CM2 The River


The River Wharfe runs 65 miles from its source in the Yorkshire Dales into the River Ouse, passing through small market towns such as Ilkley, Otley and Pool on its way. At Otley the Wharfe has historically caused flooding due to severe rainfall and snowmelt events.* Local historical accounts of river flooding suggest that inundation of the northern bank in Otley is common. In 2015, floods demonstrated similar inundation patterns as those shown in historic photographs and personal accounts from 1935 and 1982.


In the past the upper Wharfe catchment has been the focus for scientific study and engineering interventions to mitigate flood risk.** Reacting to the 2015 flood events, government provided grants for affected homeowners to flood-proof their homes. Residents have been able to install flood-proof airbricks, sump pumps, and alter the electrical wiring of their homes to reduce the impact caused by potential future inundations.


The severity of flooding and local campaigns led to Otley being allocated £2 million for flood management work in the 2016 Autumn Statement. Interest and pressure for flood management from locally affected citizens was important in bringing the issue to the forefront of local environmental priorities.



YouTube clip 1 Flooding on Otley Bridge 26 December 2015


YouTube clip 2 Flooding in Otley 26 December 2015 Farnley Lane



*S. P. Merrett and M. G. Macklin discuss this in ‘Historic river response to extreme flooding in the Yorkshire Dales, northern England, a chapter in Fluvial Processes and Environmental Change, edited by A. G. Brown and T. M. Quine. Published by Wiley in 1999.

**Hey and Winterbottom, ‘River engineering in national parks: The case of the river Wharfe, UK’, 1990 in Regulated Rivers: Research & Management vol. 5 pp 35-44.



Report from Otley




Videos about the CM2 River

This website is published a team of human geography researchers in the School of Geography and the Environment at University of Oxford.