CHAPTER XVI. WHARFEDALE
Otley is the first place we come to in the long and beautiful valley of the Wharfe. It is a busy little town where printing machinery is manufactured and worsted mills appear to thrive. Immediately to the south rises the steep ridge known as the Chevin. It answers the same purpose as Leyburn Shawl in giving a great view over the dale; the elevation of over 900 feet, being much greater than the Shawl, of course commands a far more extensive panorama, and thus, in clear weather, York Minster appears on the eastern horizon and the Ingleton Fells on the west.
Farnley Hall, on the north side of the Wharfe, is an Elizabethan house dating from 1581, and it is still further of interest on account of Turner's frequent visits, covering a great number of years, and for the very fine collection of his paintings preserved there. The oak-panelling and coeval furniture are particularly good, and among the historical relics there is a remarkable memento of Marston Moor in the sword that Cromwell carried during the battle.
Ilkley has contrived to keep an old well-house, where the water's purity is its chief attraction. The church contains a thirteenth-century effigy of Sir Andrew de Middleton, and also three pre-Norman crosses without arms. On the heights to the south of Ilkley is Rumbles Moor, and from the Cow and Calf rocks there is a very fine view.
About six miles still further up Wharfedale, Bolton Abbey stands by a bend of the beautiful river. The ruins are most picturesquely placed on ground slightly raised above the banks of the Wharfe. Of the domestic buildings practically nothing remains, while the choir of the church, the central tower, and north transepts are roofless and extremely beautiful ruins. The nave is roofed in, and is used as a church at the present time, and it is probable that services have been held in the building practically without any interruption for 700 years. Hiding the Early English west end is the lower half of a fine Perpendicular tower, commenced by Richard Moone, the last Prior.
The great east window of the choir has lost its tracery, and the Decorated windows at the sides are in the same vacant state, with the exception of one. It is blocked up to half its height, like those on the north side, but the flamboyant tracery of the head is perfect and very graceful. Lower down there is some late-Norman interlaced arcading resting on carved corbels.
From the abbey we can take our way by various beautiful paths to the exceedingly rich scenery of Bolton woods. Some of the reaches of the Wharfe through this deep and heavily-timbered part of its course are really enchanting, and not even the knowledge that excursion parties frequently traverse the paths can rob the views of their charm. It is always possible, by taking a little trouble, to choose occasions for seeing these beautiful but very popular places when they are unspoiled by the sights and sounds of holiday-makers, and in the autumn, when the woods have an almost undreamed-of brilliance, the walks and drives are generally left to the birds and the rabbits. At the Strid the river, except in flood-times, is confined to a deep channel through the rocks, in places scarcely more than a yard in width. It is one of those spots that accumulate stories and legends of the individuals who have lost their lives, or saved them, by endeavouring to leap the narrow channel. That several people have been drowned here is painfully true, for the temptation to try the seemingly easy but very risky jump is more than many can resist.
Higher up, the river is crossed by the three arches of Barden Bridge, a fine old structure bearing the inscription: 'This bridge was repayred at the charge of the whole West R ... 1676.' To the south of the bridge stands the picturesque Tudor house called Barden Tower, which was at one time a keeper's lodge in the manorial forest of Wharfedale. It was enlarged by the tenth Lord Clifford - the 'Shepherd Lord' whose strange life-story is mentioned in the next chapter in connection with Skipton - but having become ruinous, it was repaired in 1658 by that indefatigable restorer of the family castles, the Lady Anne Clifford.
At this point there is a road across the moors to Pateley Bridge, in Nidderdale, and if we wish to explore that valley, which is now partially filled with a lake formed by the damming of the Nidd for Bradford's water-supply, we must leave the Wharfe at Barden. If we keep to the more beautiful dale we go on through the pretty village of Burnsall to Grassington, where a branch railway has recently made its appearance from Skipton.
The dale from this point appears more and more wild, and the fells become gaunt and bare, with scars often fringing the heights on either side. We keep to the east side of the river, and soon after having a good view up Littondale, a beautiful branch valley, we come to Kettlewell. This tidy and cheerful village stands at the foot of Great Whernside, one of the twin fells that we saw overlooking the head of Coverdale when we were at Middleham. Its comfortable little inns make Kettlewell a very fine centre for rambles in the wild dales that run up towards the head of Wharfedale.