Meet the Yorkshire family marking 50 years of caring for the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey - and running a tearoom

Nestled on the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, its imposing ruins attract thousands of visitors every year to discover for themselves the tranquillity of the site.

But unlike most of the region’s other monasteries, which are run by national organisations, the upkeep of Jervaulx Abbey is very much a family affair.

This month marks 50 years since the Burdon family took custodianship of the 12th century abbey, which was once home to Cistercian monks.

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The Burdons have transformed the site from a place where access was granted only by lock and key into a haven for nature-lovers and historians alike, with more than 200 varieties of flowers gracing the site, as well as herbs once grown by the monks who called the Abbey home.

Ian, Carol and daughters Anna and Gayle all look after the ruins

It was in 1971 that Major William Burdon saw that the abbey had gone on sale.

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Jervaulx Abbey - a real family affair

Major Burdon, who grew up in East Witton, the village closest to the ruins, decided to purchase the historic site for about £5,000 - uprooting his family from Scotland in the process.

The abbey was thrown open to the public from dawn until dusk, with an honesty box for payment.

Ian still performs maintenance tasks despite being registered as disabled following a car accident

But within a decade of Major Burdon’s purchase, he died - leaving his youngest son Ian, now aged 67, to run the abbey alongside, in time, his wife, Carol, and daughters, Anna and Gayle.

Immediately a challenge was thrown down, and Mr Burdon said: “We had an unannounced visit from the Historic Buidings and Monuments Commission.

“They wrote a 60-page document saying that it was the most dangerous place in the United Kingdom and should be closed down immediately and taken off OS maps.”

Undeterred, Mr Burdon turned to a York architect who drew up plans to restore the abbey safely. A 16-year project, part-funded by English Heritage, followed and Mr Burdon estimates that the family have spent more than £500,000 on the site since taking it on.

“It’s a bit more than a labour of love,” said Mr Burdon. “Over the 50-year period, we like to think the consolidation and renovation work we have done will retain the tranquillity and the beauty of the place.”

Anna Burdon, 32, said: “It quite literally is the centre of our family’s lives. There’s a massive pull back here.

“There’s just an atmosphere that other sites don’t have. It’s incredibly unique. Visitors often say you go down and feel a monk could just walk around the corner.”