Friday, 22 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 16 - St Robert of Knaresborough's Cave and the delights of the Nidd Gorge

Knaresborough lies on the River Nidd.

The Anglican Centre in Rome  has a library, organises courses and hosts meetings when important Anglicans go to Rome for Catholic events. They have support groups in the UK . The Ripon Support Group decided to have a special meeting this year at the Parish Church of St John the Baptist in Knaresborough to celebrate   800 years after his death, the life of Knaresborough's own saint, Saint Robert.

The day event on 16 June comprised:

  •  A talk about the Anglican Centre in Rome
  • A talk by Peter Lacey on the life of St Robert (.. or more precisely the life and conditions of the people living around Knaresborough at that time)
  • A talk by Ruth Beckett on “A Great Cloud of Witnesses: Theologies of Sanctity; Theologies of Healing”
  • A walk to  visit Robert's Cave

Click here for  background material on St Robert and Knaresborough 
and more here

We met at the Parish Centre just beyond St John's Church

Peter Lacey is preparing to give his talk

Peter has written a novel, or rather a set of short stories about people who knew Robert, called "Tales of the Celebrity  Hermit". Robert stayed within the north of England
From the forward of this book:-

Robert Flower (c1160 -1218). or St Robert of Knaresborough as we have come to know him lived 800 years ago. He was brought up in a well to do family in a prosperous and growing region of Europe that was still taking shape after the Norman Conquest of the British Isles. Robert's home town of York and his adopted town of Knaresborough provide the immediate setting for our stories, but the influences and reflections from a larger canvass are never far away... when established in St Robert's Cave, sometime in the 1190s he was becoming something of a celebrity. He was visited and spoken about across Europe...

The river Nidd marked the line between the town of Knaresborough to the north and the Royal Hunting Forest -Knaresborough Forest to the south. This was not necessarily forest - It was land where the King had rights to hunt, and where there were draconian laws against people who broke the rules.

Peter presented a comprehensive picture of the environment and life in those times. Climate graphs to show what the climate was like in those days; He talked about economics - and how the people and economy were suffering as King John had had to borrow money for the wars he had been fighting (and mostly losing) and now had to pay it back (using taxes etc, so that a lot of the silver coins which were being used in the currency were then removed)

He painted a picture of some of the economic and social problems of the time - which have parallels today.

At lunch time I left the lecture room/parish room and went onto the patio outside - and was amazed by the view

The speakers and organisers sit on the patio
The castle beyond
The castle was first built by a Norman baron in c. 1100 on a cliff above the River Nidd. In the 1170s Hugh de Moreville and his followers took refuge there after assassinating Thomas Becket. In 1205 King John took control of the Castle. It was here in 1210 that the Maundy Money was instituted.


Gives her talk

We set off on the 1 1/2 mile walk to the cave. (Most people drive). We descend lots of steps then walk on the road by the river. Looking back, The Parish Centre is under the left arch. 

I have now just set off on the mile and a half walk to Robert's Cave. I had not realised the gorge was so impressive. The original route of the Nidd is through the gravel beds of what is now Staveley Nature reserve two miles to the north (where I am due to give a grasses workshop next month), but during the last Ice Age, the Ice sheet flowing down the Vale of York blocked up the river, it was diverted, and with all the extra melting water formed this gorge through the magnesian limestone.

There are big trees in the gorge - Sycamore, Ash, Oak and others.

Some trunks have been carved


Eventually the land flattens out. Robert was given some of this land to farm with his small community. 

A while after his death a Priory was set up. Trinitarian Priory of the Holy Trinity and St Robert, founded pre-1252. It was destroyd by the Scots in 1318, and suffered at the Black Death. It was dissolved in 1538. It was destryed at the dissolution of the monasteries, but there are bits of masonary used in buildings along the route, and vuildings named after it.

Still walking along the road

Leave the road and descend the river bank to the cave

The cave

Inside the cave

Peter Lacey tells us more history

Outside the cave

View from inside the cave

And just below the cave is a fisherman

 On the way back I look at the chapel carved into the cliff. The tiny medieval Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag lies a stone's throw from the Nidd, in Abbey Road about half a mile from the centre of Knaresborough. It was carved from the cliff face by John the Mason in 1408, permission being granted by King Henry IV.

A lot of work is being carried out on the steep garden below - a section on medicinal plants, a section on plants with a story or religious title, a a section to remember people.

I wonder how many plants will continue to grow with the dense shade of the trees above... But do go and see them now whilst they are fresh and flowering

Another splendid view as I return

No comments: