Save Our Stones

Campaign to Increase Usability of The Stones River Crossing at Burley-in Wharfedale

The Stones

The stepping stones are situated below the weir at Greenholm indicated by the arrow on the map below. A Right Of Way (formally recognised in 1968 by a public enquiry) exists across them. Their position demonstrates the continuation of the Rights of Way north and south of the river giving access from Burley to Nidderdale (an area of outstanding national beauty) and beyond. They also enable circular walks to/from Otley and Ilkley both of which now have Walkers are Welcome status.

The Stones were in disrepair yet provided the only means of crossing the river and linking these footpaths.

The Stones are visible from satellite photos as shown below - position indicated by arrows.

Bradford Metropolitan District Council have full responsibility for maintaining The Stones as a result of the 1970 Act which brought about Local Government reorganisation. This acknowledged the absurdity of one authority having responsibility for maintenance for half a river crossing and the authority on the opposing bank being responsible for the other half. It contained powers for sharing out cross boundary river crossings so Bradford became responsible for the whole of the Burley "stones whilst North Yorkshire CC (for example) are responsible for the whole of Addingham suspension bridge.

However, Bradford Council grossly neglected their responsibilities as can be seen from the following two photos comparing their condition in September 2009 and the earlier pictures from 1980 and 1986.

2009 Picture - many stones below water level and some missing


1980 Picture - All stones at one level and above water

1986 Picture - All stones at one level and above water

Accumulating silt has been allowed to raise the riverbed resulting in Stones being submerged and some were missing – see picture below. The yellow arrows show where stones are below the level of the others and the water. The white arrow shows where someone had placed a boulder to replace a missing stone. As well as making a dry passage impossible, Stones which were missing or submerged  could fulfill their primary function of preventing erosion to the river bank.

Additionally, an “island” has been allowed to accumulate and grow immediately downstream of The Stones - you can see the trees growing in it. This prevents efficient escape of the river flow from The Stones and concentrates the current in the remaining channels either side. This further increases pressure on the river banks.

Bradford Council have accepted they have a responsibility to maintain the stepping stones but say only to the condition they were in the 1950 when the definitive map of footpaths was produced. The earliest photo so far obtained is from 1980.

A collection of all the pictures so far obtained in chronological order can be seen at All Pictures.

It is important that this Right Of Way is preserved. Although  it is shown on the Definitive Map which local authorities are required to maintain following the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (The Ordnance Survey maps take their ROW information from these Definitive Maps), under the Highways Act 1980 Section 118, there appears to be provision for a council to apply to the Secretary of State for a “public path extinguishment order” on the ground that it is not needed for public use. Bradford have already demonstrated their awareness of this provision in respect of a public footpath in Wibsey.

It does not take a leap of imagination to imagine a council wanting to remove the inconvenience of a maintenance liability or at the behest of an influential landowner making such an application if it can be shown a route is not used.

Such lack of usage could occur if failure to maintain obstructed a route and everyone sat back and let it happen.

This is something of a chicken and egg situation but as always, legislation is complicated and we should play safe and maintain "The Stones".

Click for next page What You Can Do