We have family in the beautiful city of York and Mr Thrifty used to live there, so we hop over on a regular basis to visit. No visit goes by without a jaunt into the city centre and a mooch around the charity shops and sights. As lovely as York is – it can get very, very busy with the narrow lanes and passage ways jam packed full of tourists with huge cameras (I’m not a tourist snob at all but York is a whole new level of tourist saturation) and as such after an hour or so I want to tear my hair out with frustration and run away from the hustle and bustle. The Museum Gardens are a beautiful spot in the middle of the city which aren’t over-run with people unless it’s a really hot day. Hidden away next to the River Ouse, the park is spread over 10 acres playing host to several historical buildings, areas of archaeological significance and beautiful examples of flowers, plants and trees.
The gardens aren’t exactly a secret but in York terms they aren’t over-stuffed with people and you can actually take time to look at things for longer than 30 seconds without feeling you’re holding up a queue of some kind. Dipping into the gardens acts as an escape from the throngs of people on the streets, giving you a sense of serenity and a feeling of tranquillity. Which I must say is mighty appealing after hours on the cobbles getting bashed in the face and ribs by elbows, elbows, elbows (hmmm album title?) from every direction. We’ll often take a picnic and set up camp on the grass to watch the world go by before strolling around the shaded areas of the park and taking in the impressive buildings and ruins which date back as far as Roman times.
In one corner of the park you’ll find a rather impressive Roman fort which in its original form dates back to the first century AD (although it has since been added to and adapted over the centuries) and a medieval city wall atop the original Roman version. Apparently if you look hard enough you’ll find a hole caused by a canon ball during the English Civil War which I’ve yet to see but I have a rather odd obsession with Charles I, so I hope to have look at that on another visit. My favourite area is definitely the imposing ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, one of several medieval buildings or ruins in the the gardens. The abbey was once one of the richest in England but bore the brunt of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries when it was closed and eventually destroyed. The remains although impressive are few.
These really old buildings always leave me both humbled and in awe. How many people must have seen these buildings, must have walked the same paths, must have touched the same piece of stone, stood on the same lump of earth? How long must it have taken to build the buildings, who did the work, who toiled hard, who protected the buildings and who fought for them? And here we are in our immoderate, relatively easy lives taking them in with the luxury of tourism. When I take in great ancient buildings I’m overwhelmed by how insignificant we are in the timeline of earthly history, I love that feeling. In a way I find it oddly liberating. f you’re in York for whatever reason and feel in need of a break from the crowds and expensive shops I definitely recommend dipping into the Museum Gardens and taking some time out. There is so much to see and do (I haven’t even touched on half of it) within a relatively small space and all for free.