Pilgrims on a winter's trail in footsteps of Cistercians

A RECORD number of walkers braved sub-zero temperatures yesterday for an annual Boxing Day pilgrimage to follow in the footsteps of a group of 12th century Cistercian monks.

Nearly 1,800 people were at Fountains Abbey for a short service of carols and prayers after the pilgrimage started from Ripon Cathedral.

A total of 500 walkers left the cathedral on the four-mile pilgrimage, but they were joined by hundreds more by the time they reached the abbey.

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The route followed the River Skell and through the Studley Royal Deer Park before arriving at Fountains Abbey.

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer, and the Dean of Ripon, Keith Jukes, led the pilgrimage, and 1,790 walkers were counted through the gates into the abbey.

The annual walk traces the route of the monks who set off from Ripon Cathedral on December 26th, 1132, to found Fountains Abbey. The Diocese of Ripon and Leeds spokesman, Canon John Carter, said: "There is a really special significance to the pilgrimage, as well as giving people the chance to enjoy a wonderful Boxing Day walk."

The pilgrimage was first staged in 1982, when fewer than 100 people took part.