Ripon Sanctuary Way – 22 November 2016

Posted by Geoff Wall on 2017-01-01
Ripon Sanctuary Way – 22 November 2016
 
Something a little different for a late Autumn walk? The Ripon Sanctuary Way is really a boundary walk of Ripon, but rather than following the edge of the City for the whole of it’s route, the walk was laid out around 10 years ago by the local Rotary Club to follow the approximate line of the old boundary of the Sanctuary area of Ripon. This was granted by King Athelstan in the 10th Century. Within the overnight sanctuary area, church law rather than the common law of the land applied and justice as necessary was meeted out on the following day by a church court.
 
Of the original eight stones only one remains as a stump at Sharow, and the picture is of part of our group around that monument.  Back in 2005 the Rotary Club put up interpretation Boards at the sites of the other stones and laid out a linking route between them all.  And an interesting route it proved to be for our party of 12 plus leader.
 
Starting from the West Door of the Cathedral we descended the steps through an historic part of the town before dropping down to the path along the River Skell. We were quickly into the countryside, following the Skell and then the Ripon bank of the Ure before crossing over the river at Bridge Hewick and reaching the first of the marker points.  Here we started to learn something both of the sanctuary itself, but as we progressed, lots of other interesting historical information about Ripon more generally over the years.
 
The first half of the walk is very scenic and mostly in open countryside including a longish stretch along the Ure up towards the Golf Club. Turning away from the river we continued our anti-clockwise route around the City, again mostly in open countryside, before we arrived at Ripon Cemetery as our lunch stop.  Some well placed seats provided a suitable resting place in a quiet and peaceful setting.  In the cemetery, however, and as evidence of less peaceful times, there is a small area of war graves.  Many of these are to fallen airmen, and in particular those who flew with The Royal Canadian Air-force Bomber Squadrons in WW2. To provide something of a mystery, the last row of graves in this area are actually German War Graves, and provide the resting place for a number of Germans who died here in the period from the end of the war to 1947. We wondered whether there had been a prisoner of war camp in the area at that time?
 
The route now took us through quiet residential streets for a time before dropping down through Bishopton, and crossing the River Laver as we went over the Pateley Bridge Road, and then headed into countryside again through the edge of the Studley Roger Estate to Hellwath Bridge.
 
We were now nearer the edge of town, but remained on pleasant paths, including one through the Nature Reserve at Quarry Moor. A short walk  via the last  marker point took us back into town and our starting point.
 
I had promised we would be back for 3pm to finish our 10.5 miles – and indeed we were almost to the minute!  There had been some debate about this at our last marker.  As we had gone round the Rotary Markers we had seen they all said they were a league from the Cathedral. At our last marker someone asked the not unreasonable question – how far is a league? Various suggestions were made – all wrong as it happens, before Google came to the rescue with the news that a league is actually over 3 miles – indeed possibly 3.5 miles, and was defined in olden times as the distance someone could walk in an hour! This seemed a pity in view of my promise, as it was 20 minutes to the deadline.  Assuring people that I was still confident we set off at a briskish pace and made our return on time.  Our conclusion was that the person setting out the markers had probably used the term because it sounded suitably medieval rather than for any accuracy of measure!!
 
Geoff Wall
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