Friday, 15 July 2011

Easter 2011: Guisborough Priory

(Easter 2011)

Continuing the monastic flavour, we went off to Guisborough to have a look around the ruins of the Augustinian priory there. Much less survives here than at Mount Grace, but what does is still pretty spectacular. There appears to be a small army of volunteers keeping the gardens in check, including a large cottage-garden area with a beautifully restored and oddly huge dovecote in the middle. Much of what is left has been robbed out - presumably as building materials for the village that appears to have grown up in the forecourt of the priory. The great eastern window is still in tact, however, along with part of the cloister; the quality of the building work is indicative of the kind of wealth and status enjoyed by the priory during its life. The window looks very strange, standing as one great wall despite the disappearance of its supporting structures.

A lime grove has been planted in an area beside the priory known as the monks' walk; the limes, the tallest (and, as any palynologist will tell you, a very old) variety of deciduous tree in Britain, stand guard over a memorial garden where the remains exhumed from beneath the priory church during excavations there. The clearing in which they are buried is surrounded by carved pieces of stone from the priory, beautifully maintained flowerbeds and a woodland garden. The ground is covered (at this time of the year) with bluebells and wild alliums, and the dappled sunlight spills through the lime trees that appear to have formed their own cathedral of wood about the burial ground. I honestly cannot think of a more peaceful or beautiful place to be buried in all this world.The woodland garden has been very skillfully planned to provided teaching and meeting areas with seats made from sawn up logs, natural habitats for insects and fungus and a general area in which volunteers can relax. It seemed that every time I turned around in the garden I found some new secret place amongst the leaves and flowers. It was a little like being in my own head - in that it was more or less how I imagined parts of the world I'm writing about. There was even an ancient and wonderfully rusty garden incinerator tucked away against one of the walls.When the priory shut for the night we had a brief foray into the churchyard next door, which has some of the most interesting gravestones I've seen in a while (sorry, I know I have bizarre hobbies), including an amazing carving of a skull-bat (probably soemthing to do with the idea of 'king-death'). One stone simply had initials on... their mourners probably couldn't afford more, but it's that grave that I remember most out of all the beautifully carved specimens surrounding it. How perverse of me.

We also had a nosey through a hedge at a church school that was set up in the Elizabethan period, which also had some intriguing architecture (in this case, largely obscured by the hedge) and was quite beautiful. In a nearby field we were astonished to find an entire colony of llamas (no, really), who seemed monumentally uninterested in a party of strange bipeds who were stood waving at them... There was a wonderful moment when I turned around to find Poom attempting to attract their attention using semaphore, but unfortunately all our attempts at communication were spurned.

A good day, though, all in all - leading to a large volume of photographs appearing on (you guessed it) my dA profile.

Photographs: The extraordinary east window through which you can just see the distant dovecote; the lime grove memorial garden; meet me amongst the wild alliums; the Almighty Skull-Bat and the lonely initials; no, really: llamas!

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