The riverside area, and its walks, is one of the Jewels in the Crown of Boston Spa. The riverside footpath extends from Bramham Beck to the east to Deepdale in the west and it runs along the southern side of the River Wharfe for most of its length. From the weir, roughly in the centre and just upstream of the bridge the path divides with the original public footpath climbing to the top of the escarpment and running at high level to Deep Dale.

new wooden steps footpath

This provides a walk along the wooded edge with views over the river towards Thorp Arch Hall and its surrounding farmland.

At the weir a new footpath has been created and this follows the line of the river upstream until the level bankside area runs into the projecting cliffs and a flight of steps zig zags up the embankment to join the high level path. This new path was opened up by a team of regular volunteers which meets once each week to carry out regular and seasonal maintenence work along the path. A local contractor, David Dykes, was engaged to construct the new steps and help with the fixing of edge boards along the path adjacent to the river. More recently there has been a lot of path work completed by the Conservation Volunteer group which is a local community project. Read more about their work here.

The woodland on the eastern side of Deep Dale was bequeathed to Boston Spa Parish Council by Sir George William Martin, KBE, LL D, JP who lived at Adel Grange and was a former Lord Mayor of Leeds. He gifted the land to the Parish Council in 1967 and he in turn seems to have bought it, and other parcels of woodland from the Wetherby Grange Estate/Robert Gunter in 1959 although Trustees of the "Warehousemen, Clerks and Drapers Schools" seem to have been involved with some of the lands purchased. It is a much valued resource both for its natural features leading down to the limestone cliffs at Jackdaw Crag, and also for the pleasure it gives to people who walk there. At the time of the gift the wood was dedicated for the growing of timber by a legal agreement with the Forestry Commission but this restriction was lifted in 1971 to allow the woods to be enjoyed as an amenity for the community.

new steps looking down from the top


The Parish Council also owns the riverside meadow immediately to the west of the bridge and more recently has bought the river bank between the public footpath and the centre of the river for the whole of the area between the bridge and the back of the West End estate. This is for use as an amenity space in perpetuity. Since its acquisition in 2008 a lot work has been undertaken to survey the ecology and geology, advice has been taken from FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group), Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission. A management plan was drawn up by FWAG to establish sound woodland management, environmental conservation and increased public access and education.

Thanks to the support of the local Ward Councillors Leeds City Council has made a generous grant to enable the management plan to be actioned and this started with thinning the area at the bottom of Holgate Lane order to open up the woodland canopy. 

The purpose of this is to enable regeneration of native species, to provide a better balance of trees of different ages and, in doing so, to encourage more habitats and hence a wider variety of plants, animals and insects. The area between the bottom of Holgate Lane and the weir was once open land and used as a vegetable garden by the people living in Dam House, in the earlier part of the last century. The trees that were there were thus mainly invasive sycamore.

The first stages of the Management Plan are now complete and these included the creation of the new footpath as well as significant tree works to remove invasive species, to open up densely wooded areas and the creation of viewpoints along and across the river. As part of the work new small habitat areas have also been encouraged, such as areas of hazel coppice, and the knowledge of distribution of plants and animals is now much more comprehensive, including such rarities as the Bird’s Nest Orchid. The necessary surveys have been carried out for protected species, with marking of any trees which may support, for instance, bat roosts.

The woodland in Deep Dale was clear felled in around 1920 and since then much of it had grown up very densely packed and many trees are too close together and too tall. The next stage of the Management Plan is at Deep Dale and the thinning of trees has now been completed. This provides better spacing between trees and will encourage understorey species, as well as selecting the native types for the limestone area, such as ash and beech. It will allow more light to fall on the woodland floor and this in turn will encourage the regeneration of natural species of trees, shrubs and wild flowers and will encourage a greater diversity of wildlife. The footpaths will be more open and some views created for greater public enjoyment.

In association with the woodland work the stream has been cleaned and cleared to allow a more regular flow and it is hoped to plant some reed-beds in and alongside the stream which will help to keep the water clean and will provide additional habitat for water-loving plants, birds and insects. 

woodland at Deepdale

riverside cliffs


 West Yorkshire Geological Trust has designated the riverside area from the bridge to Jackdaw Crag as a Local Geological Site (LGS). The Walton Moraine and the riverside cliffs in Wetherby have also been designated as LGS and whilst both these are outside Boston Spa they are of local interest. The moraine is significant to us because of the effects of the ice of the Vale of York glacier in forming our riverside cliffs/gorge, and the Wetherby cliffs are similar to ours, but of a different stratum of the limestone.

