Further Information and Links

Exmoor rivers are spate rivers, which react rapidly to rainfall and do not maintain an even flow. The flow of the Barle within the National Park is generally greater than that of the Exe and the Barle could thus be considered to be Exmoor’s main river. The greatest recorded flow, however, was for the combined Lyn rivers at Lynmouth during the flood of August 1952, which equalled four times the average flow of the Thames.

In general, the main ridge of Exmoor, running from Challacombe Common in the west, over Dunkery to the Brendon Hills in the east, divides rivers flowing south to the English Channel from those flowing north to the Bristol Channel. Exmoor has a large number of what are known as 'first order' streams, meeting no tributaries before they plunge to the Bristol Channel.

The Barle valley, including the river and associated woodland, grassland and heathland habitats is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (details of designation here). The river Barle itself is the best example of an acidic upland river grading into a richer sandstone river in Britain and also is designated as a SSSI (details here). It is a natural river of very high quality which has hardly been modified at all by pollution, water abstraction or river engineering.

A Section of The East Lyn forms part of an SSSI and Special Area of Conservation. Many other Exmoor rivers run through SSSIs and rivers throughout the National Park are recognised as Local Wildlife Sites. They are therefore valued and protected habitats.

Whilst Exmoor is fortunate in the number and quality of its watercourses, potential risks to our rivers and their wildlife include:

Agricultural, industrial, land use, and sewage sources of pollution


Climate Change


Inappropriate physical changes to the river environment and environs

Invasive non-native plant species

Unmanaged recreational activity

For more information on the work to preserve, protect and improve local rivers the following links may be of interest.

River and Streams Pocket Guide

Somerset Rivers (excellent and comprehensive website covering all of the Rivers in Somerset)

Westcountry Rivers Trust

River Exe and Tributaries Association

and in respect of the river Taw, which rises on Dartmoor but is fed from Exmoor by the rivers Mole and Bray -