I’m really glad to have re-discovered this area and this stretch of the River Wharfe. We came here a few weeks back and walked downstream to the Priory; this time the plan was to walk in the opposite direction to the Strid, of which more in a moment.
Rivers are always fascinating and the Wharfe rarely if ever disappoints. I think I’m right in saying that it has the fastest rise and fall in the UK, caused by rainwater draining down from the surrounding fells, and the impact of that on the bordering vegetation is very clear to see. The trees are wonderful, and the more so I think for being leaf free – they present as sculptures, sometimes standing against the sky, sometimes forming eccentric frames for the water. They become the foundations of “found still life” images with their adornments of ferns and lichens. They promise mystery as they beckon the eye and indeed the viewer to wander among them.
The water is of course the centrepiece, running at a goodly level for our visit with rapids bubbling over submerged rocks and creating their own semi-permanent water sculptures. The main interest is of course the Strid. The river above it is about 8 metres wide; it narrows dramatically to a single stride (which I assume is the derivation of the name) of less than a metre, beneath which the river bed has been ground out to a depth of no less than 9 metres. One can only guess at the churning of the water beneath the surface here – and it’s sadly true that people have died here, usually trying to make the stride and falling short – “it’s only a metre – no real distance at all”. Don’t – just don’t!
There’s wildlife here too, and reports back at the Cavendish Pavilion of otters seen up near the Aqueduct, though sadly not by us!
Good place to be, and to which to return, perhaps next time to go again to Simon’s Seat.