The Strid in Strid Woods in autumn

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An autumnal day out at The Strid, a set of rapids in the River Wharfe near Bolton Abbey, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Strid Woods walk

As I was wanting to get some decent woodland photos I decided to pay a visit to Strid Woods in autumn. Strid Woods are part of the Bolton Abbey Estate in lower Wharfedale and are easy to get to from either Leeds or Bradford. The estate itself covers 30,000 acres and lies to the north of the A59 Harrogate to Skipton road.

There are a number of different walks leading into the woods. These include either starting at the parking area near the abbey itself or near Strid Cottage. Both of these options are pay and display though.

Alternatively there are a few parking spots at Bolton Bridge, downstream of Strid Woods. I chose the other option and parked upstream of the woods at the large lay-by next to Barden Bridge.

Barden Bridge over the River Wharfe in autumn
Barden Bridge over the River Wharfe

From here it’s a short walk alongside the River Wharfe to the woods.

Walking through the fields lining the southern bank of the pedestrian River Wharfe I was happy to see plenty of autumnal hues ahead of me. Having entered the woods the views along the river were great. Looking back upstream the mixture of beech, ash and oak in Strid Woods looked very colourful.

River Wharfe in autumnal Strid Woods
The River Wharfe meanders through Strid Woods

At a fork in the path on the right hand (southern) bank of the river taking the left hand path leads to The Strid.

footpath near The Strid in autumnal Strid Woods
The path leading to The Strid

The Strid in the River Wharfe

As it flows through Strid Woods the River Wharfe narrows, forced by the local geology into the narrow channel called The Strid. The previously meandering river now rushes past at a rate of knots, forced through the thin gap by the weight of water following behind.

Its certainly not the calm river it is further upstream!

And its over as soon as it starts. Barely fifty metres after the river enters The Strid the River Wharfe returns to its normal width and continues its leisurely pace through the woods.

River Wharfe exits the Strid rapids
The River Wharfe leaves The Strid

Deaths in The Strid

While photographing The Strid I got talking to an elderly man who was wandering past. It turns out he grew up in the area and happily recounted tales of him and his school friends taking it in turns to jump across. I don’t doubt he was being honest. At its thinnest the river channel at The Strid is less than two meters wide and looks eminently leapable. However the rocks on both banks are extremely slippery, even in dry weather. Obviously he had made it to a ripe old age but I didn’t like to ask about his school chums.

And then there is the geology. At the surface the channel is quite narrow. However over millennia the river has eroded a large undercut under the riverbank’s rocks. This is said to be as large as a chamber. Get sucked into one of those by the strong current and its game over.

Having spent some time searching on the internet I couldn’t find a single tale of anyone who survived The Strid’s rapids. Those who have fallen in and been ‘lucky’ enough to have their bodies recovered have only been found numerous hours or days later. The tale I always remember was from the 1990’s when a couple of honeymooners fell in. This was particularly poignant as they had just got married and were about the same age as me at the time of writing this.

In short, having done some research, any attempt I might have been planning on jumping over The Strid has been scrapped! It looks stunning and quite benign but looks are deceptive.

To view photos of less lethal places in the Dales please view my landscape photos of the Yorkshire Dales.

The Strid in Strid Woods in autumn was last modified: January 6th, 2022 by Gavin Dronfield

Further reading:

  • A walk from Stainforth to Winskill Stones
    April 2017 : Watching sunset from the limestone pavement of Winskill Stones near Stainforth in Ribblesdale, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

  • The classic Malham Round
    May 2017 : A springtime walk through stunning limestone scenery from Malham in the Yorkshire Dales taking in Janet's Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove

  • Gunnerside lead mines from Gunnerside
    September 2016 : A walk from Gunnerside up Gunnerside Gill to visit the disused lead mines amidst a devastated landscape above Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales

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