Bolton Strid: A Stream That Swallows People

Nov 24, 2015 18 comments

Between Barden Tower and Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, England, lies one of nature's most dangerous booby traps. It’s a small innocuous-looking mountain stream, about six feet across, known as Bolton Strid, or simply the Strid. But below the water's surface is a deep chasm with powerful undercurrents that pulls anybody that falls into it to certain death. It is believed that not a single person who has fallen into the Strid has ever come out of it alive. Not even their bodies.

To understand how a small mountain brook can have such a dangerous reputation, take a walk upstream. In less than 100 yards, this “small” stream will have expanded to a substantial river 30 feet across. This is River Wharfe which runs through Yorkshire, but when it comes to the area of Bolton Abbey the river is forced through a narrow gap causing the water to gain tremendous speed and depth. The narrow gap on the Strid is only an illusion as both banks are seriously undercut. Hidden underneath is a network of caverns and tunnels that hold all of the rest of the river's water. Nobody really knows how deep the Strid goes.


The Strid near Bolton Abbey. Photo credit: James Whitesmith/Flickr

On the surface the Strid appears so modest and the banks so close to each other that many foolhardy visitors in the past have assumed they could jump across it, or walk across its stones because it only seems knee-deep. Indeed, it’s believed that the name Strid comes from the word “stride”. There are warnings signs on trees around the area discouraging people to attempt the leap. Still there are plenty of stories of individuals slipping and getting sucked mercilessly into the underwater caves and eroded tunnels.

One supposed victim of the Strid was young William de Romilly, the son of Lady Alice de Romilly, who attempted to leap across the Strid in 1154 and perished. His mother was so grieved by her loss that she donated the surrounding land to establish the Bolton Priory monastery. This tragic legend was later immortalized by William Wordsworth in his poem “The Force of Prayer”.

This striding-place is called THE STRID,
A name which it took of yore:
A thousand years hath it borne that name,
And shall a thousand more.

And hither is young Romilly come,
And what may now forbid
That he, perhaps for the hundredth time,
Shall bound across THE STRID?

He sprang in glee,- or what cared he’
That the river was strong, and the rocks were steep? –
But the greyhound in the leash hung back,
And checked him in his leap.

The Boy is in the arms of Wharf,
And strangled by a merciless force;
For never more was young Romilly seen
Till he rose a lifeless corse.


A police officer stands guard on the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey after an 8-year old drowned in March 2010. Photo credit:


Photo credit: James Whitesmith/Flickr


Photo credit: Richard Brown/Flickr


Bolton Abbey and Wharfe. Photo credit: Andy Hawkins/Flickr


The River Wharfe in Bolton Abbey. Photo credit: Steve Glover/Flickr

Sources: Under a Grey Sky / Spooky Isles / Torque

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