#2. River Wharfe Part 1: Burley to Ilkley

The lovely River Wharfe is a major river in Yorkshire, England which for much of its length it forms the county boundary between West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire. Its name probably comes from the Saxon ‘guerf‘ meaning ‘swift’ but it could even be named after the Old English word ‘weorf‘or Old Norse ‘hverfr‘ – both meaning ‘winding river’.

It is 65 miles (104.6 km) long before it joins the Ouse – making it the 21st longest UK river. It is navigable from Tadcaster weir at to its confluence with the Ouse near Cawood and is tidal from Ulleskelf to the Ouse.

The valley of the Wharfe – Wharfedale – is one of the best known, and popular, of the Yorkshire Dales. Starting above the village of Buckden at Beckermonds in Langstrothdale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the river flows through KettlewellGrassingtonBolton AbbeyAddinghamIlkleyBurley-in-WharfedaleOtleyWetherby and Tadcaster. It then flows into the River Ouse near Cawood.

The narrower, faster-flowing upper section of the river from its source to around Addingham is in Upper Wharfedale and passes many beautiful old stone built villages. Thereare a number of waterfalls – the best known being Linton Falls close to Grassington and The Strid near Bolton Abbey, a spectacular natural feature where the river is forced through a narrow channel. The wider, slower-flowing and more meandering river in the flatter downstream section has a very different character.

This first batch of photos taken between July – September 2017 covers the 6.2 km stretch from the Burley-in-Wharfedale stepping stones @ N 53 55.360W 1 44.960 to Ilkley new bridge @ N 53 55.679 W 1 49.409.

1. The weir at Burley-in-Wharfedale with the river in moderate flow but with several trees washed down after heavy rains a few days earlier (20/8/17).
2. The leat (or goit) flowing from the edge of the Burley weir full after heavy rains. This man-made channel supplied water to a water-wheel powering Greenholme Mill – at one time the largest water-powered cotton mill in England – and now powers a new hydro-power station (17/8/17)
3. The partially submerged stepping stones at Burley looking across to the north bank. The Burley Bridge Association has campaigned since 1996 for a footbridge across the river here to ensure a reliable and safe river crossing. (20/8/17)
4. Looking south-east towards the dry Burley stepping stones from the north bank at a time of lower river flow (23/8/17)
5. Looking south-west upstream from the Burley stepping stones towards the weir. Part of Rombald’s Moor above Ilkley is just visible in the right background (23/8/17)
6. Looking across the Burley stepping stones towards the north bank from where the public footpath continues across the fields to Askwith village (23/8/17)
[Compare with photo #3 taken a few days earlier]
7. Rosebay willowherb flourishing on the edge of the lagoon at Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve (BRGPNR) adjacent to the Wharfe (29/7/17 @ N 53 55.474 W 1 46.793)
8. Looking north-east down river from the edge of Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve (29/7/17)
From here, otters have been observed.
9. View north across the Wharfe from the bench on the eastern edge of BRGPNR (29/7/17)
10. Looking north-east from the eastern end of the BRGPNR towards The Chevin, a beautiful wooded hill overlooking Otley (29/7/17)
11. Denton Road bridge 1 of 5 river crossings (2 road bridges, one old stone pack-horse bridge, one suspension footbridge and 1 set of stepping stones) linking Ilkley on the south bank (in West Yorkshire) with the north bank of the river (North Yorkshire). Looking south-east with the river in low flow conditions. After severe floods in December 2015 the river overflowed the roadway and the bridge was struck and damaged by huge tree trunks washed down-stream (19/9/17)

Photo #11 shows one of the many Wharfe river crossings – see here for an illustrated list of these from its source to its confluence with the Ouse.

12. Ilkley stepping stones looking north (24/9/17 @ N 53 55.819 W 1 48.013)
13. Ilkley stepping stones looking south – in good condition for crossing! (19/9/17)
14. A quiet stretch west of Ilkley stepping stones favoured by this group of mallard (19/9/17)
15. Looking north-east down river from Beanlands Island (19/9/17 @ N 53 55.853 W 1 48.308))
16. Looking west up the small stream separating Beanlands Island from the river (19/9/17)
17. Ivy lattice embracing a sycamore trunk – good home for a geocache! (19/9/17)
18. Ilkley suspension bridge, built in 1934 – looking south-east (19/9/17) 
19. Ilkley suspension bridge looking north (19/9/17)
20. Ilkley suspension bridge looking west in late evening with Rombald’s Moor on the skyline (19/9/17)
21. Riverside path just east of Ilkley new bridge (19/9/17)
22. Looking east from Ilkley new bridge (26/9/17)
23. View west from Ilkley new bridge (26/9/17)
24. Ilkley new bridge looking north-east (26/9/17)