The Yorkshire Derwent

The Yorkshire Derwent starts its course at Lilla Rig on the North Yorkshire moors 850 feet above sea level in or around  [54°21’51.71″N ] [0°38’1.24″W] just a mile east of Fylingdales Moor where the famous RAF early warning golf balls use to stand, now replaced by what is called the Tetrahedron or known locally as the pyramid. It is to me ironic that something that is a child of the ice age should share the same beautiful area as the technological marvel of RAF fylingdale.

The Yorkshire Derwent is 71 miles from start to the confluence with the Ouse at Barmby on the Marsh, and it is one of the most picturesque rivers in the UK. The name Derwent is said to come from the old British name derua meaning [oak] and was first recorded by the Venerable Bede in the year 730 meaning ‘the river where oaks are common.

The Yorkshire Derwent

Still, in its infancy, The Yorkshire Derwent then flows easterly in the wild North Yorkshire Moors, and after collecting the waters of  Jugger Beck, Howe-Beck, Black Beck, and Troutdale Beck it flows south through Broxa Forest and past the Hackness Hotel to the first settlement of Hackness and Wrench Green. After collecting the waters of Back Race it continues southwards towards the Sea Cut. [Before the last Ice age the river used to run to the sea through the sea cut] It was  re Dug along some of its course in 1804 to help alleviate flooding in the lower reaches of the Yorkshire Derwent,[ after the flood of the vales of Derwent and Hertford in 1799 ]  Towards the end of the ice age the glaciers retreated at different speeds, and with the thinner glaciers over the Moors melting more quickly than those over the modern North Sea,  the Derwent was unable to flow into the sea and a large lake built up to the north of the Tabular Hills. Eventually, this lake overflowed the hills penning it in. The resulting flood carved out the Forge Valley.

The River Derwent still flows down the Forge Valley, emerging from the moors between West and East Ayton [still only around four miles from the sea] then past the villages of seamer and Wykeham onwards to the meet with the river Hertford  hear it turns its back to the sea and flows west across the Vale of Pickering. At one point the river ran into a massive lake that covered the vale, but the area has long since drained, Towards the end of this stretch at Low Marishes the River Rye flows into the Derwent, It brings with it the waters of every other river in the southern moors. After flowing through Norton-on-Derwent and Malton the river skirts around the bottom of the Howardian Hills at Huttons Ambo Kirkham and Howsham, The ruin Kirkham Priory stands aside from the river and lower down at Howsham stands the 16th-century Howsham Hall.

The river flows past Scrayingham Buttercrambe and through Stamford Bridge past Kexby Sutton upon Derwent Bubwith Brighton Wrestle and then on to Barmby on the Marsh into the River Ouse. The Ouse then flows east before merging with the Trent to form the Humber, and so the majority of rain that falls on the Moors eventually reached the sea just to the east of Kingston-upon-Hull. A few things have changed on this beautiful river namely Barmby Barrage built in 1975, at the confluence with the River Ouse. Before the barrage was built the tidal limit was at Sutton weir, the barrage was built to prevent the tidal waters of the river Ouse entering the Yorkshire Derwent the other notable issue with this beautiful river is with the navigation, very briefly it goes like this.

The Yorkshire Derwent has been the subject of one of the longest and hardest fought navigation disputes in the UK. In 1800 the Yorkshire Derwent was navigable as far as Foulbridge, although it was at Yedingham that was the accepted head of navigation. Today the navigation ends at Stamford Bridge, although there is some dispute about the stretch between Sutton Lock and Stamford Bridge.    

The top section of navigation fell into disuse in 1846 when Malton weir was removed. so the river became unnavigable for some considerable years. The railway line to Scarborough had opened in 1845 and started taking traffic from the river. In 1855 the Railway bought the navigation rights, raised the tolls and neglected maintenance of the locks. By the 1880s commercial trade had practically ceased on the Derwent. The occasional leisure motor boat ventured up to Stamford Bridge and a few smaller ones got up to Kirkham In 1931 Kirkham lock was closed and in 1934 all the others closed.

The River Derwent Navigation Act was revoked in 1935. They claimed that a new right of navigation had been created by 20 years of continuous use. Landowners and conservationists disputed both the idea that a navigation right could be created in this way and the fact that 20 years of navigation had in fact occurred. In 1988 in a highly public trial, Mr Justice Vinelott found and quite rightly in favour of the landowners that there was no public right of way. This was reversed in 1990 by the Court of Appeal who agreed with the idea that 20 years use could create a navigation, but in 1991 even this point was reversed again by the Law Lords.

More recently A decision has been made to open the barrage at Barmby for 8 hours a day to let the salmon and sea trout run the river , alterations have been taking place on the rivers Weirs to let the fish navigate their way upstream , take a look at this news post Salmon  and its time we got fishing…….?

The upper Derwent is controlled by the Derwent Anglers Club founded in 1839, a good standing club which is steeped in history the fishing is for ten miles on both banks upstream from Ayton up through the forge valley past Wrench Green and Hackness all the way upstream to waters meet.  their waters are looked after by a full-time bailiff, Membership details on the website, apart from the very well run club and a river which is stocked regularly  [also resident brownies and Grayling] the fishing is in the splendor of The North Yorkshire Moors National Park and the Langdale Forest, wild fishing in picturesque settings. Take a peek at their new website.

Further Downstream at Yedingham there are tickets available from the Providence Inn Yedingham [01944 728231] and at Skelton Wath Farm, Low Marishes. Tel: 01653-668220  fishing mainly for chub dace roach pike perch.

Malton and Norton Angling Club have waters on the Derwent at Menethorpe and Norton,  across from Menethorpe Huttons Ambo Angling Club have a good section of river on the right bank with Day tickets from the village shop.

Downstream  Bradford  and York have some great woodland fishing at Kirkham & Howsham and it is one of the most picturesque parts of the whole river Barbel show here at Howsham more often [although it must be said the Derwent isn’t a river noted for giving up its Barbel population lightly] That said they are there but seem to be very nomadic.

Buttercrambe further down at the Aldby Park water  AldbyPark  holds some huge fish.  Chub to 8 lbs 2oz, Grayling to 1 lb 10 oz, Barbel to 12lb 10 oz, Roach to 2 lb 2 oz along with pike eels perch dace bream gudgeon Ruffe even carp have all been reported. the water runs down to below the weir at Stamford Bridge some 6 miles of fishing in total. so something for everyone.  The club is very well run and has a good website, my river PB came from this stretch at 8lb 4 oz was an extremely welcome fish and for a Yorkshire Barbel something of a specimen.

Further downstream York have a four-mile stretch of the right bank all the way to Kexby that gets only lightly fished and is described on the York DAA website as natural fishing, Leeds have water above kexby Bridge and around one mile below the bridge on the left bank.

York and Leeds jointly share a stretch of about one and a half mile of fishing above Sutton weir The river is deep here and is renowned for its late-season roach fishing. Hull and District Anglers Association have water upstream of the weir on the left bank about one mile ending near the Elvington water treatment works. Hull also has a stretch of water recently taken on, for one and a half miles below the weir at Sutton.   Further downstream at Wheldrake there is some free fishing, At Breighton Hull has around three-quarters of a mile of fishing on the left bank access is from Gunby fishing for Chub Dace Roach Perch Gudgeon and Bream.

further downstream at Barmby there is free fishing for bream roach perch and gudgeon the water joins the Ouse hear at Barmby Barrage.








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