The LGS listings can be seen by clicking these links Boston Spa, Wetherby and Walton. The purpose of these LGS's is to record sites across West Yorkshire which have particular examples of types of geology - the WYGT started with sites down below Leeds and it was the interest of the local geology group which drew attention to our magnesian limestone features, and which then also lead to exploring the morraine in Walton.


Recent Work Describing the Boston Spa Permian Limestones

For several years, a small group of amateur geologists from Boston Spa (the Badgers) have been researching the geology of Permian limestone by looking at new sites along the Wharfe gorge with the help and support of the West Yorkshire Geology Trust.
Firstly, a search of the geological literature took place. This was followed by field work in the abandoned quarries and along the accessible parts of the valley sides. Many of the limestone exposures are found in the riverside woods owned by Boston Spa Parish Council. Access has been facilitated by local volunteers who have cleared some of the rock exposures at the request of the geologists.


The group has also looked at other sites on the Thorp Arch side of the River Wharfe and has realised that there is a lot more information to discover. The geology covers the Permian Cadeby Formation, formerly known as the Lower Magnesian Limestone. The Hampole Beds, which are an important geological boundary within the Cadeby Formation, have been identified in a quarry at Thorp Arch, which is exciting as we know of only one other site in West Yorkshire.

With the information available so far, the group decided to prepare a leaflet - Boston Spa Riverside Cliffs: Rocks and Landscape - explaining the geology of the Boston Spa area. This is now available free from libraries in Boston Spa and Wetherby as a paper copy. 

The geological research is by no means finished, as the group wants to continue finding out about the environment of deposition of the Cadeby Formation on the edge of the Permian Zechstein Sea, its fossils and its features. We have enlisted the help of several professional geologists and the work is continuing! Further more detailed information will be added on the West Yorkshire Geology Trust site as it becomes available.

Jackdaw Crag and woodlands area are already designated as a SEGI (Site of Ecological and Geological Importance) but the LGS designation highlights the geology more specifically as one of many sites in West Yorkshire.


Algal dome with fine laminations and cave opened by weathering of a major joint

jackdaw crag

Jackdaw Crag, at the foot of Deepdale, in Boston Spa Riverside Woods. In places the dolostone is slightly soluble, allowing small cave systems to develop

Fish Pass

The Environment Agency’ has constructed a fish pass at Boston Spa weir which will help a wide range of species bypass this man-made obstruction as they swim upstream to spawn. Conservationists have welcomed an increase in the numbers and variety of fish in the Wharfe over the past decade and the fish pass will help the creatures further reach their target populations.

Fish species such as salmon, sea trout, barbel, chub and dace all move up and downstream at different times of the year and spawn in the middle and upper reaches of the river.

“Large weirs like the one at Boston Spa have a serious impact on fish communities because they affect the flow of water and can pose a difficult obstacle to overcome,” said Environment Agency fisheries technical specialist Dave Bamford.

“All species of fish, at one or several stages of their life, depend on upstream and downstream migration. Large numbers of salmon are now accessing the tidal River Ouse because water quality has improved and they and other species are trying to move up rivers such as the Ure and Wharfe”.

“The presence of salmon is a useful indicator of good water quality and the Wharfe is particularly suitable for salmon habitat as it has a lot of gravel, which is important for the fish in the earliest stages of their life.”


Construction of the fish pass is complete and the special information boards are now in place. Unfortunately the fish counter which was installed is not operational and the Environment Agency has decided that it will not activate this equipment.

The work has been supported by the Dales Rivers Trust, Leeds City Council, Boston Spa Angling Club and has been welcomed by the Parish Council. Residents and river users can contact the Environment Agency with any queries by calling 01904 822588.

construction of fish pass

May 2010
Construction of the Fish Pass

Fish Pass before completion

Feb 2010
Fish Pass Prior to Completion

Exposed Weir

Feb 2010
Exposed Weir


Feb 2010
A cold and wet Winter