A River Full Of Stories: Source of the River Hull

Open Bridges: A River Full Of Stories

We are delighted to introduce our new Open Bridges project. ‘Open Bridges: A River Full Of Stories’ which will preserve and publicise the heritage of the River Hull, its bridges and vessels which have used it over the years.

To begin – where does the River Hull start?

There were lots of discussions at the Open Bridges exhibition about just where the origins of the River Hull are. A series of springs bubble up in the Yorkshire Wolds soon becoming the headwaters of the River Hull, beautiful chalk streams, important for rare aquatic plants and wildlife. We heard about places to explore the springs and streams – one couple told us about the spring rising in their own back garden.

So, the weekend before last on day one of the heatwave we went in search of the origins of the River Hull, and made a dozen stops along the way.

Origins - Emmotland

Emmotland where Frodingham Beck and the River Hull meet we see the river teeming with hundreds of tiny fish – roach and rudd – as damselflies jizz along the bank and a cockerel crows over and over.

The idyllic village Foston-on-the-Wolds where the water gushes into the mill pond. It’s amazing how soon the damp grass of a spring becomes clear gently flowing chalk stream, and before you know it it’s noisy and full of life as it races through the countryside. Here’s a clip from Foston…

We met Barry who has lived there for over 60 years and told us about times past when the village had a massive brewery, two churches and vicarages and a water mill, and coal and grain were traded from barges. Barry called the trout up from the pond, dozens of them came up to the surface.

At Brigham a couple of people fishing and a lazy dog sitting on the bridge and a coal-fired steamer being worked on by the bank.

River Hull through Snakeholme Pastures, East of Wansford
River Hull through Snakeholme Pastures, East of Wansford

Snakeholme Pastures reserve at Wansford, walking along the river side in the heat of the day, long grasses and bird song as the gentle flow of the water is so clear it reveals the previously hidden depth of the chalk river bed. We are looking out for herons around the trout farms, and see moorhens amongst the bulrush and yellow flag iris.

Origins - Snakehole Pastures, Bulrush and Iris
Snakeholme Pastures

At Driffield Canal lock the water from the river nearby tumbles as it feeds the canal, frothing and churning while a few feet away mayflies skim the still surface of the water. Bracey Bridge – the chalk stream runs through woodland, a treecreeper spiralling up the slender trunks as we head to Old Gipsey, between Kilham and Rudston.

Kilham, Spring Terrace, overlooking the springs bubbling up from the ground, pond home to a family of geese and goslings.

The bridge over the stream at Little Driffield, calm and clear, flowing through the landscape. The Medieval village of Elmswell, and the grounds of Elmswell Hall, a different origin, but still full of the little white petalled flowers of water crowfoot.

Kirkburn – Speckled Wood butterflies in St Mary’s Church garden, and yet another origin of the River appears in the woodland behind the beautiful church, and an old water pump just down the valley once provided water for the village.

Above Wansford

Southburn, and yet another stream and tributary of the River Hull.

Emmotland map and surrounds

Open Bridges: A River Full Of Stories

Do you have memories about how life on the River Hull has changed over the years? Of what it was like then and what it’s like now to live and work on the river?

If you would like to talk to us about sharing your memories you can contact us. Click here to get in touch.

Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard


Open Bridges made history when for the first time all 13 of the bridges over the River Hull in the UK’s City of Culture 2017 raised, swung or closed simultaneously splitting the city of Hull in two at 20:17 hours on 22nd September 2017.  Historic vessels sailed down the river, met by 21st century tugs, to the sound of a new musique concrète work by composer John Stead.

Open Bridges is an independent Hull/East Yorkshire based project.

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