There is a waterway in Yorkshire, England that appears very much like a pleasant mountain stream. Rocks made soft with green moss crowd the edges, and the white water swirls and drops from the many small waterfalls along its length. Only six feet across is most places, you might be tempted to try to playfully jump across while picnicking with friends.
But this would be a terrible mistake, because it isn’t a stream at all.
The Strid, as it is called, is actually a river. A river turned on its side.
Upstream of the Strid you will start to understand. The water coursing its way through this false brook is actually the River Wharfe. Here it acts more like rivers you have known, expanding to a luxurious 30 -40 feet across. But at the Strid it is suddenly constricted by geology, and instead of spreading out, it has had to spread down. The “brook” at the top hides an immense and deep canyon filled with water. Over time the river has carved out channels and chasms under the rocks above. Any living thing that falls in is immediately dragged down in a vortex of currents and then thrashed and pummeled and ultimately trapped within its undercut banks.
There is a claim that no one has ever survived a fall into the Strid, and while that is difficult to substantiate, there certainly have been many victims, one of them a possible future King of Scotland. In 1154 a young boy named William de Romilly decided to make the leap across only to fall in and disappear. His mother, Lady Alice de Romilly, was so beset with grief that she donated the land around it to the Bolton Priory monastery. William Wordsworth later immortalized the tale in his poem, “The Force of Prayer.”
“The Boy is in the arms of the Wharfe,
And strangled by a merciless force;
For never more was young Romilly seen
Till he rose a lifeless corpse.”
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