River Burn
Burne (archaic)
A shallow river surrounded by fields and trees
River Burn near Masham
River Burn, North Yorkshire is located in North Yorkshire
River Burn, North Yorkshire
Location of river mouth
United KingdomEngland
CountyNorth Yorkshire
Physical characteristics
 • locationLittle Haw
 • coordinates54°12′08.4″N 1°51′36.1″W / 54.202333°N 1.860028°W / 54.202333; -1.860028
 • elevation1,509 feet (460 m)
MouthRiver Ure
 • location
 • coordinates
54°12′46.9″N 1°38′51.4″W / 54.213028°N 1.647611°W / 54.213028; -1.647611
 • elevation
230 feet (70 m)
Length12 miles (19 km)
Basin size27 square miles (69.5 km2)
Basin features
River systemRiver Ure
 • leftSlee House Gill
House Gill
Low Gill
Birk Gill Beck
How Gill
Gir Beck
Sinney Keld
Swinney Beck
 • rightSpruce Gill Beck
Pott Beck
Sole Beck
Eller Beck
Den Beck
WaterfallsHigh House Farm

The River Burn is a river that flows wholly within North Yorkshire, England. The river starts as several small streams on Masham Moor and drains Colsterdale flowing eastwards before emptying into the River Ure just south of Masham. Conservation work on removing a weir, and introducing fish to the river in 2016, has meant that salmon have been recorded spawning in the river for the first time in over 100 years.[1]

Whilst the River Burn valley is not in Nidderdale, almost all of it is included in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[2][3]


During the Ice Age, a glacier forced water to build up in what are now the valleys that hold the Pott Beck and the River Burn. This created large lakes that deposited minerals such as limestone and chert.[4] The river flows over several types of bedrock (limestone, sandstone, mudstone and shale) which is covered by gravel and silty clay which is a result of riverine alluvia.[5] When tested in the 1990s, this alluvia was found to be the largest and coarsest of all sediment that was flowing out through the Humber basin.[6]

The name of the river is from the Old English Burna (literally meaning a beck or a brook)[7][8] and has been written variously as either Bourne, Burne or Burn.[9] Curiously, unlike most other of the Yorkshire Dales, the name of the river does not lend itself to the valley that it flows through (Colsterdale).[note 1][10] The valley acquired its name in the 12th century when coal was mined in the upper reaches and transported down the valley by a track known as The Coal Road, which still exists today.[11] The dale is sometimes called the Burn Valley or the River Burn Valley.[12][13]

A desire to site reservoirs on the River Burn itself had been in the minds of the planners of the Leeds Corporation as far back as the turn of the 20th century. Work started on building a reservoir in 1904 at Gollinglith Foot, but had to be abandoned in 1906 due to landslips.[14]

In 2016, a £20,000 project to remove a weir at Breary Banks on the river was completed. It was reported in 2017 that salmon had managed to negotiate this part of the river and spawn there for the first time in over 100 years. The project was part financed by ABP as part of the wider Green Port Hull Project which was initiated to aid migratory fish through the Humber Basin.[15]

To help with this project, the Ure Salmon Trust released over 30,000 salmon smolts into the river to encourage adult salmon to return in later years.[16] The removal of the weir would also benefit other fish (sea trout, brown trout, grayling, elvers, bullhead, stoneloach and brook lamprey) to migrate further upriver to reproduce.[17] The damming of Pott Beck to create the reservoirs at Leighton and Roundhill, had a detrimental effect on the migration of the fish through Colsterdale.[18]

Catchment area

The river travels for 12 miles (19 km)[19] and drains over 27 square miles (69.5 km2) of moorland and farmland as it flows towards the River Ure. The river has been designated as being "heavily modified" by the Environment Agency and the water quality is moderate but projected to be good by 2027.[20][21] Along with the rivers Bain, Cover, Laver, Skell and Tutt, the river is noted as being one of the main tributaries of the River Ure.[20]


