Fountains Abbey ancient trees walk

Fountains, Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 3DY

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The remarkable early-18th century Lime Avenue, framing the view to Ripon © Andrew Butler

The remarkable early-18th century Lime Avenue, framing the view to Ripon

Note the early examples of tree surgery on this veteran oak tree © Andrew Butler

Note the early examples of tree surgery on this veteran oak tree

The old pump house and sycamore pollards at Fountains Abbey © Andrew Butler

The old pump house and sycamore pollards at Fountains Abbey

Route overview

On this circular walk you'll learn a little more about the ancient trees in the Deer Park and gain insights into 18th-century landscaping. There are three types of deer in the park: sika, fallow and red. Can you spot the difference? Please keep your distance though, so as not to disturb them.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route of the ancient trees walk at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687

  1. Leave the visitor centre and follow signs towards St Mary's Church. Follow the signs for 'Footpath to St Mary's Church, Deer Park and Water Garden.

  2. Follow the well-defined bridle path that runs parallel to the main drive, until you reach the large gates on your right that give access to St Mary's Church and the Deer Park. Go through the pedestrian gate, and proceed down the roadway. The sweet chestnut (A) will be on your right. Opposite St Mary's Church (a William Burges masterpiece) the impressive sweet chestnut tree is a pre-18th century pollard. Note the line of five limes opposite Choristers House. Continue down the roadway and notice Lime Avenue (B) framing the view to Ripon Cathedral.

    Show/HideLime Avenue

    Lime Avenue indicates the 18th-century fashion for planting in rows. Elm had been the commonest avenue tree in Great Britain and Europe earlier in the century, however, as the interest in Dutch gardening increased new varieties, particularly limes, raised in commercial nurseries in Holland, became fashionable.

    The remarkable early-18th century Lime Avenue, framing the view to Ripon © Andrew Butler
  3. Further down the road, take the left turn at a small crossroads. Just before the brow of the hill note the old cherry tree (C) on your right. It was reputed to be the largest in Britain at one point but is now in decline. A little further on note the impressive pre-18th century oak tree (D), also on your right. Pass the converted stable block on your left and look straight ahead to the oak avenue (E). Look beyond the gate to the estate and see the line of oaks continue north to Low Lindrick, originally part of the estate. Continue for about 55 yards (50m) then take the grass track that veers off to the right.

    Show/HideChampion oak tree

    Note the hole and cable bracing, which are early examples of tree surgery. Directly opposite is another squat oak with a hole in it where rot has been removed.

    Note the early examples of tree surgery on this veteran oak tree © Andrew Butler
  4. Before the beech tree look across to your left to the old sycamore pollards near the small, square pump house (F). Follow the path down a slight slope and cross the stone bridge at the bottom, known as 'Rough Bridge'. The track splits into two - take the right hand path, going up a slight incline, and follow it as it bends to the left and continues between two lines of oak trees (G). Continue following the path as it dips. As it rises again look to your right at two Atlantic cedars (H): the result of 19th-century planting by Earl De Grey, owner of the estate from 1845 to 1859. The path bends sharply to the right, follow it to the right. Look at the old tree trunk, can you guess its age?

    Show/HideSycamore pollards

    Pollarding is a pruning system in which the upper branches are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches. It's been common in Europe since medieval times, primarily for fodder and timber, which is why pollarded trees were particularly common in deer parks.

    The old pump house and sycamore pollards at Fountains Abbey © Andrew Butler
  5. Continue towards the lodges at East Gate and at the bottom of Lime Avenue (B) turn right, being careful of the traffic on the road. This is the original 18th-century entrance to the estate. Just before the car park sign turn left and walk across the park to enjoy a magnificent view of the lake. Leave the viewing point and head towards the tea-room on the far side of the lake.

  6. Take the roadway up to the lower car park on your right, if its not time for tea. Cross the car park, heading for a grassy path at the rear, signposted 'St Mary's Church 500yds, Visitor Centre 1 mile'. The path rises and goes through trees, bending to the right - see sweet chestnuts on the hillside planted in about 1710.

  7. At the crest of the hill head for the old sweet chestnut (A); take a rest on the bench made from branches of the adjacent sweet chestnut. A little further the path splits into two, take the left hand path heading to the main gates of the deer park. Go through the pedestrian gate and turn sharp left to follow the footpath back to the visitor centre and main car park.

End: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (4km)
  • Time: 50 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes
  • OS Map: Explorer 299, 298, Landranger 99
  • Terrain:

    Follow the bridleways, footpaths and roadways through this delightful estate. The terrain is fairly easy walking, although there are a few moderate hills. Sensible shoes are recommended as the ground can be muddy in inclement weather. Although dogs are welcome, they must be kept on a lead at all times. A short lead is required when walking dogs in the deer park as there is livestock nearby.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: 4 miles (6.4km) from Ripon via public footpaths and bridleways

    By bike: Signed on-road cycle loop

    By bus: Harrogate District Community Transport (Ripon Roweller 139), Ripon to Markington (connections with Harrogate and District 36 from Harrogate)

    By train: Harrogate 12 miles (19.3km)

    By car: 4 miles (6.4km) west of Ripon off B6265 to Pateley Bridge, signposted from A1, 12 miles (19.3km) north of Harrogate (A61)

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