River Ure

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Coordinates: 54°2′4″N 1°16′30″W / 54.03444°N 1.27500°W / 54.03444; -1.27500
River Ure
Aysgarth Falls (Upper).jpg
Country England
State North Yorkshire
Source Ure Head
 - elevation 640 m (2,100 ft)
 - coordinates 54°21′59.967″N 2°18′0.033″W / 54.36665750°N 2.30000917°W / 54.36665750; -2.30000917
Mouth River Ouse
 - location Cuddy Shaw Reach (near Linton-on-Ouse), North Yorkshire, England
 - elevation 10 m (33 ft)
 - coordinates 54°2′4″N 1°16′30″W / 54.03444°N 1.27500°W / 54.03444; -1.27500
Length 119 km (74 mi)
See also: Wensleydale

The River Ure is a river in North Yorkshire, England, approximately 74 miles (119 km) long from its source to the point where it changes name to the River Ouse. It is the principal river of Wensleydale, which is the only one of the Dales now named after a village rather than its river. The old name for the valley was Yoredale after the river that runs through it.

The Ure is one of many rivers and waterways that drain the Dales into the River Ouse. Tributaries of the Ure include the River Swale and the River Skell.

The earliest recorded name is Earp, but by 1142 it is recorded as Jor, hence Jervaulx (Jorvale) Abbey. In 1530 it is recorded as Yeure, and local placenames include Yorebridge and Yoreburgh, but in Tudor times the antiquarians John Leland and William Camden called it by its current name.[1] The Old Celtic word for Ure was 'Isara' which evolved into 'Isure', 'Isurium', 'Isis' and finally into the Anglo-Saxon 'Ouse', giving an explanation of the changing name of the river.[2]


River Ure
Ure Head (Source)
Fording Point
Green Bridge (foot)
Ure Crook
How Beck Bridge
Tongue Gill
Grass Gill
Scars Gill
Fording Point
Keld Gill
Blades Footbridge
Unnamed road
Johnston Gill
South Lunds Sike
Ure Force
Unnamed road
Lunds Gill Thorn
Tarn gill
Scothole Gill
Thwaite Bridge
Carr Gill
Mossdale Beck
Cottersdale Beck
A684 New Bridge
Widdale Beck
Hardraw Beck
Thorne Sike
Gayle Beck
Haylands Bridge Hawes
Blackburn Sike
Eller Beck
Nicholl Gill
Raygill Sike
Yore Bridge Bainbridge
Grays Beck
River Bain
Paddock Beck
West Mawks Sike
Worton Bridge Worton
Newbiggin Beck
Craike Sike Gutter
Sister Ings Beck
Starra Beck
Wanley Beck
Gill Beck
Eller Beck
Mill Race
Low Beck
Aysgarth Falls
Yore Bridge
Bishopdale/Walden Becks
Kendall Beck
Belden Beck/Swan River
Batt Island
Mill Beck
A684 Wensley Bridge
Wensley Beck
A684 Middleham Bridge
Mill Beck
Harmby/Spennithorne Becks
Ulshaw Bridge
The Batts
River Cover
Harker Beck
Kilgram Bridge
The Island
Markfield Goit
A6108 Masham Bridge
River Burn
Black Robin Beck
The Batts
A6108 Tanfield Bridge
Mill Batts
Light Water
The Sike
Hutton Mill Deep
North Bridge Ripon
A61 Ripon By-pass
Ripon Canal
B6265 Hewick Bridge
Bishop Monkton Cutt
Scour Gutter
Ings Drain
The Island
Croft Drain
A168 Arrows Bridge
Borough Bridge
River Swale
Beck Closes Drain
Aldwark Bridge (Toll)
Changes to River Ouse

The source of the river is Ure Head on Abbotside Common where it flows west south-west to the valley floor and then turns south. Where it reaches the A684 it turns east along Wensleydale as far as Wensley. From here it flows south-east to Jervaulx Abbey and shortly after south to Mickley. Here it returns east and then south to Ripon. A little way after Ripon it flows east again to Boroughbridge.

To the east of Boroughbridge, the Ure is joined by the River Swale. About 6 miles (9.7 km) downstream of this confluence, at Cuddy Shaw Reach near Linton-on-Ouse, the river changes its name to the River Ouse.

