A River Or Stream Flowing Into A Larger River The River Wharfe

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The River Wharfe

This most picturesque of North Yorkshire rivers has its source on the moors above Langstrothdale Chase. Although not the longest of rivers, it covers a wide range of scenery and river states, from upland streams to tidal flats near its confluence with the River Ouse near Cawood.

Langstrothdale is an upland valley on the upper side of the River Wharfe. At this stage the river has a limestone bed and there can be considerable variation between being in full flow and almost dry during the summer months. The valley sides are full of limestone caves, small waterfalls and of course the dry stone walls and sheep so characteristic of upland Yorkshire.

The valley is lined with a narrow but very serviceable road, unfenced for much of its length, giving full access to the crystal clear streamside greensward. In summer it is a very popular place to stop for a day out with the kids, a picnic by the river or a cup of tea beside the car.

Cray Beck joins the New Wharfe River below the valley at Habberholme and forms the beginning of Upper Wharfedale. Haberholm is a small village boasting a fine parish church, the resting place of JB Priestley, the hand-carved oak pews of Robert Thompson – Kilburn’s mouseman. At this stage the river changes shape, the valley becomes flat and the river is quieter, deeper and less variable. The valley is also exposed as a flat-bottomed glacier typical of the Yorkshire Dales.

Upper Wharfedale has a number of wonderful villages, with amenities, accommodation and eating establishments. A good example is the Buck Inn at Buckden which offers great rooms, great food, a great Yorkshire ale or a great cup of Yorkshire tea.

Other equally beautiful and popular villages include Kettlewell, Grassington and Appletreewick.

Towards the southern end of the valley the river enters the woodland on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate, and hidden within this woodland is the river’s most dramatic feature. At Strid the entire course of the river is narrowed into a deep and rocky channel less than 2 meters wide. The resulting roaring stream is filled with strong undercurrents and underwater overhangs to trap and drown the unwary. Over the years there have been many accidents, including Egremond’s medieval son immortalized in Wordsworth’s poem.

The river passes by the glorious ruins of Bolton Abbey. With its priory ruins, over 80 miles of footpaths, 30,000 acres of beautiful countryside and a thriving array of tea shops, pubs and restaurants, it’s a great place for a family day out. A gem in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

Now the river changes again, the valley widens and the river is fuller and more mature. The nature of riverside settlements also changes, growing larger and more industrialized as the wharf moves closer to Leeds and Bradford. But first the river passes through the village of Addingham, famous for its church, and over a nearby suspension bridge, before passing through the first village on its course, the town of Ilkley. Up the river moors are made famous by a Yorkshire song about a man who dies of a head cold after “courting” his girlfriend without a hat.

“On Ilcla Moor Bar Tat” rings out in many a coach returning from a football match or a trip to the beach.

Ilkley itself is a gorgeous little town with lots of great restaurants and shops and boasts great fishing for trout from the river. I, myself, have enjoyed some excellent examples provided by Lord Durno, who was always keen on fly-fishing at the Wharf. The town was also the birthplace of one of Yorkshire’s most popular current personalities, TV presenter, author and gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

Further along the river comes Burley in Wharfedale and then the market town of Otley with its old mill buildings and riverside parks. The city is bustling without being overbearing, and you don’t notice the planes overflying to or from nearby Leeds Bradford Airport. Locally, the town is famous for its wild highlands known as Otley Shewin.

The river now returns to the open spaces of an agricultural valley before exiting the dale and entering the town of Todcaster. At Tadcaster the river has provided both transport and raw materials for the brewing industry over the years. The city still has many great breweries, from the John Smith Complex to the small but still very popular Samuel Smith Brewery. The story of both these breweries originally owned by the Smith family, descendants of the original Samuel Smith – a butcher from Meanwood in Leeds – reads like a historical epic with family downfalls and divisions. The two breweries exist side by side although only the Samuel Smith Brewery is independent.

Below Tadcaster the river flows through several more settlements, some with Nordic names such as Ulleskelf or Ozendyke. The river is also tidal around the area due to the twice-daily rise and fall of water from the River Ouse flowing down through York or back.

The River Wharfe eventually joins the Ouse just above the urban village of Cowde – famous locally for its swing bridge which seems to break with frustrating regularity. Cowde is also famous as the place where Cardinal Wolsey was arrested by the Earl of Northumberland and taken south to stand trial for treason against Henry VIII. He was not to reach London, however; Falling ill at Leicester and eventually dying of his illness.

The waters of the River Wharfe now join the waters of the Ouse and continue south-eastwards to form the Humber estuary below Selby and finally flow into the North Sea at Hull, east of Kingston.

Much of Wharfe’s course is walkable, taking 6-7 days to complete, with accommodation available in Yorkshire accommodation en route. [http://www.best-yorkshire-accommodation.co.uk].

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