Exmoor is blessed with beauty and its waters are so much part of that beauty. Hope Bourne wrote in 1990, “… and the five beautiful waters of the north – Weir, Chalk, Badgery, Farley, and Hoaroak – are largely unspoilt. The valleys of the Barle and the Exe are lovely in almost all their reaches”. The quotation is taken from the introduction to the second edition of her book “Living on Exmoor” and I would imagine that these waters are as unspoilt today as they were in 1990.

It was 2012 that I first came to Exmoor to walk the waters, part of a project I had set myself in 2010 to walk the waterways of Somerset. There have been many memorable moments especially my first sighting of Long Chains Combe the source of Hoaroak Water as I approached it across Exe Plain from Prayway Meads

Long Chains Combe from Exe Plain
Long Chains Combe from Exe Plain


It is on the high ground of the Chains, Dunkery and the Brendon Hills that many of the waters start their journey most of them reach the sea in the Bristol Channel. The East Lyn rises on the Chains, the Avill on Dunkery and the Washford River, Pill River and the River Tone on the Brendon Hills. The two longest rivers on Exmoor are the Barle and Exe. They both rise on the Chains with their headwaters rising just one kilometre apart. They then flow through beautiful moorland and wooded valleys with the Exe taking a more northerly course to reach the “Meeting of the Waters” near Exebridge where after a distance of close to 20 miles the two rivers join. At this point the Barle loses its identity and the combined waters flow on for a further 40 miles to reach the English Channel at Exmouth.

Meeting of the Waters. Barle joins the Exe
Meeting of the Waters. Confluence of the River Barle and River Exe

The Brendon Hills blend into the eastern edge of the Exmoor National Park and are, I would suggest, less well known than the moorlands of the west. A quiet place with its farmland and woods, it is here that the River Tone rises at Beverton Pond, the Washford River begins its life with its source in the Treborough headwaters and Pill River rises on Monkslade Common.

Waterfall River Washford headwaters
River Washford headwaters waterfall.

This site lists 36 rivers and waters of Exmoor and is my attempt to record a history and pictorial account of these watercourses. The site currently (February 2023) includes in excess of 10000 photographs, 380 separate bridge records and a growing list of watermills and mill streams.

My real interest is in the structures, that is the bridges, the aqueducts, and the water mills that currently stand or once stood along the waterways. Most of the waterways listed have now been walked from source to mouth and the site is constantly being updated, so if you have an interest please revisit and see the newly added content.