door. An old gentleman doing some gardening told us all about the highlights to watch out for. There was a King George II coat of arms from 1748 and a painting of St Gregorius who was Pope of the Catholic Church from 3 September 590 to 12 March 604 AD. There was also a wooden reredos with three lancet windows above and two stone tombs. We collected the numbers for a multi here which took us back over the ford to the caves which we had stopped at previously but both the geocaches here eluded us.

The Kirkdale cave was discovered by workmen in 1821 and was found to contain fossilized bones of a variety of mammals not currently found in Great Britain, including hippopotamus (the farthest north any such remains have ever been found), elephant, and the remains of numerous cave hyenas. There were also remains of rhinoceroses, bison, giant deer, smaller mammals and birds.  It also included a considerable amount of fossilized hyena faeces. The fossilized remains were embedded in a silty layer sandwiched between layers of stalagmite.

Next, we stopped at Helmsley Castle, another English Heritage property. The estate of Helmsley was granted to Robert, Count of Mortain following the Norman Conquest but a castle was not built there until around 1120. At Helmsley, we also visited All Saints church which had the most amazing Victorian wall paintings which are quite different from the Medieval ones. They are brightly coloured and well preserved and had family trees for the Helmsley, Patrons, Rievaulx, Lindisfarne, Kent and York. The side chapel of St Aelred had a black marble reredos and altar with large grey fossils in it. The chancel had wonderful tilework and some wonderful processional banners. There was a room behind the altar with a door each side.

St Columba‘s chapel had a different style of wall paintings from those in the nave. The church had some wonderful stained glass windows but my favourite was the one depicting the life of St Columba. There are three panels and the first depicts Columba’s home in Donegal in 7th December 521, Gemman the Bard teaches Columba, Columba trained at Clonard the monastery of St Finian, a monk from Wales, he is banished from Ireland in 561. The second window depicts Columba landing at Iona and prays for the conversion of Britain, he preaches and converts King Brude of the Northern Picts at Inverness in 563, he meets St Kentigern in Strathclyde and exchange crosses, aged 77 he goes forth to give his last blessing to the fields and labourers in the west of Iona 598 and the last blessing on the barns and stores. Diormit weeps over his approaching death. The third panel depicts Columba’s blessing on the monastery before his death. the old white horse bids Columba farewell, his last work copying the Psalter, and finally Columba’s death in 598. Diormit supports his arm as he blesses the brethren. It is a wonderful window full of blue colours. There are so some great white and gold stained glass windows featuring St Aidan, St Oswald and King Oswiu.

Next, we saw signs to Rievaulx Abbey but we turned off too soon and found ourselves at a National Trust property. We had time so we went in even though we were not sure where to. But I am so glad we did. It was Rievaulx Terrace and Temple. First, we walked through a lovely woodland which had areas off to the sides with a large side chess set, a Mountjoy, a temple, a leaning plank so that you could look at the sky and homes built for the wildlife. We could just imagine how this area would look in spring though it is lovely in summer too. When you get to the end of the wooded area you came out onto a mowed grassy area, the terrace, with a Tuscan temple at the end. Inside, rich plasterwork decorates the walls and ceiling. In the centre of the dome is a painted roundel of a winged goddess, which is attributed to the Italian artist Andrea Casali. Casali was encouraged to come to England by Thomas Duncombe II’s father-in-law, who employed him at Castle Howard. On the floor are 13th-century tiles from nearby Byland Abbey, re-laid during the 1920’s. While the Temple is not open to visitors, its beautiful interior can still be enjoyed by the view through the windows using mirrors.

We walked back along the grassy area back the way we had come and twelve times along the cliff there was an opening in the trees which gave a different view of Rievaulx Abbey. This terrace was specially built in Victorian times to achieve all these wonderful views of the abbey ruins. At the far end, near where we had come in was an Ionic Temple. Here the Duncombe family and guests would dine and socialise after promenading along the Terrace. The lavish interior must have been a magnificent sight to behold by the privileged guests. Although the room is filled with beautiful furniture and ceramic, including Chamberlain Worcester porcelain, and a set of twelve mid-18th century mahogany dining chairs, the chief glory is the ceiling. The restored plasterwork of the portico looks back to the work of Inigo Jones, and the early 17th-century father of Palladianism. Its frescoes of mythological scenes are the work of Italian painter Giuseppe Mattia Borgnis, who came to England around 1753. In the centre of the ceiling is Aurora, Apollo and the Muses, based on the Guido Reni’s mural in the Palazzo Rospigliosi in Rome. Guests were apparently invited to dinner and when the staff saw the guests walking up the grass terrace they would bring the food in through the only door laying out a buffet and disappear before the guests could see them. A very posh affair.

