This Boxing Day a group of modern day pilgrims will follow in the footsteps of a band of Cistercian monks who set out from Ripon the day after Christmas in 1132 AD to found a new Cistercian monastery on the banks of the River Skell.
That monastery was of course Fountains Abbey and the annual Boxing Day Pilgrimage from Ripon Cathedral to the stunning and atmospheric ruins has become a Christmas tradition for many.
The four mile walk will be led this year by the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson and the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley – a keen walker herself.
Bishop Hartley was previously a bishop in New Zealand and says this year her Christmas will be a very different experience to previous celebrations:
Christmas Day last year was a barbecue by a friend’s swimming pool. After six years experiencing Christmas ‘down under’ I am really looking forward to getting the seasons back in the order I am used to.
After a short service of Holy Communion at 9.30am in the cathedral, the walk sets off from the forecourt at approximately 10.15am. More than a thousand ‘pilgrims’ are expected to join in as walkers make their way through four miles of stunning countryside.
Dean Dobson said:
The Boxing Day Pilgrimage from Ripon Cathedral to Fountains Abbey is one of the hugely enjoyable events in our annual calendar. Drawing on the lengthy history of both the cathedral and Fountains it gives a welcome encouragement to all of us to take some much needed exercise after a day of feasting.
It gives an opportunity for family and friends to spend time with each other and also to chat with new people along the way. The carol service in the abbey’s awe-inspiring cellarium is the climax of the whole event and is enjoyed by both those who have walked and those who have travelled straight to the abbey.
I’m pleased this year to be joined by Bishop Helen-Ann for what will be her first Christmas with us in Ripon.
The route leads out of the city through the Studley Royal Deer Park and on to the National Trust site at Fountains Abbey where hundreds more swell the numbers. It crosses fields, passes grazing deer and winds through woodland and landscaped water gardens.
The walk and entrance to Fountains Abbey is free to pilgrims and all are welcome to join. It ends with a carol service with the rousing Stray Brass Ensemble in the cellarium of the ancient monastery.