Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Warburton, J., Danks, M. & Wishart, D. Stability of an upland gravel-bed stream, Swinhope Burn, Northern England. Catena. 2002;49:309-329.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Some upland gravel-bed streams often undergo frequent channel change in response to floods and changes in sediment supply. However, in others, where local conditions permit, long-term channel planform stability can be observed. This paper uses evidence from Swinhope Burn in upper Weardale, Northern England, to demonstrate relative channel stability over a 180-year period.

Channel planform change is identified using seven historical maps and air photographs dating from 1815 to 1991. The 1.4-km study reach has retained a stable meandering pattern over a period of 180 years, with a temporary but dramatic change to a straight, low sinuosity, partly divided channel, at some point between 1815 and 1856 (identifiable on the 1844 Tithe Map). Channel planform stability, observed over the historic period, is related in part to the low channel gradient upstream of a cross-valley moraine situated at the lower end of the study reach. This moraine has led to partial closure of the valley system and the development of a small upstream floodplain or ‘sedimentation zone’ (average width of 150 m). The resulting low channel gradient (0.012) inhibits coarse bedload transport and encourages overbank sedimentation. Cohesive banks promote lateral channel stability and the wide floodplain reduces potential coupling between the channel and valley-side slope sediment sources.

The probable cause of the observed channel planform change is the combination of a succession of four major floods in the River Wear catchment during the 1820s, and episodic inputs of sediment generated by upstream metal mining between 1823 and 1846. Large floods in the past 40 years have produced very little evidence of lasting channel change. However, locally a channel avulsion has been documented following a flood in February 1997. This represents a useful modern analogue for previous mechanisms of channel change.

