Yorkshire River: Underwater filmmaker films entirety of 'magical' River Wharfe to unveil wildlife lost to pollution
Underwater filmmaker Mark Barrow has filmed the entire length of the River Wharfe to show how much wildlife has declined due to pollution in a new documentary
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Underwater filmmaker, Mark Barrow, has nearly wrapped up a documentary that films the entire length of the ”magical” and “precious” River Wharfe from underwater and above. Mr Barrow began his self-funded documentary in 2018 to showcase how much the aquatic species in the river has declined due to pollution.
Mr Barrow said that “in the last 30 years the River Wharfe has lost large shoals of roach, chub, eels, bream and perch” and “although some are still present they are nowhere near what we used to have” due to a “combination of sewage and agricultural pollution, but also predation as well as habitat loss.” He told NationalWorld that the river, originating within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is a “hidden gem nestled in the heart of England” and his new film embarks on a journey to explore why it is so precious underwater.
Mr Barrow said that the Wharfe “has played a pivotal role in the history of the region” and has historical landmarks on its banks “each telling a story of the people who have lived along its shores”. He added that the river has “inspired countless artists and writers” with its “serene beauty” and “provides a vital habitat for a variety of wildlife, from playful otters to countless bird species and unique fish populations” which is why it needs protection and preservation.
Mr Barrow hopes the documentary will “connect people back to freshwater so that more will help fight to restore this and other rivers back to how nature intended.” The documentary will be called ‘RIVER WHARFE A Living Artery’ and is set to be completed by December with its release in 2024.
Mr Barrow, of Beneath British Waters, is a fierce campaigner against sewage pollution. At the start of the year he told NationalWorld that he has seen a massive increase in sewage pollution since 2017 which is affecting wildlife. He noticed that when he first started filming it was not uncommon for him to film grayling in shoals of 300 but now this year he is filming them in small pockets of 20 to 30. He said we are going “backwards on an extremely fast scale” in protecting our rivers.
In May Yorkshire Water's boss apologised to customers for sewage being discharged into the region's rivers. In a letter to every household, chief executive Nicola Shaw said the company would invest £180m in reducing sewage leaks from storm overflows.
A stretch of the Wharfe which attracts hundreds of swimmers during spells of warm weather was designated a bathing site in 2020, meaning pollution levels are now regularly monitored. But in 2022 part of the River Wharfe failed to reach quality standards after samples of water from there were tested by the Environment Agency (EA). The EA said its results revealed a variety of bacteria sources were impacting water quality including human and animal DNA.
Mr Barrow said that the river “faces threats from pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change” but “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.”
He added: “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 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.”