Water levels[edit]

Monitoring Station[3] Station Elevation Low water level High water level Record high level
Bainbridge 208 m (682 ft) 0.06 m (0.20 ft) 2.5 m (8.2 ft) 3.66 m (12.0 ft)
Kilgram 94 m (308 ft) 0.27 m (0.89 ft) 1.5 m (4.9 ft) 5.64 m (18.5 ft)
Masham 76 m (249 ft) 0.14 m (0.46 ft) 2.3 m (7.5 ft) 3.53 m (11.6 ft)
Ripon Ure Bank 24 m (79 ft) 0.03 m (0.098 ft) 0.89 m (2.9 ft) 3.73 m (12.2 ft)
Westwick Lock 22 m (72 ft) 0.11 m (0.36 ft) 2.5 m (8.2 ft) 3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Boroughbridge 15 m (49 ft) 9.62 m (31.6 ft) 13 m (43 ft) 15.59 m (51.1 ft)
  • Low and High Water Levels are an average figure.


Upper Wensleydale is high, open and remote U shaped valley overlying Yoredale Beds. The gradient is gentle to the north end of the valley, becoming steeper further south. Drumlins lay either side of the river, which is shallow but fast flowing. The river is fed from many gills cutting through woodland and predominantly sheep farmsteads. The Settle to Carlisle railway runs along the western side of the valley here.

Mid Wensleydale is made of Great Scar limestone under Yoredale beds that make up the valley sides which are marked with stepped limestone scars. The valley floor is made from glacial drift tails and moraine. The river here is broad and gently flowing in meanders in a stony channel. There are four tributary valleys that contribute to several waterfalls in this area.

Lower Wensleydale is a broader version of mid Wensleydale with the river gently meandering until it drops significantly at Aysgarth over the platformed waterfalls. The valley sides become increasingly wooded.

From Middleham onwards the river is a typical mid-age river and meanders in wider arcs as it flows south-east. [4]


The valley has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Examples of earthworks and other artifacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages can be seen in the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes and the Romans built a fort at Bainbridge. Place-names in the valley denote the different types of settlers, such as Angles and Norse with typical suffixes like 'ton' and "sett".

During medieval times, much of the upper dale was sheep country belonging to Middleham Castle and Jervaulx Abbey. In 1751, the Richmond to Lancaster turnpike was created and originally followed the Roman road from Bainbridge. In 1795 it was diverted along the valley to Hawes and took the Widdale route, now the B6255 to Ingleton.[5]

More recently in 1990, Aysgarth Falls was used as a location in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, in a the scene where Robin Hood fights Little John.[6] It also featured in the 1992 film of Wuthering Heights[7] and the 1984 TV mini Series, A Woman of Substance.[8]


Farming, lead mining, dairying and quarrying are the mainstays of the modern economy of the valley, along with tourism. The dairy at Hawes produces Wensleydale cheese. Brewing takes place in Masham at the Black Sheep and Theakston Breweries.

There are many waymarked footpaths and open countryside. The Pennine Way passes through Hawes.[5]

Natural History[edit]

The differing habitats of the area have their own populations of flora such as cranesbill, bistort, pignut and buttercup. Other varieties that can be seen in the area are wood anemones, violets, primroses, purple orchids, cowslips and herb paris. Some plants, such as spring sandwort, have managed to grow where the lead mining took place. There are large populations of badger, roe deer, fox and rabbit in the valley. Amongst the variety of birds that can be seen in the valley are golden plover, curlew and oystercatcher.[5]


Along the River Ure
The River Ure near its source 
River Ure west of Hawes 
The River Ure near Worton Bridge 
River Ure near Aysgarth with Batt Island in view 
The River Ure at Hackfall Gorge near Mickley 
River Ure near West Tanfield 
Bridge over River Ure near Ripon 
River Ure, Roecliffe 
B6265 Hewick Bridge over River Ure 
River Ure taken from Arrows Bridge, Boroughbridge 



  1. ^ Wensleydale, Ella Pontefract, J.M. Dent & Sons, London, 1936
  2. ^ Ekwall, E."English River Names" (Oxford University Press:1928)
  3. ^ "River Levels". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  4. ^ "Landscape Character". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  5. ^ a b c "Local history". Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  6. ^ "Filming Locations". Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Filming Locations". Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "Filming Locations". Retrieved 26 August 2011.