Unnamed waterfall is Bolton Abbey’s best kept secret

Bolton Abbey Priory. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Bolton Abbey Priory. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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There is probably no more visited beauty spot in Yorkshire than the Bolton Abbey estate, spread along both banks of the River Wharfe a few miles upstream from Ilkley. Its popularity seems to have increased hugely since I first went there four decades ago, and like Tarn Hows in the Lake District it is now busy every day of the year.

Many people stroll down to the Augustinian monastery’s ruins, cross the footbridge or stepping stones and follow an undulating path to the Cavendish Pavilion tearoom for a cuppa.

Others walk through woodland to view the point at which the fast-flowing Wharfe squeezes violently through a narrow vice of rock called The Strid, once described as the most dangerous stretch of water in the world.

Comparatively few visitors get as far as Bolton Abbey’s other famous feature, the laund oak. This massive gnarled stump and tangle of branches still sprouted leaves and acorns despite being an estimated 800-years-old. Sadly, it toppled over during a gale earlier this year, leaving superstitious people to mutter about what this might herald for Britain’s future.

But there is another attraction at Bolton Abbey which those who know about it make the object of their walk, and that is a beautifully located waterfall on the moorland edge.

This water feature has not got a name, which is a shame because it deserves something better than “the waterfall above Bolton Abbey”, and should be fondly mentioned in the same breath as other lovely Yorkshire waterfalls such as Janet’s Foss at Malham and Currack Force in Swaledale.

This unnamed gem lies just off the well-used permissive footpath to the gritstone outcrop of Simon’s Seat, and although not lying either on a right of way or open access land there has never been any attempt to keep out those who love the waterfall - thank you Bolton Abbey Estate.

It looks like the kind of thing ornamental gardens the world over have tried but failed to artificially recreate. The main stream of water angles into a deep black pool, which is framed on one side by a high crag sprouting an enormous oak and on the other by a jumble of rocks carrying a subsidiary stream of water and overhung by a large beech and a riotous holly tree.

Nature has decorated the surroundings with ivy and varieties of grasses you might buy at a garden centre, and has provided a large smooth rock set at an angle of 45 degrees against which visitors can lean back and take all this in.

There is even a low platform of rock, like a coffee table, on which to conveniently rest thermos and sandwiches.

I am always loathe to leave, such is the tranquillity of this place. And it is not all about the peace, the bird life and the greenery. Waterfalls charge the air with negative ions, which somewhat paradoxically create a positive vibe. They are invisible molecules which, when inhaled, increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin in our brains and leave us feeling more relaxed and alert.