Soldiers branch out to haul Abbey tree into place

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It weighs more than half a ton and stands 20ft high, so the Nordmann Fir that arrived at Fountains Abbey from Duncombe Park, near Helmsley, was never going to fit in the back of a Transit.

Instead, as has become tradition at the old Cistercian monastery, a team of eight soldiers from the nearby Claro Army barracks, augmented by ladders and a strong steel cable, were harnessed to haul it into place.

Soldiers from 21 Engineering Regiment at Claro Barracks, Ripon, help erect the Christmas tree at Fountains Abbey.

Soldiers from 21 Engineering Regiment at Claro Barracks, Ripon, help erect the Christmas tree at Fountains Abbey.

It took 10 people in all, with ropes and pulleys, to erect it in the courtyard, and three hours to hang the 100ft of Christmas lights.

Ellen Howells, of the National Trust, said: “The tree will be the first thing to greet visitors now Christmas has begun.”

It will remain outside the Abbey – one of the best preserved in England – through the holiday, with a trail of eight sculptures, carved from tree trunks as a children’s attraction, by Otley artist Shane Green.

It was once Royals that frequented the site. The Queen Mother made many personal visits to the home of her school friend, Lady Doris Vyner, on the neighbouring Studley Royal estate, and in 1986, she made an official visit to the Abbey.