We then drove down the hill to the English Heritage property of Rievaulx Abbey. We used the headsets provided to give us a running commentary of all the history of the abbey. Rievaulx was one of the first Cistercian abbeys to be founded in England founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey. and after the dissolution, became the centre of commercial activity for many years. The abbey forge was used to set up an ironworks on the site. The first abbot of Rievaulx, St William I, started construction in the 1130s. The second abbot, Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, elected in 1147, expanded the buildings and it became one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, second only to Fountains Abbey in fame. Under Aelred, the abbey is said to have grown to some 140 monks and 500 lay brothers. By the end of his tenure, Rievaulx had five daughter-houses in England and Scotland. We had a lovely time walking around in the sunshine surrounded by other families doing the same thing.

After a big day of visiting three English Heritage and one National Trust property, we were happy to finally go to find our self-co cottage for the next week in Littlethorpe, near Ripon. It was on a large farm with electronic gates which open onto the property. We drove nearly all the way through before we realised we must have got the instructions wrong and turned around and drove back a little way. The entrance to the Chauffeurs Loft was very narrow with only just enough room for the car to fit through. It looked very flash from the outside but the inside was very small. It had a kitchen and a small TV but the couch was a bed that opens out for a third person and was too uncomfortable to sit on. The king size bed, upstairs, was comfortable but the beams were very low varying in height from 5’4″ to 5’6″ so Mike kept bashing his head which made him understandably grumpy. There was a tiny room containing a shower, toilet and sink off the bedroom but it had no door and no ceiling so there was no separation between bathroom and bedroom which takes togetherness to a whole different level. Also, there was no washing machine so we had to go to the laundrette in Ripon. All in all, we were not happy but we had paid for a week so there was very little we could do about it. We knew in advance that there was no internet which is problematical when we are geocaching solidly for a week but there was cell phone coverage so I was able to connect to the internet that way. We spent as little time as possible there as we were out all day and ate at the Mega campsite each night. As the property was located on the A61 it was handy to everywhere and was only about a 5-minute drive to Ripon and 8 minutes to the campsite.

That evening we went to the campsite to get our bearings and then headed into Ripon for the first event of the Yorkshire Mega. As we got there early we joined other geocachers and got three geocaches around Ripon including the church micro at the cathedral, one at the Prison and Police Museum and a multi called “I used to be a tree”. This last one required “Two of Nine” from the Isle of Man, Mike and I to walk quite a way to collect the numbers then take a circuitous route back. We were worried that we would miss the event but we were so close to the final so we went into a wooded area to look for the geocache. The others were a bit distracted but I got the clue from the title and soon found the cache, much to everyone’s surprise and delight. We signed the log and fast marched back to Ripon Square. By the time we got there, there was a huge group of geocachers, hundreds of us. We stood around talking and meeting up with friends made at previous events until the “Blow Your Horn” event started.

The tradition of the Ripon Hornblower has endured since the year 886, since the days of King Alfred, and continues on to this day. It originates with the Wakeman of Ripon, whose job in the Middle Ages was similar of that to a mayor although he had more responsibilities in the keeping of law and order. Every evening at 9:00 pm, for the last 1132 years without fail, the horn is blown at the four corners of the obelisk in Ripon Market. The Hornblower then explains the ritual of the horn-blowing to the assembled crowd. He also asked how far visitors have come from. There were two couples from New Zealand, “Rosmar” from Tauranga and “1066” from Geraldine so Michael and I were from the furthest away. After he has finished talking to the crowd the Hornblower goes to the home of the Mayor and blows his horn again to signify that all is well. The horn has become the symbol of the city and represents Ripon on the Harrogate borough coat of arms. There is also a horn at the top of the obelisk which contains gold sovereigns. Every 100 years the horn is removed for cleaning. When the horn was removed in 1986 for cleaning instead of the expected 7 gold sovereigns there was a bill for the last time it was cleaned in 1889. I recommend you click on the link about the Ripon Hornblower and read the entire story. It is really fascinating and a wonderful ritual to continue for so long having been performed more than 400,000 times.