(Simonsbath to Withypool)


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.