Photographer Mark Barrow’s five-year project along the 65-mile River Wharfe in Yorkshire has exposed the severe impact of pollution on the river’s aquatic life. Barrow’s initial footage showcased magnificent shoals of grayling, often numbering in the hundreds, in 2018. However, when he revisited the same location near Harewood House on the outskirts of Leeds recently, he was appalled to find the water clouded with pollution and the grayling population drastically reduced to small groups of 30 to 40 fish.
The grayling, known as “the Lady of the Stream” due to its elegant appearance, is particularly vulnerable to water pollution. This stark contrast in aquatic life over just five years was deeply saddening for Barrow.
As an underwater photographer, Barrow’s project aimed to document the river’s diverse aquatic ecosystems. His journey began at the river’s source in Beckermonds in the Yorkshire Dales and followed the Wharfe’s course, ending where it merges with the Ouse and eventually flows into the Humber estuary. Utilizing drones, scuba gear, and camera mounts on long poles, Barrow captured both the scenic landscapes surrounding the river and its hidden underwater world.
This project serves as a powerful reminder of the urgent need to address water pollution and protect the delicate balance of aquatic life in Yorkshire’s iconic River Wharfe.