|Site of Special Scientific Interest|
|Area of Search||Somerset and Devon|
|Area||104.2 hectares (1.042 km2; 0.402 sq mi)|
|Natural England website|
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). These are all summer visitors.
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.