Monday 23 August 2010

Yorkshire Aire

At 71 miles, the Aire is Yorkshire's longest river. It rises in the Dales, near Malham, and winds its way south east towards the more industrial landscape of West Yorkshire; cutting through the centre of Leeds before heading for the Ouse at Airmyn, and so into the wide estuary of the Humber which feeds the North Sea. Ironically, only a short distance away the Ribble rises, but turns the other way out of North Yorkshire, to head for Lancashire and the Irish Sea.

The Aire is responsible for much of the industrial heritage of West Yorkshire serving as a means of transporting goods and also providing power. Many mills were established along its course, including Salt's Mill and the worker's village of Saltaire built by Sir Titus Salt in 1853. For loads of interesting photos and information about Saltaire, visit JennyFreckles blog here.

This far upstream, the river was not navigable and so the Leeds Liverpool Canal was constructed to meet the growing demand for the transportation of goods. The presence of both river and canal played a significant part in Sir Titus selecting his location.

Downstream, the river was still shallow, so in 1704, the section of the Aire between Leeds and the River Ouse at Goole was canalised. It became the Aire and Calder Navigation and was used by Tom Puddings; compartmentalised boats which were strung into trains and pushed by a tug. The Tom Puddings transported coal from the Yorkshire collieries to Goole.

Because it was so industrialised, the river became very polluted, to the extent that, as recently as twenty years ago, it was considered dead. When the Water Board was privitised and responsibility for the Aire passed into the hands of the Yorkshire Water Company, protesters made such vociferous appeals, that they took action and cleaned up the river. Now, some of the upper reaches are considered good spots for fly fishing and, in 2006, porpoises were spotted in the tidal section.

The section along which we walked is far away from the tidal waters, being between Bingley and Saltaire. There is still evidence of the densly populated nature of the neighbourhood; residential areas coming down to the waterside, the by-pass crossing over the new bridge overhead, but it is also a peaceful place with lots of greenery and some open spaces.

Waterways do make attractive walks.


  1. hi just seen your comments thank you . Watching songs of praise do you fancy doing west coast way next year ( this is mega 96 mile walk ) we could camp on route and do it for charity . I would just like to say I am mega UNFIT so this would be a challenge . Also think of the photo opps

  2. A splendid photograph, really!
    Good day with you.

  3. Love all these photos. Glad that the river is now undead. We started rebirthing rivers over 40 years ago around here. I so love the water and now mostly all waterways are clean.

  4. I haven't been by a river for so long so your photos are just soothing for the soul to see..

  5. Thank you for the link. I like seeing your views of this area that's so familiar to me - I see it with new eyes.

  6. I agree. I love to walk the waterways.