References

Acreman, M.C., 1983. The significance of the flood of September, 1981 on the Ardessie Burn, Wester Ross.
Scottish Geographical Magazine 99, 150– 160.
Anderson, M.G., Calver, A., 1980. Channel plan changes following large floods. In: Cullingford, R.A., Davidson,
D.A., Lewin, J. (Eds.), Timescales in Geomorphology. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 43–52.
Archer, D.R., 1992. Land of Singing Waters, Rivers and Great Floods of Northumbria. Spedden Press, Northumbria.
Carling, P.A., 1986. The Noon Hill flash floods, July 17, 1983. Hydrological and geomorphological aspects of a
major formative event in an upland catchment. Transactions Institute of British Geographers 11, 105– 118.
Dunham, K.C., 1948. Geology of the Northern Pennine Orefield, Vol. 1 Tyne to Stainmore Memoir of the
Geological Survey of Great Britain. HMSO, London.
Egglestone, W.M., 1874. Egglestone’s Weardale or the Weardale Nick-Stick, Part iv, 128.
Fordyce, T., 1867. Local Records or Historical Register of Remarkable Events in Nothumberland, Durham,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Berwick-on-Tweed, vol. III. Published by T. Fordyce, Newcastle.
Harvey, A.M., 1986. Geomorphic effects of a 100 year storm in the Howgill Fells, Northwest England. Zeitschrift
fu¨ r Geomorphologie 30 (1), 71–91.
Harvey, A.M., 1991. The influence of sediment supply on the channel morphology of upland streams: Howgill
Fells, Northwest England. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 16, 675– 684.
Harvey, A.M., 1994. Influence of slope/stream coupling on process interactions on eroding gully slopes, Howgill
Fells, northwest England. In: Kirkby, M.J. (Ed.), Process Models and Theoretical Geomorphology. Wiley,
Chichester, pp. 247– 270.
Harvey, A.M., 2001. Coupling between hillslopes and channels in upland fluvial systems: implications for
landscape sensitivity, illustrated from the Howgill Fells, northwest England. Catena 42, 225– 250.
Harvey, A.M., Alexander, R.W., James, P.A., 1984. Lichens, soil development and the age of Holocene valley
floor landforms: Howgill Fells, Cumbria. Geografiska Annaler 66A (4), 353–366.
Hooke, J.M., Kain, R.J.P., 1982. Historical Change in the Physical Environment Butterworth, London.
Hooke, J.M., Perry, R.A., 1976. The planimetric accuracy of Tithe maps. Cartographic Journal 13, 177– 183.
Hooke, J.M., Redmond, C.E., 1989a. River channel changes in England and Wales. Journal of the Institution of
Water and Environmental Management 3, 328– 335.
Hooke, J.M., Redmond, C.E., 1989b. Use of cartographic sources for analyzing river channel change with
examples from Britain. In: Petts, G.E. (Ed.), Historical Change of large Alluvial Rivers: Western Europe.
Wiley, Chichester, pp. 79– 93.
Laronne, J.B., Duncan, M.J., 1992. Bedload transport paths and gravel bar formation. In: Billi, P., Hey, R.D.,
Thorne, C.R., Tacconi, P. (Eds.), Dynamics of Gravel-bed Rivers. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 177–200.
Lewin, J., 1987. Historical river channel changes. In: Gregory, K.J., Lewin, J., Thornes, J.B. (Eds.), Palaeohydrology
in Practice. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 161– 175.
Lewin, J., Davies, B.E., Wolfenden, P.J., 1977. Interactions between channel change and historic mining sediments.
In: Gregory, K.J. (Ed.), River Channel Changes. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 358– 367.
Lewin, J., Bradley, S.B., Macklin, M.G., 1983. Historical valley alluviation in mid-Wales. Geological Journal 18,
331– 350.
Macklin, M.G., 1986. Channel floodplain metamorphosis in the River Nent, Cumberland. In: Macklin, M.G.,
Rose, J. (Eds.), Quaternary River Landforms and Sediments in the Northern Pennines, England: Field Guide.
British Geomorphological Research Group/Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, pp. 13– 19.
Macklin, M.G., 1997a. Fluvial geomorphology of north-east England (Black Burn, Cumbria). In: Gregory, K.J.
(Ed.), Fluvial Geomorphology of Great Britain. Geological Conservation Review Series, Joint Nature Conservation
Committee. Chapman & Hall, London, pp. 205–209.
Macklin, M.G., 1997b. The Islands (Alston Shingles), R. South Tyne, Fluvial geomorphology of north-east
England. In: Gregory, K.J. (Ed.), Fluvial Geomorphology of Great Britain. Geological Conservation Review
Series, Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Chapman & Hall, pp. 214– 217.
Macklin, M.G., Aspinall, R.J., 1986. Historic floodplain sedimentation in the River West Allen, Northumberland—
a case study of channel change in an upland gravel-bed river in the Northern Pennines. In: Macklin,
M.G., Rose, J. (Eds.), Quaternary River Landforms and Sediments in the Northern Pennines, England: Field
Guide. British Geomorphological Research Group/Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, pp. 7 – 17.