The valley that the river runs through has been described as an "exquisite valley".[22] The river starts on the moorland west of Masham and astride the watershed that feeds water to Coverdale (to the north) and Nidderdale (to the south). It is named the River Burn from where New House Gill and Thorny Crane Gill meet, however it has been traditionally taken as starting as a small fountain on the hill of Great Haw.[23][19] The river flows at first across the peat moorland which overlies the coal measures and millstone grit beneath,[24] and over waterfalls at High House Farm.[25] The cascades around High House Farm have revealed the Red Scar Grit Sandstone that overlies the coal and both sandstone and coal were mined and quarried in the area; most of these workings were down in the steep valley carved by the river.[26][27][28]

This upper section flows through a narrow V-shaped valley that rises from 591 feet (180 m) from the riverbed to 1,083 feet (330 m) at the rim of the valley.[3] This section of the river is designated as part of the East Nidderdale Moors SSSI because of the ancient woodland at Birks Gill, the birdlife and fauna it supports.[29]

Below Leighton the river is joined by its largest tributary, Pott Beck, which has been heavily modified for clean water purposes with the building of the two reservoirs at Leighton and Roundhill.[30] Where the Pott Beck joins, the river valley leaves Colsterdale, flattens out and becomes less steep sided and craggy.[31] The river runs east through farmland towards Masham and is also home to three ancient, semi-natural woodlands; Hall Wood, Fearby Low Moor and Hawkswell Wood.[2]

As the river passes through Masham Golf Course (which straddles both banks of the river) it flows under the grade II listed High Burn Bridge.[32] Just before the river flows into the Ure, it passes under Low Burn Bridge which carries the road between Masham and Grewelthorpe. The present bridge was built in 1715 and is now a grade II listed structure.[33] A bridge had existed here previously but was only wide enough to take a single horse and was widened when financed by a local man in his will in 1623.[34] The river joins the Ure just south of Masham town[35] and the section of bedrock it flows over at this point is magnesian limestone deposits.[36]


The river valley forms part of the Swinton Estate and the river is used extensively for fishing and has many access points.[1]

As with many other rivers, the Burn Valley was home to several mills and industries that were water powered.[37] The former saw mill at Healey is now a grade II listed dwelling.[38] Just west of the saw-mill site is Swinton Trout Farm which supplies trout for the fishing on the Swinton Estate and at Leighton Reservoir.[39][40]

The weir at Breary banks was constructed to allow for the collection of fresh water for the navvy construction camps at Leighton and Roundhill for the reservoirs. This was later used for the same purposes at the army camp at Breary Banks when recruits from Leeds (the Leeds Pals) were training for the First World War.[41] Both the weir and the waterwheel were the subject of an archaeological study before the weir was removed in 2016.[42]


  1. ^ Wensleydale is the other major oddity, but it was named Uredale/Yoredale for some time.


