Where does the Wenning come from? Clapham Beck, which gathers the rain off Ingleborough's vast flanks, disappears down Gaping Gill and re-emerges from Ingleborough Cave. It then wends south to
Clapham Station, where it's joined by Austwick Beck and Fen Beck, with Kettlesbeck and Keasden Beck. These mixed waters now become the Wenning and eventually join the Lune below Hornby, and so it flows on into the Irish Sea, where the rain cycle begins once again.

 

"The Vale ofWenning I resolved to tread / And trace the radiant rambler to its head".
These are the opening lines of a charming poem describing the whole course of the
river, written by Thomas Dixon in 1781, and recently reprinted. By turns radiant or raging, this river has also inspired artists, such as J.M.W. Turner, who painted it in about 1820.

   

A hidden world inside the riverbank.

Trees play a vital part in the anatomy of a river. Roots hold the Riverbank together and give homes to all kinds of burrowing animal, including the kingfisher. Fallen leaves enrich the water with many nutrients. Just as important are rocks, large and small, stirring and tumbling life-giving oxygen into the stream. As a "rocky river with plenty of trees" the Wenning is an exceptionally lively wild river and well repays close observation. It is ecology in motion. As it draws its waters from such a vast area, in times of heavy rain it floods quickly and violently, often sweeping away trees or bridges - this new "Shaky" bridge is the latest of many. Then the river turns from raging back to radiant, perfect for paddling, picknicking,
and pebble-hunting. People are part of its ecology too.  It is of economic value too: for centuries its energy has powered local industries (including, nowadays, a trout farm) ; its waters turned wheels or became steam in mill-boilers and railway engines. In the social life of Bentham it has always played a huge part, providing year-round fun for free.

 
Though often frothy with peat from its moorland tributaries, the Wenning is unpolluted and supports lots of wildlife.
Least obvious but most vital are the tiny insects, larvae & crustaceans who live on the stream bottom, feeding on scraps of leaf ("detr itus"). These are the f ood of bigger fish, which are caught and eaten by birds, voles, otters, and anglers

(broadband users can click on this picture)
The principal natural fish is the Brown Trout. It lives here all year round. From July onwards, Sea Trout and Salmon - migratory
fish - navigate up the Lune and the Wenning. Somewhere between High Bentham and Austwick - the exact location varies from year to year depending on weather and riverbed conditions - they will spawn, between November and January, and then either die of exhaustion or return to the sea to recharge their energies and return to breed again the following year.  
  Until it was all swept away by the great flood of 1964, a weir below the Wenning Bridge created a huge swimming pool, 100 yards long & 9 feet deep. Swimming Galas were held (a hut provided changing rooms) and the huge gravel beach was the town's meeting place and playground all summer long. In winter the pool would often freeze over, making an immense ice-skating rink. Night-fishing for sea-trout remains a popular pastime to this day.