Macklin, M.G., Rose, J., 1986. Quaternary River Landforms and Sediments in the Northern Pennines, England,
Field Guide. British Geomorphological Research Group/Quaternary Research Association, London.
Macklin, M.G., Smith, R.S., 1990. Historic riparian vegetation development and alluvial metallophyte plant
communities in the Tyne Basin, north-east England. In: Thornes, J.B. (Ed.), Vegetation and Erosion. Wiley,
Chichester, pp. 239– 256.
Macklin, M.G., Rumsby, B.T., Heap, T., 1992a. Flood alluviation and entrenchment: Holocene valley-floor
development and transformation in the British uplands. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America 104,
631– 643.
Macklin, M.G., Rumsby, B.T., Newson, M.D., 1992b. Historical floods and vertical accretion of fine-grained
alluvium in the Lower Tyne Valley, Northeast England. In: Billi, P., Hey, R.D., Thorne, C.R., Tacconi, P.
(Eds.), Dynamics of Gravel-Bed Rivers. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 573– 589.
Macklin, M.G., Rumsby, B.T., Heap, T., Passmore, D.G., 1994. Thinhope Burn, Northumberland. In: Boardman,
J., Walden, J. (Eds.), The Quaternary of Cumbria: Field Guide. Quaternary Research Association, Oxford,
pp. 50– 57.
Macklin, M.G., Passmore, D., Newson, M.D., 1998. Controls of short and long-term river instability: processes
and patterns in gravel-bed rivers, Tyne Basin, England. In: Klingeman, P.C., Beschta, R.L., Komar, P.D.,
Bradley, J.B. (Eds.), Gravel-Bed Rivers in the Environment. Water Resources Publications, Colorado, pp.
257–278.
McEwen, L.J., 1989. River channel changes in response to flooding in the upper River Dee catchment, Aberdeenshire,
over the last 200 years. In: Beven, K., Carling, P. (Eds.), Floods: Hydrological, Sedimentological
and Geomorphological Implications. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 219–238.
McEwen, L.J., 1994. Channel planform adjustment and stream power variations on the middle River Coe,
Western Grampian Highlands, Scotland. Catena 21, 357– 374.
Milne, J.A., 1982. River channel change in the Harthope Valley, Northumberland, since 1897. University of
Newcastle upon Tyne, Department of Geography, Research Series, No. 13.
Milne, J.A., 1983. Patterns of confinement in some stream channels of upland Britain. Geografiska Annaler 65A
(1–2), 67– 83.
Montgomery, D.R., Buffington, J.M., 1997. Channel-reach morphology in mountain drainage basins. Bulletin of
the Geological Society of America 109 (5), 596– 611.
Moore, E.N., 1994. Glacial Geology and Geomorphology of Weardale. Unpublished PhD, University of Durham,
two volumes.
Newson, M.D., 1989. Flood effectiveness in river basins: progress in Britain in a decade of drought. In: Beven,
K., Carling, P. (Eds.), Floods: Hydrological, Sedimentological and Geomorphological Implications. Wiley,
Chichester, pp. 151– 169.
Passmore, D.G., Macklin, M.G., 2000. Late Holocene channel and floodplain development in a wandering gravelbed
river: the River South Tyne at Lambley, Northern England. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 25,
1237–1256.
Petts, G.E., 1989. Historical analysis of fluvial hydrosystems. In: Petts, G.E. (Ed.), Historical Analysis of Fluvial
Hydrosystems. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 1– 18.
Raistrick, A., Jennings, B., 1965. A History of Lead Mining in the Pennines. Longman, London.
Rumsby, B.T., Macklin, B.T., 1994. Channel and floodplain response to recent abrupt climate change: the Tyne
Basin, northern England. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 19, 499–515.
Sykes, J., 1833. Local Records or Historical Register of Remarkable Events in Nothumberland, Durham, Newcastle-
upon-Tyne and Berwick-on-Tweed, Vol. II. Published by T. Fordyce, Newcastle.
Warburton, J., Danks, M., 1998. Historical and contemporary channel change, Swinhope Burn. In: Warburton, J.
(Ed.), Geomorphological Studies in the North Pennines Field Guide. British Geomorphological Research
Group, Durham, pp. 77– 90.
Warburton, J., Davies, T.R.H., Mandl, M.G., 1993. A meso-scale field investigation of channel change and
floodplain characteristics in an upland braided gravel-bed river, New Zealand. In: Best, J.L., Bristow, C.S.
(Eds.), Braided Rivers. Geological Society Special Publication, vol. 75. The Geological Society, London,
pp. 241–255.
Werritty, A., 1982. Stream response to flash floods in upland Scotland. In: Walling, D.E., Burt, T.P. (Eds.),
Proceedings of the IGU Commission on Field Experiments in Geomorphology—Catchment Experiments in
Fluvial Geomorphology. Geobooks, Norwich, pp. 537– 560.
Werritty, A., Ferguson, R.I., 1980. Pattern changes in a Scottish braided river over 1, 30 and 200 years. In:
Cullingford, R.A., Davidson, D.A., Lewin, J. (Eds.), Timescales in Geomorphology. Wiley, Chichester,
pp. 53–68

Department of Geography