Mistress Agnes meets Brother John

The weather forecast is much more encouraging for today, promising sunshine; sadly it is wrong and it is raining again. We are fast running out of even vaguely indoor things to do but start off for Furness Abbey in the hope that it will clear up. It is nominally dry by the time we arrive and we are able to squelch round the site with only our feet getting wet. We are very impressed with the scale of the abbey, built again from red sandstone and containing some intricate carving. There is a door sill with a Nine Mens Morris board carved on it and two rare effigies of knights with full faced helms. Furness Abbey is currently undergoing extensive renovation; underpinning on a grand scale. It was probably established here in 1127, founded by Stephen before he became king. The Abbey belonged briefly to the Savigniac order before becoming one of the richest Cistercian foundations in the country, with a huge sphere of influence. Its wealth was based on sheep, iron, salt and peat and its position was chosen in order to encourage the Normanisation of the area. Furness was one of the first abbeys to be dissolved, after the monks were implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Furness Abbey

At the Abbey, there is a school party being entertained by ‘Brother John’, a Cistercian monk. We have long and very interesting, chat with him about the history of the Abbey, medicinal cures and historical interpretation. We walk along to see the C15th Bow Bridge then decide to return to the van via the pretty route. The map suggests that this will be narrow, winding and steep; it is not wrong. We wind our way up through Ulpha to the Wrynose Pass. Initially the landscape is desolate and barren with no trees. The drivers coming in the opposite direction display some interesting driving abilities and the cars appear to lack a reverse gear.

Coniston

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