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From Ilkley Gazette, September 1st, 2021
Written by Claire Lomax

A CELEBRATION of the River Wharfe in Ilkley and a community picnic was held on Sunday.

The event at East Holmes field was organised by the Ilkley Clean River Group and the Ilkley Great Get Together to thank the hundreds of volunteers who make Ilkley a thriving and beautiful town.

The organisers were supported to put on the celebration by the Friends of Riverside Parks, Ilkley Live, Ilkley Real Food Market, Ilkley Poets and young writers, Climate Action Ilkley, iWharfe, Christchurch, Martinez Wines and the Two Rivers Band.

A spokesperson for the Ilkley Clean River Group said: “The afternoon was a lovely community event with two music stages, dancing from the Riaz dance troupe, picnics, art and photography exhibitions, a nature walk and Rotary organised a really fun duck race. The environment exhibition was a hub of pollution discussion with Beneath British Waters showing an underwater film of our river. Ros Brown thanked volunteers and our supporters, and Terry Ford, the Otley Town Crier performed a Cry for the River written by our own poet Fiona Williams. Terry also declared the Rights of the River Wharfe.”

The celebration came in a week which saw national coverage of the pollution problem at Ilkley. The Ilkley Clean River Group secured Bathing Status this year to secure regular water testing by the Environment Agency. The EA’s first testing results confirmed the river is heavily polluted, a fact the group was already aware of due its own pioneering citizen science testing protocol.

A spokesperson for the Ilkley Clean River Group said: “The only way we could get regular testing was to apply for bathing status - which is awarded to water courses where there is heavy use of the water by the public. This has generated the national headlines we saw of Ilkley being the most polluted bathing spot in the country. Of course Ilkley is the only river that is designated in England and therefore tested, and it is not the most polluted river, but it is the most polluted designated bathing site (the rest are seasides). “Designation at the seaside has lead to real improvements in the water quality with a national clean up, and the Ilkley designation is triggering the same attention for our river. We expect clean up plans to be in place by the end of the year. Ilkley is supporting multiple groups across the UK who are putting their applications together and testing their water using our protocol.”
They added: "The designation is not attracting more people to Ilkley. The Clean River Group volunteers counted people paddling, playing, swimming and enjoying the riverbank over the summer of 2019. We have repeated the count this our first year of Designated Bathing Status. The numbers are no more than they were in 2019 (pre-Covid). The Designation was not to make the river a swimming hotspot, but to secure water testing and signs to let the public know what they are getting into; and to pressure Yorkshire Water and the agencies to clean up our river for people and wildlife. We are expecting to be the first town to secure a real clean up of an outdated sewage system, that means our river isn't being used as a drain."

Ilkley has joined an international movement of 20 countries to protect rivers and all who depend on them - visit for more information.

Read the Ilkley Rights of the River Wharfe at where you can also follow the campaign’s progress.