Shaping the Valley

The Landscape of the Washburn Valley

Three Key Factors


Geology,  climate and land use are seen as the main factors that have been or are at work in the shaping of the Washburn Valley and the effects of these can be seen in the photographs that follow.


The geology of the area dates from the Carboniferous period and it includes two main elements, limestone which is visible around the northern edge of the valley, mostly beyond the watershed and the Millstone Grit series over most of the rest of the area. Both have characteristic features which influence the scene in a variety of ways. The southern and lower end of the valley as it merges with Wharfedale is different, being characterised by glacial and alluvial deposits with more productive arable land


Climate and especially glaciation have also played an important part and weather is still having its effects.


Land use often means "Agriculture" but for at least six hundred years a large part of the valley lay within the royal Forest of Knaresborough and that too played its part. The extraction and smelting of iron and lead together with some coal mining have had their effects but in the main, this was some centuries ago. Other industries have included textile mills but they too are no more. Water supply is, however, still a major influence with four large reservoirs and associated structures impacting on the landscape.



Two Thousand Years of Landscape History

The low, earthen bank that curves from the left foreground in the photograph towards the centre of the picture is a typical Celtic boundary, one of two that remain in the area. More are likely to have existed in the Iron Age and later, having been removed to enable the introduction of modern farming methods.

There are also some ancient oaks that are at least six hundred years old.

The water is Fewston Reservoir, constructed in the nineteenth century to supply the city of Leeds.