GUIDE TO THE RIVER BARLE

(Simonsbath to Withypool)

NAME OF RIVER: Barle.

WHERE IS IT?: The River Barle runs from northern Exmoor (Somerset) south to join the River Exe. It's pretty much drains the opposite side of the hill from the much harder River Lyn.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: This section begins at Simonsbath, high on Exmoor. There is limited parking near the bridge in Simonsbath, but really you are looking to actaully access the river about half a mile downstream; consider carrying your boat down the 'Two Moors Way' footpath to access the river. This is because the first half mile is pretty grim...see below (map).

Finish at Withypool (map) where there is a small carpark a hundred yards up the road river right of the bridge. You could also carry on below to Tarr Steps.

APPROX LENGTH: 6-7 miles.

TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: No problems reported.

Adam Box...(November 2002) 'My request would be that anyone who uses the river upstream of Tarr Steps should be very aware of the importance of the gravels for salmon spawning, and should take every precaution to avoid disrupting the river bed. Only by showing that paddlers can be responsible, environmentally friendly and aware of the needs of other river users can we hope to improve the access situation.'

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It should be clear whether you have enough water to paddle from Simonsbath. The more the better, although you will need to be alert for the fences in high levels.

GRADING: Grade 2.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees to begin with. A number of sheep fences.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This is only recommended to those who want a bit of real exploring; the paddling is not great but it offers a unique view of Exmoor.

The first half mile is best avoided and portaged river left (the 'Two Moors Way' footpath); the river flows through two sheep fences and what can only be described as an extended thicket. I suffered it in order that you don't have to.

After this poor start, the river winds away from farmland and enters remarkably bleak moorland. There are continuous small rapids with several mini-ledges. In high water the river is quite fast and bouncy. The 'wilderness experience' factor is quite high here!

There are two more sheep fences to watch out for before you reach Landacre bridge (officially the end of the earth) which is a good possibility for a quiet takeout point. There was scaffolding on the bridge in October 2002.

Below Landacre, the river is flat down to Withypool where there is a safe weir under the bridge. Take out on river right below the weir, or carry on.

OTHER NOTES: There is more wild moorland paddling upstream.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Adam Box.

 

 

Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: River Barle: Simonsbath to Tarr Steps -- jmmoxon
2010 Dec 17 06:02:55 PM
What paddlers want is hassle free rivers, how that is achieved doesn't matter to most - many bigger rivers have/had agreements at times of the year when clubs could plan trips with sufficient water, so agreements still suit some. I'm sure all would welcome primary legislation on this matter, as in Scotland, but at present it's not looking hopeful.



Mike
Re: River Barle: Simonsbath to Tarr Steps -- morsey
2010 Dec 17 01:51:08 PM
The question, and direction, got changed slightly, it was about whether the overall majority of paddlers scorn agreements. Not about whether the masses were paddling in the fishing season.



I think everyone knows my personal intention with regards canoeing in the fishing season and that is I have done it for twenty odd years and met only a handful of anglers on the rivers, which suggests my observation of when the rivers are in condition for angling or canoeing during the summer is pretty much on the ball, and demonstrates that I have no desire what so ever to disturb other river users. Hundreds of summer runs on the Dart, met one angler. Summer paddling with a club group and it would need to be guaranteed high water, One step on the Upper I have paddled with club groups as well as with peer groups. South Wales gets lots of summer paddling. Can we quantify summer paddling, well Canoe Wales are keeping records so in some respects we can. I agree that the volume of paddlers towards the beginning and end of the fishing season is limited but I do not agree that is because those paddlers want access agreements. I believe it is, as Hardy, suggests that the clubs and the BCU/CE are the restricting factor. But I think the answer to the question do the majority of paddlers scorn access agreements was demonstrated by the volumes of paddlers on rivers who did not register, who did not get tickets, who got tickets for one section but paddled the other sections anyway, and who ignored the "banned section" restrictions and got on and paddled. You want a figure on the number of people who scorn access agreements, I'll take a ball park guestimate from the Dart alone in one season and the figure will be up in the thousands. (Subjective, I know, but lots of paddlers would have witnessed this so it can be equated to a roughly agreeable figure). Pete paddles outside of agreements, his club are noted in this thread by Pete himself to be willing to continue paddling outside of agreements. It is distinctly clear that the majority of paddlers, across the board, do not adhere to, or want, access agreements. I would have thought Pete was ideally placed to be able to answer Mark's question without hesitation!



It may appear as though I am targeting Pete in this thread, I am not, he has always provided info and as such gets lots of questions. Personally if I was Pete, I would fire all the questions direct to BCU/CE/HQ and demand they deal with issues because it is their job.
Re: River Barle: Simonsbath to Tarr Steps -- Bod
2010 Dec 17 09:32:45 AM
"Simon Westgarth" wrote:
Me thinks your picking at the bones of the argument. We all know that 20 years ago paddlers generally followed VAA agreements to the letter, and over the past 20 years, the majority follow the spirit of an arrangement but not the letter of the agreement. There are of course some paddler's from clubs, groups and organisations such as colleges, that will attempt to follow the letter of an agreement, especially if these group leaders have any duty of care for others in their group. Club leaders do not wish to explain to parents about a confrontation with this land owner, or that fishing bailiff irrespective of whether they hold any position or not. An example of the majority of paddler's generally following the spirit of an arrangement, is that there are not the large groups of paddler's on the Dart during September high flows or late March runoff. Both these periods are in the open game fishing season, and as commonly understood as the closed paddling season. Whether their point of view is right or wrong, it is the majority's position that the river is paddled during the closed game fishing season and not outside.


