The City of York England
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River Ouse Smartphone Tour

todoinyork.com City of York England

Lendal Bridge to Water End

Lendal Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Walking past the modern construction of Aviva offices, you can pass through the arches leading up to the bridge over the Ouse. You will see an eatery here situated in Barker Tower. 

 

Lendal Bridge was the second relatively modern road bridge over the the Ouse. However, what we see today wasn’t the first bridge as it collapsed during construction. The materials for this bridge are now part of Valley Bridge in Scarborough spanning Ramsdale. The bridge was to replace a ferry service that exist from Barker Tower. There was a dispute between the Corporation of York and the Railway as the ferry service brought passengers to York’s first railway station that was originally a terminus. The Ferry was once used by Florence Nightingale on her way to Castle Howard. This ferry service operated using a rope. 

 

The current bridge was designed by Thomas Page who also designed the famous Westminster Bridge in London. It is a single span bridge of around 175ft. The first bridge was designed by William Dredge and construction began in 1860 until it collapsed. The Gothic revival bridge that we see today was constructed and opened 3 years later in 1863. As you might have noticed, it has toll houses on either side and therefore a toll bridge at the time of completion. 

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York Rowing Club

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

If you are in the right place at the right time, you might get to see the rowing boats from York Rowing Club that has over 200 members of all ages. It was first established in 1843 although the building is of modern construction. In fact, it is three years older than Dover who are the oldest coastal rowing club in Britain. The building is post-war and there is around 20 miles of rowable water in the area. You often see rowers from St Peter’s School along the River Ouse as well. 

Two Medieval Towers

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Unlike the other main road bridges in the city, it resides by two medieval towers. On the left, a rectangular tower that is currently a holiday let, is that of Lendal Tower. The more almost cone-shaped tower on the right is Barker Tower that was once the ferryman’s residence. At the time they were constructed, this was the second location where a huge iron chain was stretched over the river to prevent ships leaving without paying their murage. The chains at either locations also acted as a defence to prevent enemies invading or attacking the city.  A brick building to the left of Lendal Tower is an old Victorian Pump House that took water from the Ouse. 

Barker Tower

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Barker Tower was constructed in the 14th century, situated on the boundary that was the medieval City of York. Thomas Smyth was the original keeper of the chain back in 1380. Sadly for those travelling on the water, they had a further toll in quick succession because St Mary’s Abbey also had a toll system too!

Lendal Tower

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Lendal Tower was constructed in 1300 and had a similar purpose to Barker Tower. It was the opposite end of the great iron chain that had both a defensive purpose as well as a financial one. However, in the 1600’s it had a completely different purpose as it was rented out to York Waterworks for just 1 peppercorn a year for 500 years! 

 

When you have finished the tour, it’s recommended to finish at the plaque on the wall of Lendal Tower (just over the bridge). The text may be short and concise, but it gives you a good understanding about the propose of Lendal Tower as well as its history. 

Moorings

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

On the opposite side of the river you will see some boats moored here. They are more often than not converted narrow boats that were used extensively in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries for carrying cargo along the canals before the Industrial Revolution. 

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St Mary’s Abbey Toll

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As mentioned, the abbey also had a toll system. The tower at the end of the wall was the area where this toll was collected. St Mary’s Abbey was the richest and most powerful Benedictine abbey in the country. It is also the largest walled abbey in the country as well.

Scarborough Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Scarborough Bridge has seen many changes and technically it is the same structure. The cycle and pedestrian route have changed considerably of late and links perfectly with York Station. Originally the bridge was a railway bridge with the footway between the up/down tracks. It was originally constructed in 1845 for the new railway that was constructed to Malton, Scarborough with a split to Whitby. Part of that split forms today’s North Yorkshire Moors Railway. In 1875, Scarborough Bridge underwent some substantial changes when the new station was being constructed. 

Wider Walkway

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The more contemporary walkway is much wider these days and accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists. Before refurbishments, you had a narrow path to follow and if you had a bike, you had to wheel it from one end to the other.

 

These days, Transpennine Express operate the line between Scarborough and Liverpool Lime Street, linking the north east of England to the north west. These are typically Desiro trains or the brand new Nova 3 trains (pictured).

Open Spaces

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Outside of the compact streets of York city centre, you will notice that there are a lot of open spaces. Walking through the arch of Scarborough Bridge, you will find a large green space leading up to Water End. 

 

This is a particular stunning section of our route today. On the left of you runs the East Coast Mainline and the National Railway Museum. So we’ve left the chocolate section behind on Terry Avenue and found ourselves in York’s second main industry in its heyday, that being the railways.

Willow Walk

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

You have a choice here to follow the tarmac path for a while, or deviate from it and follow a track beside the River Ouse. We recommend using the willow walk in the drier months (April through September) and staying on the tarmac during winter. 

 

Either way, you will be in for some stunning treelined views. The large green open space draws people’s attention and is often used for dog walkers, footballers and sometimes even sun-bathers. 

Willow Trees

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Willow Tree’s are actually from China, and in the summer months offer you plenty of shade. In Victorian times, travellers would bring back to England all manner of unusual species of plants. Willow however, spread along the Silk Corridor before reaching Northern Europe and eventually North Yorkshire!

 

When walking through the willow trees you can pear at the river between the fronds and watch the boats too and throw along the Ouse. Please be careful by the River Ouse. Although the river is generally slow moving, it does have strong undercurrents. Swimming in the river is strongly not recommended. Sadly, the river has claimed many lives of those jumping in for fun or have fallen in unwillingly. 