  1. ^ a b "River fishing". Swinton Estate. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b "38 River Burn Valley Farmland" (PDF). www.harrogate.gov.uk. Harrogate Borough Council. February 2004. p. 1. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b "6 Upper Colsterdale Valley | Harrogate Borough Council" (PDF). www.harrogate.gov.uk. February 2004. p. 1. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  4. ^ Tyson, Leslie Owen (2007). Mashamshire collieries. Sheffield, Yorkshire: Northern Mine Research Society. p. 8. ISBN 9780901450623.
  5. ^ Giles, J R A; Cooper, A H; Smart, J G A; Wilson, A A (1982). The sand and gravel resources of the country around Bedale, North Yorkshire. London: H.M.S.O. p. 8. ISBN 0-11-884319-2.
  6. ^ Walling, Desmond E; Owens, Phillip N; Waterfall, Ben D; Leeks, Graham J L; Wass, Paul D (January 2000). "The particle size characteristics of fluvial suspended sediment in the Humber and Tweed catchments, UK". The Science of the Total Environment (251). Amsterdam: Elsevier: 209–215. ISSN 0048-9697.
  7. ^ Horsfall Turner, J (1908). Yorkshire place names : as recorded in the Yorkshire Domesday Book, 1086. Bingley: Turner. p. 242. OCLC 181784558.
  8. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1968). English river-names. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-19-869119-X.
  9. ^ Fisher 1865, p. 21.
  10. ^ Horsfall Turner, J (1908). Yorkshire place names : as recorded in the Yorkshire Domesday Book, 1086. Bingley: Turner. p. 253. OCLC 181784558.
  11. ^ Reid, Mark (12 March 2015). "Walks around Colsterdale". The Northern Echo. No. 2015–064. p. 39. ISSN 2043-0442.
  12. ^ Parry, Steve (6 June 2013). "North Yorkshire with Steve Parry". Cycling Weekly. Croydon: IPC Media. pp. 62–65. ISSN 0951-5852.
  13. ^ "8 Upper Pott Beck Valley Reservoirs | Harrogate Borough Council" (PDF). www.harrogate.gov.uk. p. 2. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  14. ^ "WW1 Heritage trail, Colsterdale, near Masham" (PDF). nidderdaleaonb.org.uk. p. 2. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  15. ^ Mann, Jayne (21 June 2017). "Salmon are spawning along the River Burn in North Yorkshire for the first time in 100 years - Rivers Trust". theriverstrust.org. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Humber River Basin's migratory fish to benefit from Greenport Hull funding | Associated British Ports". www.abports.co.uk. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  17. ^ Minting, Stuart (17 May 2016). "Conservation group boosts hopes for migrating salmon in Dales river". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  18. ^ "Home | Ure Salmon Trust". www.uresalmon.org.uk. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  19. ^ a b Bogg 1894, p. 281.
  20. ^ a b "River Factfiles; The Swale, Ure and Ouse Catchment" (PDF). environmentdata.org. Environment Agency. p. 3. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  21. ^ "Burn from Leighton Beck to River Ure". environment.data.gov.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  22. ^ Manby, Frederic (14 July 2006). "Stately home is where the heart is". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Burn from Source to Leighton Beck". environment.data.gov.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  24. ^ "37 Ilton to Nutwith Wooded Upland Fringe Grassland | Harrogate Borough Council" (PDF). www.harrogate.gov.uk. p. 1. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  25. ^ Wilkinson, George (9 December 2000). "Foot work". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  26. ^ "Colsterdale Colliery - Northern Mine Research Society". nmrs.org.uk. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  27. ^ Everett, Shirley (May 2012). "A Building Stone Atlas of North Yorkshire, West" (PDF). bgs.ac.uk. p. 23. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  28. ^ Wilson, Albert A (1957). "The geology of the country between Masham and Great Whernside" (PDF). dur.ac.uk. Durham University. p. 254. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  29. ^ "East Nidderdale Moors (Flamstone Pin – High Ruckles)" (PDF). necmsi.esdm.co.uk. Natural England. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  30. ^ "Middle & Lower Ure Sub-Catchment Evidence Pack for the Water Framework Directive" (PDF). yorkshiredalesriverstrust.com. p. 2. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  31. ^ "7 Upper River Burn to Pott Beck Confluence | Harrogate Borough Council" (PDF). www.harrogate.gov.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  32. ^ Historic England. "High Burn Bridge (Grade II) (1148122)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  33. ^ Historic England. "Low Burn Bridge (Grade II) (1166868)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  34. ^ Fisher 1865, p. 64.
  35. ^ "Conservation area - Masham - Part 2 | Harrogate Borough Council" (PDF). www.harrogate.gov.uk. 10 December 2008. p. 9. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  36. ^ "Swale Ure and Ouse; Consultation Report" (PDF). environmentdata.org. Environment Agency. June 1997. p. 10. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  37. ^ "Healey Conservation Area Character Appraisal" (PDF). nidderdaleaonb.org.uk. Harrogate Borough Council. 5 October 2011. p. 5. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  38. ^ Historic England. "Healey Saw Mill (Grade II) (1132071)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  39. ^ "Walking: A mysterious link with the Druids in a Yorkshire wood". Yorkshire Evening Post. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  40. ^ Hill, Russell, ed. (19 July 2017). "Top 100 fisheries finder map". Trout Fisherman (499). Peterborough: Bauer Media: 20. ISSN 0142-9108.
  41. ^ "Breary Banks - Archaeology, The University of York". www.york.ac.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  42. ^ Buglass, John (2015). "Breary Banks Wier, Gollinglith Foot, North Yorkshire". Forum; Yorkshire. 4. Council for British Archaeology: 80–81. ISSN 2051-8234.