Regrettably for the common good, I am sure that Simon W is correct and Morsey is wrong on this point. Whilst I am sure there is consensus on UKRGB for 365 day paddling (which I support), the situation on the ground amongst clubs is very definitely different. I also cannot provide any statistics but my experience of talking to people who paddle with the large membership clubs around me (Axe Vale and Exeter) is that Club Trips are in the closed fishing season. I arrange a pool session that people from these clubs attend and have persuaded some that they should come out in the summer, but it is hard work, and they wouldn't want the club to know - go figure.



The problem as I see it is that many club officials have been paddling forever and thus introduce their own old access thinking throughout the club. Even if these officials look to the BCU for guidance (and lets be honest they get none or see restrictive agreements being given approval) then the situation remains the same through the generations. I think this is why Adam and Pete have chosen the line they have taken. They have not negotiated any BCU endorsed Agreements because they have followed the BCU policy on that, unlike the Yorkshire mob who are really years behind the South West. They have however got the fisherfolk so say when they will guarantee not to give anybody grief, which is comforting to the clubs that seek this, even though we are convinced that they do not need to. As volunteers I would say they are between a rock and a hard place when you consider the disparate views of the people they are trying to work for.



This is the biggest challenge for access, bringing the clubs on-board, but that will require decisive action within BCU HQ. By continuing to paddle year round, I am sure that we will drag more people along but as for the question do the majority paddle out of the fishing closed season - no.



Just read Hardy's post properly. His first part of point 2 is unfortuantely spot on.
Re: River Barle: Simonsbath to Tarr Steps -- hardy
2010 Dec 16 10:24:39 PM
(Apologies for not being much of a computer expert.I cannot do all of this cutting and pasting stuff.)



I am one of those in the "majority" who never used to paddle the "September and May runoff" that Simon speaks of.Reason being that i was in a club that did not want to cause any unnecessary trouble.Me,i am used to sticking my head above the parapet,but had to get my feet under the table where i was,untill i knew what was what.It took a few years,but gradually things started to fall into place.

1:I realised that the BCU is pretty useless for white water access,though there may be some great individuals within it doing all they can.

2:Clubs and such like often tie themselves up in knots of red tape,and don't feel they should pass on all the latest tittle tattle regarding access,so keeping many members blind to what is happening.THAT ,in my opinion,is why the "majority" you speak of paddle in the closed fishing season,AND the fact that novices who may swim and have to get onto private property to retrieve thier boat,and thereby may cause a stir.

3:Yet again some of the people in positions of power and wealth are trying to keep the best bits of the land i was born in to themselves.I deeply resent that,and will do all i can to change it.Some wish to appease,others talk,and a few who may be more direct.I do not have the time for talking and splitting hairs,life is short enough,but i do acknowledge that these methods could be beneficial.Rather,i will do as i always have,ask my concience if what am about to do is wrong.If the answer is no i will carry on untill confronted,and then will deal with the fallout appropriately.

4:Our boating community spends much time with the scalpel on the keratin,and to me,it doesn't seem to be getting very far very quickly.Hence my approach to access issues.
Re: River Barle: Simonsbath to Tarr Steps -- Simon Westgarth
2010 Dec 16 07:53:18 PM
"Mark R" wrote:
"jmmoxon" wrote:
there tends to be more support for having agreements amongst them.


Your conclusion is based on what evidence?



Look at the Dart on any given day. What proportion of paddlers are fully familiar with and taking trouble to adhere to any 'agreement'/ arrangement? I suggest to you, very few indeed...even back when things were more proscriptive (tickets, limits on numbers etc) any observation would quickly conclude that most paddlers weren't following any 'agreement'.


"morsey" wrote:
Based on an assessment of how many club paddlers?


Me thinks your picking at the bones of the argument. We all know that 20 years ago paddlers generally followed VAA agreements to the letter, and over the past 20 years, the majority follow the spirit of an arrangement but not the letter of the agreement. There are of course some paddler's from clubs, groups and organisations such as colleges, that will attempt to follow the letter of an agreement, especially if these group leaders have any duty of care for others in their group. Club leaders do not wish to explain to parents about a confrontation with this land owner, or that fishing bailiff irrespective of whether they hold any position or not. An example of the majority of paddler's generally following the spirit of an arrangement, is that there are not the large groups of paddler's on the Dart during September high flows or late March runoff. Both these periods are in the open game fishing season, and as commonly understood as the closed paddling season. Whether their point of view is right or wrong, it is the majority's position that the river is paddled during the closed game fishing season and not outside.
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