From this vantage point, just below Knaresborough Castle, we can contemplate the beautiful River Nidd as it sweeps through this historic Yorkshire town. Rising in Nidderdale, an officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Nidd drains an area of naturally acidic peat moorland, on its way to the Humber Estuary and the North Sea. Like all rivers flowing from peat moorlands, the upper reaches of the Nidd have a hue resembling weak tea (or a decent Scotch whisky!); this is caused by minute particles of brown peat, washed downstream.
The River Nidd, and the Rivers Swale, Wharf and Ure, are all preserved by the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, a Registered Charity which works to conserve the environment around the rivers and the riverine wildlife; the YDRT are concerned with the Nidd from its headwaters around Great Whernside (at an altitude of around 1,950 ft), to its confluence with the River Humber and on to the North Sea, a distance of some 56 miles. Three reservoirs have been built on the upper reaches of the river; the Angram and Scar House reservoirs are used for water abstraction, whilst the third, the Gouthwaith Reservoir, is used for flood control.
The Nidd is a superb fishing venue, with stocks of wild Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) and Grayling (Thymallus thymallus). The Nidderdale Angling Club has the rights to about 7 miles of river bank (some of which is open to non-members, via day ticket). The Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa) lines the banks in dense clumps on the upper portions of the Nidd, and forms a wonderful combination of shade, wind break and food source for many insects. Along with those insect species which have a life-cycle which starts under the water’s surface, these form a veritable banquet for the Brown Trout and Grayling. Amongst the insects which are preyed on by fish, you will find the food which trout love, the Mayfly (including species such as Ephemera vulgata); this makes for a fast and furious feeding period, when even inexperienced anglers can catch fish! One ‘problem’ plant along the river bank is Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), which has spread rapidly since its introduction from Asia in 1839; this is now a really difficult invasive species.
The River Nidd flows through the Mediaeval town of Knaresborough. Set in a spectacular gorge, the river is spanned by an impressive, crenallated, railway viaduct, built in 1851. Thomas Grainger designed this to carry the Leeds and Thirsk Railway into the centre of the town. This lovely stone structure is still in use, with Northern Rail running services to York and Leeds using their Class 142 and 144 ‘Pacer’ diesel multiple units (built by British Rail Engineering Limited at Derby). There are many restaurants, museums and other attractions in Knaresborough, and you can hire a rowing boat and slowly drift along, looking up at the impressive ruins of Knaresborough Castle, and the wooded slopes along the Nidd. A truly beautiful river.