Yorkshire River Derwent

Rises in the North York Moors and flows 100 miles before joining the River Ouse prior to becoming the River Humber and then Humber Estuary. It is a SSSI throughout its length and shows a classic rivers profile of upper, middle and lower gradients. Other rivers originating from the moors join the Derwent in the Vale of Pickering, the site of the post glacial Lake Pickering. Notable historical achievers from this area are William Smith, the Father of Geology c1820’s and Sir George Caley, Father of Aviation c1853. The area is also noted for the North York Moors (steam) Railway and number of delightful market towns.

The middle reaches of the Derwent also feature a railway running alongside the river and through the spectacular scenery of Kirkham Gorge and past the impressive ruins of the 13th century Kirkham Abbey. Downstream, at Stamford Bridge, is the site of the 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge (really about a mile downstream, where the mass Viking grave was discovered) where King Harold Goodwinson of England defeated King Harald Hardrada of Norway.

The lower reaches are usually noted by the Derwent Ings flood meadows, internationally recognised as an area of nature conservation. The area is also a working area of antiquity and traditional methods of haymaking are still practised.

The Yorkshire Derwent ends at Barmby Tidal barrier, erected in the 1970s to exclude tidal water entering the Derwent from the River Ouse and to keep a suitable water level for water supply.
Of conservation status among wildlife of the River Derwent are the river and sea lamprey, eel, salmonids, otter, water vole, waders, waterfowl and the spotted crake, an ecological indicator. The unique floodplain vegetation has also special conservation status.

The Yorkshire River Derwent is a river of diverse values starting with tumbling ‘flash flood’ tributary streams/rivers that are capable of moving cobble stones along the river bed to the gentler flowing waters of the Derwent Ings that also form a floodplain where traditional forms of farming and wildlife management are practised. Above all else the river flows through spectacular scenery, easily accessible to visitors and the only major town of consequence in terms of population that it is ‘part of’ is Malton/Norton. The rest is scenery of historic and conservation interest and also of great beauty.

River Derwent

A recommended book: The Yorkshire River Derwent Moments in Time by Ian Carstairs, publishers Halsgrove, ISBN 978-1-84114-567-9
David Croft MA AMRAeS