River Barle

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River Barle
Tarr Steps 02.jpg
Tarr Steps viewed downstream
Country England
Counties Devon, Somerset
 - left Little River
 - right Sherdon Water
Cities Withypool, Simonsbath
Landmark Tarr Steps
 - location Near Simonsbath, Exmoor, Somerset
 - elevation 400 m (1,312 ft)
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Mouth River Exe
 - location Exebridge, Devon
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Length 7 mi (11 km)

The River Barle runs from the Chains on northern Exmoor, in Somerset, England to join the River Exe at Exebridge, Devon. The river and the Barle Valley are both designated as biological Site of Special Scientific Interest.

On the Chains above Simonsbath is a 3 acres (1.2 ha) reservoir known as Pinkery Pond. It was formed by damming the River Barle, in the 19th century by John Knight and his son, and was originally intended to be 7 acres (2.8 ha). The purpose is unknown but close to the pond is the remains of a small canal.[1] Wheal Eliza Mine was an unsuccessful copper and iron mine on the river near Simonsbath.

The river passes under a late medieval six arch stone Landacre Bridge in Withypool,[2] and the Tarr Steps a prehistoric clapper bridge possibly dating from 1000 BC. The stone slabs weigh up to 5 tons apiece. According to local legend, they were placed by the devil to win a bet. The bridge is 180 feet (55 m) long and has 17 spans.[3] It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.[4] In Dulverton the river is crossed by the Barle Bridge.


The river flows through the Somerset Wildlife Trust's Mounsey Wood Nature Reserve and Knaplock and North Barton SSSI notified in 1954. The site is within Exmoor National Park.

The Barle Valley contains extensive tracts of ancient upland sessile oak ancient woodland which exhibit variations in structure and species composition as a result of difference in past management, geology and topography. The diversity of the site is increased substantially by areas of valley mire, heathland and acid grassland. Eighty five woodland vascular plant species have been recorded including thirty one ancient woodland indicators from a single compartment. The meadows are one of the few sites for great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) on Exmoor. Springs emerging from the base of sandstone slopes generate nutrient poor acid mires dominated by Sphagnum and Polytrichum moss carpets. The lichen flora is exceptional both for its luxuriance and in the number of rare species. One hundred and sixty five taxa of epiphytic lichens are present containing a remarkably large proportion of ancient woodland indicators giving the Barle a very high index of ecological continuity. The site contains an outstanding assemblage of woodland breeding birds including particularly high densities of wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca). The River Barle provides an important habitat for kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), while scrub and heath have breeding stonechat (Saxicola torquata) and whinchat (Saxicola rubetra). Twenty species of butterfly have been recorded in the valley including the nationally scarce marsh fritillary (Eurodryas aurinia) and nationally vulnerable high brown fritillary (Argynnis adippe). Both roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and red deer (Cervus elaphus) graze areas of wood pasture. The presence of otters (Lutra lutra) on the Barle has been regularly recorded. A colony of dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) inhabits at least one of the hazel coppices.[5]


water flowing through a green valley with numerous trees.
The Barle at Simonsbath


Salmon and trout are regularly fished from the Barle.[6]


For much of its route the river's banks are the path of the Two Moors Way footpath.[7]

Kayaking and canoeing

The upper reaches of the Barle produced favourable rapids which appeal to whitewater kayakers. The rapids are Graded at 2 (3-) which beginner to intermediate kayakers and canoeists paddle.[8][9]

See also

Stone bridge with six arches over water.
The bridge at Withypool.


  1. Warren, Derrick (2005). Curious Somerset. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 107–108. ISBN 978-0-7509-4057-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Landacre Bridge". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 2008-10-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Leete-Hodge, Lornie (1985). Curiosities of Somerset. Bodmin: Bossiney Books. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-906456-98-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Tarr Steps". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Barle Valley" (PDF). English Nature. Retrieved 2006-08-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "River Barle". Everything Exmoor. Retrieved 2008-10-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Walk 1860 - The River Barle and Withypool from Tarr Steps". Walking Britain. Retrieved 2008-10-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Guide to the River Barle". UK Rivers Guidebook. Retrieved 2010-10-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "River Barle". British Canoe Union South West. Retrieved 2008-10-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>