River Barle

Coordinates: 51°00′37″N 3°31′55″W / 51.01028°N 3.53194°W / 51.01028; -3.53194
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River Barle
Tarr Steps 02.jpg
Tarr Steps viewed downstream
CountiesDevon, Somerset
CitiesWithypool, Simonsbath
Physical characteristics
 • locationNear Simonsbath, Exmoor, Somerset
 • coordinates51°08′30″N 3°48′38″W / 51.14167°N 3.81056°W / 51.14167; -3.81056
 • elevation400 m (1,300 ft)
MouthRiver Exe
 • location
Exebridge, Devon
 • coordinates
51°00′37″N 3°31′55″W / 51.01028°N 3.53194°W / 51.01028; -3.53194
Length39.6[1] km (24.6 mi)
Basin features
 • leftLittle River
 • rightSherdon Water

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 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

On the Chains above Simonsbath is a 3-acre (1.2-hectare) former reservoir known as Pinkery Pond. It was formed in the 19th century when John Knight and his son dammed the river at that point. Vestiges of a small water channel sometimes referred to as a 'canal' can be seen nearby.[2][3] 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,[4] 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.[5] It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.[6] 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, first notified in 1954, which are within Exmoor National Park. These sites are home to species such as the kingfisher and Knaplock and North Barton is one of the only sites of great burnet on Exmoor. The river itself has been recorded as a habitat for the Eurasian otter.[7]


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


Salmon[specify] and trout[specify] are regularly fished from the Barle.[8]


For much of its route, the river's banks are the path of the Two Moors Way footpath.[9]

Kayaking and canoeing[edit]

The upper reaches of the Barle have favourable rapids which appeal to whitewater kayakers. The rapids are Graded at 2 (3-) which beginner to intermediate kayakers and canoeists paddle.[10][11]

See also[edit]

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


  1. ^ Lower Barle Middle Barle Upper Barle - Catchment Data Explorer
  2. ^ Warren, Derrick (2005). Curious Somerset. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 107–108. ISBN 978-0-7509-4057-3.
  3. ^ "MSO6847 - Pinkery Canal (formerly Pinkworthy) (Monument)". The Historic Environment Record for Exmoor National Park. Exmoor National Park Authority. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Landacre Bridge (1058006)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  5. ^ Leete-Hodge, Lornie (1985). Curiosities of Somerset. Bodmin: Bossiney Books. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-906456-98-3.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Tarr Steps (1247822)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 May 2007.
  7. ^ "Barle Valley" (PDF). Natural England. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  8. ^ "River Barle". Everything Exmoor. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  9. ^ "Walk 1860 - The River Barle and Withypool from Tarr Steps". Walking Britain. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  10. ^ "Guide to the River Barle". UK Rivers Guidebook. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  11. ^ "River Barle". British Canoe Union South West. Archived from the original on 24 October 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2008.