York Walks /2

Bar walls – Bootham Bar to Monk Bar

Photographed in spring 2004

This stretch of walls, enclosing the trees and gardens of the Minster precincts, changes in atmosphere through the spring, as the trees come into leaf. The photo on the right shows how open the walls are in March. By late spring the trees on the left fill with leaves and the walls are a different place.

Normally, in the streets, tree branches are high above you, but here, as you're on the walls, the branches come to meet you.

  Walls between Monk Bar and Bootham Bar – 2 April 2004

"In the gardens of the canons' houses the stiff, gummy chestnut buds cluster between you and the Minster" – A G Dickens, 1952

Horse Chestnut tree buds, March 2004 Horse Chestnut tree unfurling, April 2004 Horse Chestnut tree blossoming, May 2004

Chestnut tree, March 2004

Chestnut tree, April 2004

Chestnut tree, May 2004

Bar walls, to Monk Bar   Well-worn steps, city walls by Bootham Bar

Above and below – sections of the walls, near Bootham Bar.

Looking towards Bootham Bar   Walls towards Bootham Bar
Bar walls walkway to Bootham Bar, spring 2004   City walls, from the corner looking towards Bootham Bar

The images above can be compared to views from January 2004, in York Walks /1: Bootham Bar to Monk Bar and also summer views in York Walks /3: Bootham Bar to Monk Bar

This plaque on the walls on the approach to Monk Bar records that "this portion of the wall . . was in the year 1889 restored to the City by Edwin Gray, who served the office of Lord Mayor in 1898".

Though the wording is a bit odd, making it sound like this section of the walls had at one stage been stolen, I assume it refers to the restoration work that took place at that time. The work of 1887-9 meant that this walk along the walls from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar could be enjoyed by the general public for the first time.

I've only recently realised how much work has been carried out on the walls in comparatively recent times. Because they are always there, and so old, we just take them for granted. Which is probably why they were at one time, by all accounts, a bit of a mess. Pulling them down to get them out of the way was even considered as a serious option.

  Plaque recording 19th century restoration work on city walls
Groves Lane, on the line of a Roman road

This isn't a beautiful photo, and it shows what appears to be just a section of shops on Lord Mayor's Walk, taken from the bar walls. But behind the tree and lamp-post in the middle of the photo Groves Lane is just visible, on the opposite side of the road. Groves Lane begins here as a narrow alleyway between buildings, and it continues for some distance, through the Groves.

Groves Lane follows the old Roman route out of the city, so it's an ancient thoroughfare. It's hard to keep this in mind as you skirt the car park, but it's true, according to people who know such things.

So this means that where I was standing to take the photo above there used to be a Roman gateway – the Porta Decumana – in the north-east wall of the fortress of Eboracum.

Late spring on the walls

Spring growth changes the view on this stretch of wall, as it surrounds the trees and gardens of the Minster precincts. Two months on from the photos above, which were taken in early spring, these photos (right, and below) show how the leaves have filled all the spaces where bare branches were in March. These photos were taken on the evening of 18 May 2004, when the green of the new growth was at its most brilliant.

  Minster precinct gardens, May 2004
Gardens around the Minster, seen from the walls, May 2004   Bar walls towards Monk Bar, May 2004

Related pages -
York Walks /1 – Bootham Bar to Monk Bar (winter)
York Walks /3 – Bootham Bar to Monk Bar (summer)