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New exhibition highlights monks’ connection to the River Rye

Legend has it that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, it will rain for 40 days, but if the weather is fine, 40 days of fine weather will follow.

A beautiful day therefore for the inauguration of a new exhibition on water at the Abbey of Rievaulx.

Through images and artefacts, the exhibition – Rye Valley Abbey – explores the importance of the river to the founding monks and how it continues to support incredible biodiversity today.

In conjunction with the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme, this is the first time the relationship between the monastery and the River Rye has been shared with the public in this way.

Many items will be exhibited for the first time, including brass faucets in the shape of a snake and a rooster (a stopcock!), a block of stone from the toilets graffitied by monks with a drawing of the Holy Spirit (a dove) and even hooks and monastic weights. The exhibition and accompanying site walk also show the ingenious engineering solutions to supply the monastery with water for daily life, sacred use and industry.

Susan Harrison, Curator at English Heritage, said: “It is amazing that since the founding of Rievaulx Abbey in the 12th century, the monastic community has had the vision and the engineering ability to use the water supply natural to provide a truly high standard of living such as providing running water in the complex, flushing toilets and electricity for industry when the general population at the time relied on wells and less sanitary conditions . Clean water entered the monastery from the north and dirty water flowed past the southern and western boundaries into the River Rye. This approach to water management involved significant changes to the natural environment, impacting both wildlife and water quality. This is something we continue to explore to this day.

Alex Cripps, Rivers Program Manager at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “Rivers were the lifeblood of so many historic settlements, but over time our reliance on these waterways has been lost, often to the point where we barely notice them. at all.

“The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnerships Program strives to reconnect people to the incredibly special environment that is the River Rye and its tributaries. Improving water quality and restoring biodiversity are key aspects of our project, but so is recording and sharing our cultural ties to this majestic river. It is only when people truly recognize the importance of our rivers, both in history and today, that they will feel inspired and energized to protect them in the future.

Rye Valley Abbey opens July 15.

Search English Heritage Rievaulx Abbey for more information and to book tickets in advance.