Harrogate adventurer's pilgrimage on the Wharfe is turned into a book by world's leading independent travel publisher
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Johno Ellison's 100-mile journey from the flat farmlands of the Vale of York to the source of the river in the moorlands of the Dales will be published this Friday by Bradt Guides under the title Walking the Wharfe.
The former RAF pilot turned design engineer, who went to St Aidan's Church of England High School in Harrogate between 1995 and 2001, was inspired to undertake his latest challenge after coming across a long lost travelogue about the River Wharfe by Victorian writer Edmund Bogg who completed the same walk in the late 1890s.
"After reading the book and loving it, I became a bit captivated with the idea of following in Bogg’s footsteps," said Ellison.
"My book isn't so much a travel guide, more of a personal account of the journey.
"I’m not a historian, so I tried to look more at the human stories rather than just dates of battles and facts and figures."
Having visited more than 80 countries, this isn't the first time Ellison has undertaken an unusual challenge or made the headlines.
In 2011, the part-time adventurer travelled the world in a London black cab, setting a Guinness World Records for the Longest and the Highest Taxi Journey Ever.
But this particular adventure was a very personal pilgrimage for Ellison.
He grew up on the banks of the Wharfe and met his wife Lindsay in a small village beside the Wharfe.
"My parents come from Boston Spa and Collingham and my grandparents lived on the river,” he said.
"My wife is from another town further upstream.
"I even learned to fly at an RAF airfield at at RAF Church Fenton which was a stone’s throw from the river.”
Hailed by explorer Ed Stafford, famed for his shows on the Discovery Channel, as a fascinating exploration of a beautiful corner of Yorkshire, Ellison’s book sees him bump into all sort of people - from brewers and mill owners to anglers and farmers.
Although the Wharfe walk was one close to home and heart, it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Ellison is first bewitched by local legends of giants, trolls and witches, then seduced into wild swimming in a chilly river - albeit not the Strid, a section of the Wharfe notorious for reportedly drowning everyone who has ever tumbled into it.
Not only does the book show how the history of the towns and villages on its banks has evolved from Viking and Roman times, it also reveals memorable encounters with the wildlife of the Dales.
"I feel lucky to have grown up in such a lovely area,” said Ellison.
"I saw some majestic red kites and spotted an otter in the river at Boston Spa.
"There was also a comical encounter with a herd of over-inquisitive cows near Ilkley.
"The walk really showed me that you don’t necessarily have to travel halfway around the world to find wild beauty and adventure - it’s right here on our doorstep."
Walking the Wharfe: An Ode to a Yorkshire river byJohno Ellison is available via Bradt Guides from August 10 in bookshops and online.