Head for the great outdoors in Yorkshire at Christmas

PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 November 2018

Take in the views: the River Skell  towards Fountains Abbey Photo: Andrew Butler

Take in the views: the River Skell towards Fountains Abbey Photo: Andrew Butler

©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

When the festive frenzy gets too much, just head out of town.

Wander through Studley Royal Water Garden Photo: Chris LaceyWander through Studley Royal Water Garden Photo: Chris Lacey

We spend so much time staring at twinkly indoor trees at Christmas that we often forget that there are real trees aplenty outside. In fact, many of us forget there’s such a thing as ‘outside’ at all.

After running ourselves ragged in the weeks before Christmas, panic-buying soap-on-a-rope and shortbread biscuits in tins shaped like Scottie dogs (such fun!), we decide to treat ourselves to some well-deserved downtime in front of the box to crack nuts, watch The Grinch for the 147th time and make good use of our new tartan slippers (thanks, Nan) and penguin onesie (what were you thinking, Auntie Margery?).

Unfortunately, what starts off as a well-deserved rest can often tip over into mind-numbing lethargy. We become virtually housebound, surrounded by wrapping and turkey trimmings and random relatives and boxes of chocolates (someone has inevitably snaffled the truffle, so don’t even bother looking on the bottom layer), only to emerge blinking into the light sometime after New Year.

But what are the alternatives? Yet more shopping? A-wassailing?

A brisk walk works wonders Photo: Chris LaceyA brisk walk works wonders Photo: Chris Lacey

Might we suggest a day doing something far more beneficial to your physical, spiritual and mental health – a day in this amazing thing called ‘the great outdoors’?

‘A lot of families enjoy a traditional visit to Fountains Abbey at Christmas,’ said Jen Taylor, visitor experience manager at the North Yorkshire World Heritage Site. ‘When the festive clamour gets a bit much, it’s lovely to get outdoors for a stomp around in the frost with friends.

‘People tell us they like to come here to unplug and feel festive in a more wholesome, simpler way. The landscape here provides a wonderful backdrop for spending time together and feeling you’re tapping into something quite magical.’

There are twelve wild walks around the estate, where you can spot the beautiful resident deer and the odd bird of prey circling the twinkling trees.

Wood artist Shane Green – one of only a handful of freestyle chainsaw carvers in Yorkshire – is creating 12 oak sculptures depicting the story of the nativityWood artist Shane Green – one of only a handful of freestyle chainsaw carvers in Yorkshire – is creating 12 oak sculptures depicting the story of the nativity

There is a particularly festive feeling in the air at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal this year as the site has commissioned local wood artist Shane Green – one of only a handful of freestyle chainsaw carvers in Yorkshire – to create 12 oak sculptures depicting the story of the nativity.

Learning officer Hayley Donaldson said: ‘We’re really excited to work with such a talented local artist. His wooden creations and characters will be hiding in the landscape waiting to be discovered, adding a sprinkle of magic to winter walks on the estate.’

Shane works in a hillside studio at Otley Chevin with views across Wharfedale. An art teacher for 25 years, he creates ornate sculptures using a chainsaw, a relatively rare technique developed in Canada and North America.

‘Once the sculptures are developing, the wood becomes flecked with many colours and shapes,’ he said. ‘They begin to look like they are made of cloth. I love working with the chainsaw because it’s very immediate and spontaneous. It’s a very exciting medium.’

Deer walks are a great way to escape festive frenzy Photo: Jonathan Pow/jp@jonathanpow.comDeer walks are a great way to escape festive frenzy Photo: Jonathan Pow/jp@jonathanpow.com

There are also floristry workshops, deer walks, a grotto, where a certain bearded gentleman will be ‘at home’ to welcome younger visitors, choirs singing in the rainbow-glow of the illuminated abbey arches, and, if you’re not completely shopped-out, a National Trust shop packed with all things National Trusty.

And, apparently, there’s a veritable lake of mulled wine and some of the best bacon sarnies in the northern hemisphere in the Mill Café. So, remember to wear your hiking trousers with the elasticated waist (or ask Santa if he has a spare pair of trews you can borrow – his always look pleasantly roomy).

For more festive information about Fountains Abbey, visit nationaltrust.org.uk

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