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Boxing Day pilgrimage from Ripon to Fountains Abbey

Rt. Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds
By Rt Rev John Packer
Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

The Boxing Day pilgrimage leaves Ripon Cathedral
The walk starts at Ripon Cathedral and last year around 900 people took part

On Boxing Day, around 10.15am, following a service in Ripon Cathedral at 9.30, several hundred people will leave from outside the Cathedral to walk the four miles to Fountains Abbey.

For me it is one of the highlights of the year, though more so on a crisp winter morning than if it is pouring with rain! The walk gives us the chance to talk with one another and to reflect on those who first walked that route in 1132.

They were a group of monks from St. Mary's Abbey, York, who had become dissatisfied with the lazy cosmopolitan attitudes of their City monastery and wanted a tougher spiritual challenge.

Fountains Abbey
The pilgrimage finishes with a short service in the ruins of the abbey

They spent Christmas at Ripon and then walked up the Skell Valley to found their abbey in a place as desolate, cold and damp as they could find! It was a mark of their commitment to God and desire to pray without distraction.

That was their aim. Today Fountains in its beauty speaks of God's hand in nature, and the glory of both the buildings and their setting.

It is still a place of prayer, and after the walk, we sing carols with an excellent band accompaniment in the abbey ruins at 12 noon.

The walk itself is an opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy the fresh air.

From Ripon Cathedral we walk through the market square and out through the suburbs to the Pateley Bridge road, then turning through fields and Studley Royal parkland to walk through John Aislabie's 18th century water gardens to the abbey itself. We are led by a cross as a reminder of that first walk of 1132.

Come and join us at Ripon Cathedral, on the walk or in the abbey itself for the carols. It is a morning of fun, celebration and a chance to think about the year past and the one ahead.


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