(Withypool to Tarr Steps)


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 Withypool where there is a small carpark a hundred yards up the road river right of the bridge.

Finish at Tarr Steps. It's important to mention that there is no parking by the river - instead, use the tourist car park up the hill. Alternatively, carry on down the next section.


TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.


River Advisor:
Russell Blackmore
(01823) 274651

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: I have only paddled this in medium/ low levels when you can (just) duck under Tarr Steps and it is graded accordingly. I understand that the difficulty and danger increases somewhat in higher water.

GRADING: Grade 2 with some easy 3. Again, apparently harder in high water.


GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the bridge in Withypool village, there is a miniature weir under the bridge and then downstream the water is flat at first, but gradually steepens to simple bouldery rapids. It is about five miles down to Tarr Steps, the current upper limit of access. During this distance the river gets progressively trickier with a long rapid (Grade 3?) in the final mile. There is a cable bridge low over the river hidden somewhere in this final mile. This is arguably the best section of whitewater on the whole length of the Barle.

You won't miss Tarr Steps; it's an ancient stone footbridge which gives little room for ducking underneath or may need portaging if the river is high.

OTHER NOTES: The river is also paddleable from higher up at Simonsbath in high water.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley.



Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: RIVER BARLE (Withypool to Tarr Steps) -- Jon_Brown
2013 Nov 10 09:04:19 PM
The cables were repaired after 2012/13 winter, when they were ripped out by trees, that then went on to take out the clapper bridge. As Mark said they were installed in 1952 to protect the bridge.

For those that haven't seen the video , fairly uncomfortable viewing (parts 1 & 2 are similar).
Re: RIVER BARLE (Withypool to Tarr Steps) -- Mark R
2013 Aug 28 08:44:41 PM
I think it is there to protect the bridge.
Re: RIVER BARLE (Withypool to Tarr Steps) -- the_loz
2013 Aug 16 09:50:11 PM
Just found this video of a kayaker getting stuck in a cable bridge above tarr steps. is this cable still there?
Login to reply