Lying between Nidderdale in the north and Wharfedale in the south, on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, this tributary valley of the River Wharfe lies to the north and east of the market town of Otley on the southern edge of North Yorkshire.
The valley's approximately 22km long and the river Washburn rises above Thruscross reservoir near Stump Cross Caverns and flows to Leathley where it feeds into the river Wharfe.
The area is part of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is a protected landscape featuring several Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The village of Fewston, where the Centre is located, is one of the numerous dispersed settlements of the Washburn Valley. It is now much reduced in significance and population and is barely recognisable from its former days when it had a thriving local economy with a blacksmith, shops and a public house as well as a post office and a school.Other settlements in the valley include Thruscross, West End, Blubberhouses, Timble, Norwood, High and Low Snowden, Farnley, Lindley and Leathley.
The Valley has an ancient heritage of agriculture: green lanes, cart tracks and outgangs can still be seen. Drystone walls have defined field patterns in the valley for centuries, but within them the methods of farming and land ownership have changed radically. In an age which has seen the results of mechanised and intensive farming, Yorkshire Water as landlord to many tenant farmers in the valley is keen to encourage sound environmental practice, promoting catchment-sensitive farming and the protection of wildlife habitats to keep the landscape alive. Less intensive farming has allowed the natural fauna and flora in the Valley to thrive.
Cattle and sheep farming predominate, as in much of the North of England. But what is unusual here is firstly the enthusiasm of some farmers to welcome visitors, especially children, onto their farms to get close to the stock and learn about animal husbandry, and secondly the easy access to those farms for visitors to the reservoirs.