Last Autumn we were journeying from somewhere South on our way to somewhere else North. We weren’t in any hurry, in fact had an hour or two to kill, and thought that a breath of the proverbial fresh air, a stretch of the legs, and a run for Titania’s wheels somewhere Out there was just what we required. The National Trust book was in the car and Rievaulx Terrace appeared to be close to hand so that’s where we headed to. It was actually quite well sign-posted on little Yorkshire roads which have a tendency to wind up hill and down dale. On the map it can be found about 2.5 miles north west of Helmsley on B1257.
Rievaulx Terrace, is an 18th century landscaped terrace created to enable folk to enjoy the spectacular views over the valley and, more specifically over the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. If you are planning to go to Rievaulx Abbey itself remember that there is no access to it from the Terrace. You have to get back in the car and head down into the valley.
There is a fair amount of parking and the parking places nearest the entrance are reserved for disabled drivers. The entrance itself looks daunting as you get out of the car, because there are several steps up to the reception building. Don’t panic though, there is an entrance via a side passage and through a wide gate.
The first thing we discovered is that there was no cafe at this National Trust site. They are looking into the possibility of developing one, so there might be when you go, but don’t count on it. Disappointed (because it had been a long trip so far and a cup of tea and a bun would have gone down well) but not daunted we pushed on Out there.
As you leave the reception you first enter the woodland walk. This runs alongside the terrace with entrances onto the grassy plateau area at either end. We chose to walk through the woods and join the terrace at the far end eventually looping back along the plateau. Despite the fact that it had been raining solidly all the previous day the light gravel path through the woods was not particularly muddy, and Titania travelled happily along it. There had been a notice board in the reception area identifying the wildlife had been seen in the woodland recently, but I’m afraid that on this damp blustery day we saw little other than an occasional anonymous small brown bird flitting about. Eventually we came to the end of the woodland path where it emerged onto the grassy terrace. Damp grass, as ever, is more of a challenge for Titania, and better exercise for us. Carrying on to the left for another 100 yards or so we came upon the Tuscan Temple, a folly which the original creator of the terrace Thomas Duncombe II had built in the mid 1700s.
Thomas Duncombe’s idea was to have the temple at one end of the Terrace, at which his guests would meet, and then stroll gently along the half mile or so of terrace stopping at the 13 viewing points to see the Abbey below, before reaching the Ionic temple at the other end where they would be suitably fed and watered. Apart from the feeding and watering this is what we did. We went the length of the Terrace stopping (not too close to the steeply banked edge) to enjoy the different aspects of Rievaulx Abbey below.
Titania was unable to enter the temples at either end of the Terrace. Apparently building regulations in the 18th century didn’t require wheelchair access. Di did climb the steps to both and reported back. The Tuscan temple was essentially a circular room with a walkway around it. Inside the room was an octagonal table.
The Ionian Temple was a much more elaborate affair. You have to time your arrival to coincide with National Trust guide if you want to go into the temple. Inside (and remember Titania could not get in so this is reported back) there is the original furniture, and tables laid for the gentry to partake of their repast. There is a basement to this building and it is here the servants would prepare the meals before having to carry them up to “them upstairs” via the outside fllight of steps.
As Titania and I waited for Di to return from the Ionian temple it started to rain. This was the signal to return to the visitor centre in anticipation of heading back to the car. It wasn’t far back through the woods because we were at the right end of the terrace. There were perfectly good disabled loos there, and although no tea and a bun we could have had an ice-cream ... we didn’t ... the weather wasn’t conducive it. So in a lull in the rain we returned to the car and back to our trip further North.
We leave you with some pictures of the views of Rievaux Abbey, taken from a selection of the viewing points on the terrace.
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Richard & Di