Ilkley Clean River Group and the Ilkley Great Get Together put on a post lockdown River Celebration and Community Picnic on Sunday in East Holmes Field.
The two groups were supported by Friends of Riverside Parks, Ilkley Live, Ilkley Real Food Market, Ilkley Poets and young writers, Rotary Club of Ilkley Wharfedale, Climate Action Ilkley, iWharfe, Christchurch and Martinez Wines, and had fantastic support from the Two Rivers Band.
The pollution problems in the River Wharfe in Ilkley have received national coverage recently, generating the headlines 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.
A spokesperson for the organisers said: “The afternoon was a lovely community event with 2 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 Clean River Group would like to address one rumour which is wrong: “The designation is not attracting more people to Ilkley. 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 We are expecting to be the first town to secure a real clean up of an outdated sewage system, that means our river isn't being used as a drain”.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 www.rightsofrivers.org.
You can read the Ilkley Rights of the River Wharfe at ilkleycleanriver.org where you can also follow the campaign's progress.