Ripon - looks forward to a busy and prosperous year

One of the smallest cathedral cities in the country looks forward to a busy and prosperous year as Emma Alsop reports while photographer Joan Russell makes the most of market day

The welcome sign urges visitors to ‘stay awhile amid its ancient charms’ but there is more to the cathedral city of Ripon in North Yorkshire than its history. Its civic leaders and the community generally readily look to the future.

The city is preparing many events throughout this year that will not only attract visitors but also bring together the local community and boost its economy. ‘We are delighted to have the Olympic torch coming through the city, the whole community will be there to support it,’ said Judith Donovan, who heads up the Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership, an organisation which works alongside the council and local businesses to encourage new investment and prosperity for the area.

The city, the fourth smallest in the country, will also be coming together to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June when the cathedral plans to hold a flower festival and thanksgiving service. The market square will close to traffic on June 4th and become a centre for celebration which will include street entertainment and fair ground rides.

The town hall which overlooks the market square will be covered with Union Jack flags. Everyone will be welcome to join in the celebrations, local people and visitors alike.

Judith Donovan is confident about the city’s future. She said: ‘There is no doubt that tourists will continue to come to Ripon because we have a World Heritage site just outside the city, first class museums and a beautiful market place. We also have fabulous shops and the local people are lovely.’

The Fountains Abbey World Heritage Site run by the National Trust on Ripon’s doorstep has among the finest monastic ruins in Europe as well as celebrated gardens, a lake, temples and a deer park. Not far away is Ripon Racecourse, established in 1664 and one of Yorkshire’s most celebrated racecourses which recently reclaimed the Small Racecourse of the North award.

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The rivers Ure, Skell and Laver flow through Ripon from the Yorkshire Dales and a canal basin has been developed which attracts narrow boats exploring Yorkshire’s extensive canal system.

The Ure is the now the centre of a drive to return it to its former position as a major salmon river which will not only help fishermen but also promises to give a lift to the local economy. The recently formed Ure Salmon Trust, as reported in January’s Yorkshire Life, believes a fully established fishery would bring at least 20 new jobs on the river alone through the need for ghillies to maintain the banks and assist fishermen.

Ripon Cathedral also has its part to play in improving the city’s economy. ‘It brought in over 90,000 visitors last year and the number continues to grow,’ said Margaret Hammond, Ripon Cathedral Development Campaign manager.

The campaign aims, through new developments, to encourage not only tourists but people from Ripon and the surrounding areas to make more of the city and its cathedral. ‘We are planning a new glazed entrance to bring more people in. We hope it will create a warmer and brighter welcome, making it more exciting and less scary for those who might feel a little intimidated and feel they can’t go in,’ added Margaret.

Development campaign organisers and supporters last year staged the first wedding fair to be held inside an English cathedral. The pilot scheme raised �2,000 and aims to raise �10,000 during the next one, which is yet to be arranged. More than �2.5 million has been raised since the development campaign was launched 10 years ago. The money has gone towards building and repairing the roof, the central tower, rewiring and relighting inside and outside the cathedral.

They celebrated the campaign’s 10th anniversary with the unveiling of a portrait of former high steward of the cathedral, Tom Ramsden, painted by local artist David Page. It was commissioned by Margaret I’Anson, a cathedral patron, and shows Tom Ramsden, high steward from 1999-2009, wearing the gown of office and badge of the cathedral. It was presented to him after its unveiling but can be seen in the cathedral library until Easter.

It’s also good to know the city is getting to grips with social media. Ripon police are now on Twitter and invite everyone to check their tweets for latest traffic reports and warnings, burglary reports and appeals for information and help to catch offenders.

Getting there: Ripon is close to a stone’s throw away from the A1, leaving at Junction 50 coming from the North or South.

Where to park: Free parking in the market square and ample paid parking around the city.

What to do: Visit the market on Thursdays. The cathedral is open everyday free of charge. Explore nearby World Heritage site Fountains Abbey run by the National Trust.

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