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Light picking out the lines on the Abbey's pillars

Everyone has their own ways of releasing life’s unwanted pressures. For some it’s going for a run, while others may watch a film, meet friends or get absorbed in a new computer game. For me it’s having a number of different locations I can escape to and get lost in.  When we lived in Leeds, Kirkstall Abbey was a particular favourite spot to do just this. So I was surprised that it took three years and a move to Burley in Wharfedale before I took my parents there.  

Kirkstall (aside from several good coffee shops and pubs serving real beer) was one of my first local discoveries. I remember it well because it was pretty much my first non-London assignment. I was commissioned by a publication to photograph an ex-drug addict who had turned his life around and now had a young family with a successful career and a bright future. The location for the shoot was left up to me and after a quick search on the internet, the damaged yet splendid Abbey seemed like a relevant location.

Despite being a ruin, it is actually the best example of any Cistercian ruin in Britain. My favourite Kirkstall fact though, is that the main road to Leeds passed straight through the nave of the Church right up to the early 19th century!

The Abbey also found itself the subject of a certain JMW Turner’s attentions, in fact, the revered artist made numerous studies, sketches and paintings of the site. A simple search for “JMW Turner Kirkstall” on your favourite search engine will return a good twenty minutes of distraction in the form of paintings, etchings and sketches – all featuring the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey by England’s most celebrated artist.

I knew Mum and Dad would love this place, as I knew they’d love the shop and cafe there too! On this particular visit, I was really struck by the strong light and shadow throughout the ruins and found myself exploring this familiar location anew.