Neil Hudson: Hire boats return to Otley’s river for first time since 2001

WATER TREAT: The river at Otley full of people in pedalos and rowing boats.
WATER TREAT: The river at Otley full of people in pedalos and rowing boats.
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Otley has its boats back and I can report they are amazing. If you’ve not been down there to try them out yet, then what are you waiting for?

We ended up going down on the opening day, which was Wednesday, during the afternoon. The place was buzzing with people and the river was full of folk just boating about, enjoying life, the way it should be.

Apparently, the last time they had boats on the river like this was 2001. It stopped then due to the dreaded health and safety and the costs associated with it. Oh, and the foot and mouth epidemic.

There has been a long campaign to get the boats back on the river and I have to say it looks much nicer with them moving up and down.

We had a fabulous time with the kids, rowing upstream, under the bridge and onto the other side, where everything becomes that little bit wilder. There’s a bloke in a safety motor boating moving about, too, just in case.

Apparently, the original plan was for the boats to open daily but this has since been revised so that now, they will just open on weekends, including the bank holidays.

Originally, of course, the man behind the boat venture, Chris Thornton, who works at Aura Jewellery in the town, had wanted to begin opening the boats in April, which would have given him and his crew enough time to address any teething problems.

As things stand, I think he’s probably had to jump through so many hoops and tick so many health and safety boxes that the summer season is just about over, so they’re taking it slowly to begin with, which is a sensible move.

Next year, he says they will begin with weekends and perhaps open on more days during the holiday season.

Whatever happens with the opening times, the main thing is that boats are back on the River Wharfe in Otley.

Now all we need to happen is for the lido to be restored, which, I am given to understand will cost about £4m.

The last time I went to Ilkley Lido, it was absolutely packed with families enjoying the thrill of being able to cool off in what was (let’s be honest) very cold water but it didn’t matter because it was a blazing hot day.

If Otley can get its lido back up and running, which doesn’t seem unreasonable, together with the river boats, pubs and cafes, it’s going to be a tourist destination that’s hard to beat.

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