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Navigate heritage waterways around Saltaire on foot

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 September 2016 | UPDATED: 18:57 30 July 2019

Hirst Mill weir on the River Aire, near Shipley, which was badly hit by floods in 2012 and is the subject of another Multi-Story Water walk (see website for details)

Hirst Mill weir on the River Aire, near Shipley, which was badly hit by floods in 2012 and is the subject of another Multi-Story Water walk (see website for details)

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New app directs you through the waterways in the Aire Valley

The waterways of Saltaire once powered local industry and, now, power the imaginationThe waterways of Saltaire once powered local industry and, now, power the imagination

From raging rivers to the piddliest of puddles, every waterway is an inspiration. From literature, poems, paintings and musical compositions to inventions, power and industry - the ripples of water's influence spread in seemingly never-ending circles of creativity.

Multi-Story Water is the perfect case in point. This multi-disciplinary project, launched in 2012 to celebrate the waterways in the Aire Valley between Leeds and Bingley, has so far included theatrical tours, short films, live shows, digital performances and numerous talks and workshops in clubs, businesses and schools.

And now it's just launched its first app - Salt's Waters - a free downloadable walking tour navigating the heritage water courses, both large and small, in the West Yorkshire district of Saltaire and the impact they have had on the lives of generations of people along their banks.

'Multi-Story Water was formed to take a creative and entertaining look at the relationship we, as people, have with our waterways, from upstream to where they meet the city,' said project director Steve Bottoms, who lives in Leeds and is professor of contemporary theatre and performance at the University of Manchester.

The work of Multi-Story Water reflects the importance of the Aire Valley’s waterwaysThe work of Multi-Story Water reflects the importance of the Aire Valley’s waterways

'Although rivers and canals are no longer at the heart of our everyday work and transport, they still form the running heart of our communities. And it's this link that fascinates me.

'For example, in Saltaire many people visit Salt's Mill but few see the heritage of the waterways that led to it being built and its impact on the community. I hope our alternative heritage audio tour will tempt these visitors to explore Saltaire in a whole new way.'

Drawing on extensive local research with residents and agencies, Salt's Waters covers the area around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire and provides an alternative heritage tour of the surrounding landscape.

It encourages visitors to look beyond the mill village itself to the waterways on which it depended - the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

People still live, work and walk on the waterways and – hopefully – will do for generations to comePeople still live, work and walk on the waterways and – hopefully – will do for generations to come

Walkers armed with a smartphone or mp3 player, headphones and some sturdy shoes, will also encounter other local heritage stories. They'll head uphill via tributary becks to the haunting (and supposedly haunted) remains of Milner Field, the grand mansion built by Titus Salt Junior; visit the fairground attractions of Shipley Glen; drop in (not literally) to the sewage works at Dowley Gap; and stick their oar in at Bradford Amateur Rowing Club's racing course.

This unique walking tour, which is now a permanent part of the Saltaire Visitor Experience, is part of the UK-wide project 'Towards Hydrocitizenship', spearheaded locally by Multi-Story Water, involving a collaboration between universities, community arts organisations and arts practitioners.

It aims to explore how a community's relationship with water can be transformed and how, through projects like Salt's Waters, they can be engaged in waterway custodianship and flood resilience. w

To find out more, visit multi-story-shipley.co.uk. To download the walk for free, go to saltswaters.co.uk

Reclaiming Bradford Beck

Wading to Shipley is a 12-minute film by Multi-Story Water that takes you on a journey along a stretch of Bradford Beck, from Canal Road to the Leeds-Liverpool aqueduct, that's inaccessible to foot traffic and, so, largely unknown to local people.

The only way to walk along the beck is to walk in it (hence the title), so that's what they did, wading through its murky waters with a camera so the audience can experience it vicariously.

'The film shows its neglected, polluted condition but also, we hope, its potential as a site of considerable beauty if it were better cared for, better appreciated and made more accessible,' said project director Steve Bottoms.

The film was made to actively support the campaigning work of Friends of Bradford's Becks.

The new group is affiliated with the Aire Rivers Trust and is made up of local people and interested ecologists keen to restore the river system, which was badly damaged during the Industrial Revolution and never fully recovered.

 

 

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