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Mysterious Bolton Strid: a stream that swallows people




Between Barden Tower and Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, England there is one of the world’s most dangerous natural traps. It looks like a small harmless mountain stream, just about six feet wide. It is known as the Bolton Strid or simply the Strid. But under the surface of the water there is a deep abyss with powerful undercurrents. Everyone who gets there is doomed to certain death. It is believed that not a single person who fell into the Strid came out of it alive. They didn’t even find the bodies.

Bolton Strid
Bolton Strid. Photo: Steve Glover / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

To understand why a small mountain stream is so dangerous, you need to take a walk upstream. Here you can see the River Wharf as it runs through Yorkshire. This is a very quiet and calm river, of which there are many in these parts. Here its width reaches approximately 27 meters. However, when it reaches Bolton Abbey, it falls sharply into a very narrow neck of large slippery stones, thus the current becomes very fast. Besides, the stones on the banks of the Strid are not just sheer: in some places under the water their slope is directed towards the coast.

The Depth of the River Strid at Bolton Abbey

No one knows how deep the Strid really is. Given the width of the Wharf River, the entire volume of which is forced to fit literally in the bottle neck of Bolton Strid, we can assume that its depth is quite decent. In addition, a network of caves and tunnels is hidden under the water, where water from the river enters. In fact, exact figures have not yet been found in any English-language publication known to us.

Bolton Strid
Strid in Bolton Abbey. Photo: Gary Denham, https://www.flickr.com/photos/garyjd/73931718/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)

At first glance, the Strid seems like an absolutely harmless river. Its banks look so close to each other that in the past, many reckless people assumed they could jump over the river or walk on stones, because the water seems to be knee-deep. They believed that the name Strid comes from the word “gait”. There are signs on the trees along the river that warn those who like to jump into the river of serious danger. And yet, there are many stories of people being dragged mercilessly into underwater caves.

Bolton Strid
View of the Strid in autumn from the hill. Photo: Terry Madeley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/terry/6317393795/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

One of the alleged victims of the river was the young William de Romilly, son of Lady Alice de Romilly, who tried to jump the Strid in 1154 and died. His mother was so saddened by the loss that she donated the surrounding land for the construction of Bolton Priory. This tragic legend was later immortalized by William Wordsworth in the poem “The Power of Prayer”.

Bolton Strid
Bolton Abbey. Photo: James Whitesmith, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jwhitesmith/6314363025/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)

In fact, there are quite a few accidents on the banks of this turbulent stream, including a well-known case in the area with a couple who spent their honeymoon here in 1998. Everything is aggravated by the fact that the route along slippery dangerous stones is quite popular among tourists.

Bolton Strid
A bridge over the Strid. Photo: Jack Berry, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jackberry/3974100605/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Bolton Strid
The steep bank and the turbulent waters of the Strid. Photo: Lyn Whitfield, https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32553426150/ (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)
Bolton Strid
Bolton Strid. Photo: Steve Glover, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sg2012/8279341600/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Bolton Strid
Bolton Strid. Photo: heena.p.mistry, https://www.flickr.com/photos/heenamistry/3819445527/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Bolton Strid
A sign that warns of danger. Photo: Matt Buck, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbuck007/8216319518/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
Bolton Strid
Bolton Strid. Photo: rawdonfox, https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5274326373/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Bolton Strid
Bolton Strid. Photo: Jack Berry, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jackberry/3974802308/ (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

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