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Flood Defences

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Like any major river, the Ouse has been prone to bursting its banks, especially in the winter months. Therefore you might be bemused by the path on top of a flood defence. The earth is developed this way to stop flood water damaging the properties at the other side in the Leeman Road/Salisbury Terrace area. In any case, you can walk the tops and follow the path to Water End. We then turn right to walk over our next port of call, Clifton Bridge. There are also some steps available next to the bridge itself.

Clifton Bridge

Clifton Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Of course, Clifton Bridge shouldn’t be confused with a large suspension bridge under the architecture of Brunnel found in Bristol. Our Clifton Bridge is much smaller! In 1961, the army constructed a temporary bridge to cover extra traffic for the marriage of the Duke and Dunchess of York in the Minster. This was in place of an existing ferry crossing.  Shortly afterwards in 1963, a permanent bridge was constructed using 4000 tons of concrete and 50 tons of reinforced steel. 

 

This is a perfect place to watch the boats of many varieties pass underneath you. With the idyllic backdrop, it also makes fantastic photography too. At the opposite side of the bridge you might want to take a look at the plaque, informing you that it was opened by Alderman A Kirk, a Mayor of York.

 

We can take the ramp at the opposite side back to the river level and walk back towards the City of York.

The bridge looks like any ordinary flyover. However, this bridge is vital for the movement of traffic and links Clifton with Acomb (two suburbs of York). 

Boats and Beetles

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

This delightful walk gives you superb views of the willow tree walk on the opposite side as well enjoying the river boats at the same time. This is part of the Sustrans 65 Route and you can cycle from York city centre to Beningbrough Hall north of York.

One plant you should look out for is the Tansy plant.

The tansy beetle is a leaf beetle that apparently seldom fly. They measure 7.7 to 10.5mm in length. Sadly they are in short supply.  They are called Tansy Beetles because of the Tansy plants that they enjoy and thrive upon. The most notable characteristic of course is the vibrant, shiny, metalic covering they have. 

More Open Green Spaces

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Again we receive some open spaces where people like to sit and enjoy a picnic during the summer months. You will also see St Peter’s School in the distance to your left. This is the oldest school in York although it was found in another location when it began. It might be older than you expect because it actually began with St Paulinus of York in 627 AD at the site of York Minster. It has been associated with the Minster ever since. By 1844, it was relocated to its current position and still remains a popular school today. 

Views of the Minster

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

On the same subject of the Minster, you can expect to receive views of the cathedral in the distance. You can see the twin front towers, the left containing the giant bell ‘Great Peter’ that chimes the hour over the city. The towers also carry smaller bells and some are even operated by a keyboard. The central tower is hollow and you can go up the tower on tours found in the Minster itself.

Former Rowing Boat Store

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

What was once an old boathouse for York Rowing Club has been turned into a desirable property overlooking the River Ouse.  We passed York Rowing Club at Lendal Bridge, and they have sold this boathouse in order to improve their existing boathouse we encountered earlier. The guide price at the time of development was for £600,000!

View of Scarborough Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Again, as expected, we have returned to Scarborough Bridge, build for the railway and pedestrians in mind. We can walk under the arch and walk towards Dame Judy Dench Walk back to Lendal Bridge. Judy Dench is a York born actress famous for James Bond films among others.  She was born in December 1934 in the Heworth area, a suburb of York. 

View of Lendal Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Dame Judy Dench Walk is an idyllic section of our route today with Lendal Bridge ahead of us as well as sightings of the lantern tower at All Saints Church in the distance. The treelined route sits hand in hand with the tranquil waters of the River Ouse. However, in medieval times, it would ave looked much different to how it does today!

Moorings

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

From this side of the Ouse you can enjoy studying the boats that are berthed here. You can also receive closer views of the Museum Gardens on the left of direction. However, during period of heavy rain in winter, the dedicated footpaths are in danger of being flooded. You may have noticed the heavy barrier doors and walls that prevent flooding to residential properties. 

Ice-Cream Finish

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As we have very nearly finished our route, you may desire a traditional ice-cream from the van. If you are on a diet however, you may want to take a look at the Abbey Wall Tower instead. These walls have always been separate from the medieval city walls as St Mary’s Abbey was self-protected by them. It was at this location the Abbey’s toll was collected. 

Museum Gardens

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The Museum Gardens are botanical gardens that were established in 1830 in the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey. The Yorkshire Museum was built to accommodate the exhibits of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.  The Museum Gardens has a great deal to see including the abbey, museum, multangular tower, hospitium and observatory as well as the park itself.  You may even want to take a look at our City of York Smartphone Tour…if you have any energy left!

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Lendal Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As we come to the end of our tour and Dame Judy Dench Walk, you can see a modern office block that has been designed in-keeping with the City of York. Its architecture follows the medieval theme of the city. It belongs to Aviva Insurance, one of York’s top employers. On the bridge, you can see the toll buildings were the toll was collected. Today they are both riverside eateries.

 

River House

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

River House on the approach to Lendal Bridge on Museum Street is now a Pizza establishment. However, in its early days it was a Victorian Gentleman’s Club. Gentleman’s Clubs are a social club that began in the 18th century onwards for men of the upper classes. They tend to have a large dining area, billiards room, a library and various other rooms for reading and socialising. 

 

We hope you have enjoyed your tour today.  You may want to try our other tours below!

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Imagery shot with a Nikon Z50

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