A LOCAL underwater photographer and clean rivers campaigner has completed a five-year project to document the entire length of the River Wharfe - from below and above.

Mark Barrow started his initiative in 2018 and has just finished the entire 65-mile length of the Wharfe from its source at Beckermonds in the Dales to where it joins with the River Ouse.

Mark has footage from below the surface and shot from above, and is now editing the results into a documentary which he hopes to submit to film festivals next year.

Mark said: "Although I am heavily into water quality campaigning, I wanted to show the public why not only the River Wharfe is so important but all rivers, by filming the aquatic life within them to showcase the sheer beauty that lies within this majestic river.”

For the underwater shots, Mark donned either full scuba gear, or a snorkel where the water was shallower, or sometimes mounted his camera on a long pole.

He also used a drone to take footage of the river and its surrounding countryside from above. Mark said the Wharfe is a “hidden gem” that has shaped the history, culture and environment of the region for centuries.

He wanted to show through the documentary just why the river is so precious, calling it a “natural wonder, winding through the lush green valleys of Yorkshire, its pristine waters mirroring the beauty of the surrounding landscapes.”

Mark said the Wharfe is one of the most ecologically diverse rivers in England, teeming with life and providing a vital habitat for a variety of wildlife, from playful otters to countless bird species and unique fish populations.

A long-time campaigner who has worked with the Ilkley Clean River Group, Mark has sometimes been shocked by the levels of pollution he has encountered. On two occasions he has emerged from the water covered in human waste from stage overflows.

This has affected the wildlife in the river, which has been noticeable in the past five years that he has been filming, he said.

Mark said: “The Wharfe is a testament to the delicate balance of nature. It has been a source of sustenance and inspiration.

“From the ancient Celts to the Romans and the medieval monks, the river has played a pivotal role in the history of the region. Its banks are adorned with historic landmarks, each telling a story of the people who have lived along its shores.”

On his journey he passes under and by Bolton Abbey, Ilkley Bridge, and many other landmarks which stand as timeless reminders of the past.

He said: “The River Wharfe has this magical ability to stir the soul. Its ever-changing moods, from tranquil to fierce, are a constant source of inspiration for my work.

“The river serves as a place of recreation, where people come to unwind, enjoy picnics by the water, kayak along its gentle currents, and cast their lines in pursuit of the catch of the day. It's a place where the community comes together to celebrate life and forge lasting memories.”

Through his footage, Mark hopes to raise awareness of the problems facing our waterways, as well as to highlight the beauty beneath the surface.

Mark said: “The Wharfe faces threats from pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change. Conservation efforts are vital to protect this fragile ecosystem.

“Community organisations and passionate individuals are actively working to preserve and restore the river's health, ensuring it remains a precious lifeline for generations to come.

“The River Wharfe is indeed a precious gem, a natural wonder, a historical tapestry, a source of inspiration, a place of recreation, and a fragile ecosystem. It is a lifeline that binds the people of Yorkshire to their rich heritage and their hope for a sustainable future.

“The River Wharfe reminds us that our connection to nature is both precious and fragile. Let us all work together to protect and preserve this magnificent river for generations to come.”

The main focus of the film film is showcasing the aquatic species with a hope of connecting people back to freshwater so that more will help fight to restore this and other rivers back to how nature intended.

Mark has high hopes that he can get his message across through the film. He said: “In an ideal world having this shown on television would be the cherry on the cake. I have to be realistic so I will be entering the film into the major film festivals including the Leeds film festival and also looking at having some screening of the film locally as well.

“If everyone gets a better understanding of this area then hopefully its importance will be realised.”