Published August 10th
In a world of globetrotting explorers and record-breaking journeys - of which he has been part himself - Johno Ellison decided to return to his roots and walk the entire length of the River Wharfe, the Yorkshire waterway beside which he grew up. In his new book for Bradt, Walking the Wharfe, Ellison retraces the steps of Victorian author Edmund Bogg to investigate how the riverscape and its communities have evolved during the intervening 120 years. While wild camping, meeting modern-day Vikings, wartime ghosts and the fearless 'Dales Dippers', and learning how not to deal with a herd of over-inquisitive cows, Ellison encounters a microcosm of English history and culture. Starting in the Vale of York, Ellison walks upstream to explore the region's Viking and Roman heritage, as well as more modern developments such as Tadcaster's disastrous bridge collapse in 2015. He examines a profusion of Victorian spa towns, considers the impact of the Industrial Revolution and enjoys rare wildlife such as red kites and an otter, creatures that have returned to the area following successful conservation initiatives. Traversing the Yorkshire Dales National Park, including along the Dales Way long-distance footpath, Ellison is first bewitched by local legends of giants, trolls and witches, then seduced into wild swimming in a chilly river - albeit not the Strid, a section of the Wharfe notorious worldwide for reportedly drowning everyone who has ever tumbled into it - before seeking refuge in a candlelit pub during a storm that caused a power blackout. During his ascent, Ellison learns from a family who have farmed the Yorkshire hills for five generations before reaching the Wharfe's trickling source amid a vast boggy moorland. This enchanting travelogue is a must-read for anyone interested in nature, 'the great outdoors', or English history and culture. Residents and fans of Yorkshire will love it, as will anyone who has hiked the Dales Way. Above all, by combining personal connections with journalistic curiosity and a nose for a story, Walking the Wharfe affirms that even lesser-known parts of the small island of Britain can hold their own against renowned tourist sites the world over.