The River Sid Is Arguably The Shortest River In England; Rising In Crowpits Covert (OS grid reference SY 138963), Devon and Completing Its Journey To the Sea at Sidmouth, It Is A Complete and Compact River, Just Six Miles Long. 

Whilst the River Sid has a beginning, middle and end, starting from springs at some 620 feet above sea level, (near the Hare and Hounds pub), other contenders for England’s shortest river are short channels or tributaries to larger rivers so are not complete rivers and arguably barely rate the name river. Eg. the River Bain in Yorkshire is 2.5 mies long and joins a lake to the River Ure. As such it is arguably not a complete river. 

The major tributaries of the Sid include the Roncombe stream in Sidbury, the Snodbrook in Sidford and the Woolbrook in Sidmouth, plus other minor drains, issues and streams such as that at Brook End, before out reaching the sea at The Ham.

A Pair of Otters in a Riverside Meadow

River Sid: Wildlife On The Shortest River in England 

Despite being so short the river is varied and full of wildlife. Dippers, kingfishers, and otters are frequently seen in the water and the banks abound with roe deer, badgers, stoat and small mammals. With beaver prospering in the nearby river Otter one has to wonder how long it will be before they reach the River Sid. The distance from the source of the Sid is not far from streams feeding the river Otter and beaver have already travelled form the Otter to the upper reaches of the Culm. 

Newts, toads, frogs, damselfly and dragonfly are seen within the river Sid catchment and adjacent water sources and are predated by some of the larger inhabitants of the river. 

River Sid: River and Bank Vegetation on The Shortest River In England 

The vegetation in and alongside the river and its tributaries is very varied. Being mainly sourced via a rural catchment area the river flows through woodland, farmland and short stretches of village and town.  This means that the vegetation includes that of woodlands, hedgerows, arable and grassland fields plus gardens and riverside walks. In the river plants such as Water Crow-foot produce white buttercup-like flowers in late summer, whilst on the banks Iris and Marsh marigolds can be found.    

A disturbing occurrence of both Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed blights the river banks in places and is becoming more established. Effort has been made to eradicate the Balsam to no avail. 

River Sid: Fish in The Shortest River in England 

Kingfisher on England's shortest river
Kingfishers eat small fish

Despite predation from otter, kingfishers, cormorants and others the range of fish species is good. Surveys have found sea trout and brown trout; salmon, European eels, lamprey, bullhead, minnows etc. In areas where there is clean loose gravel, free of sediment, salmon and trout can breed. However there are several fixed weirs in the river that inhibit fish migration and a fish pass at the lower end of the river at School Weir is being considered. 

Fish rescues have been made when fish have been seen attempting to migrate upstream. The fish are netted and assisted over the weirs. Species have included salmon, sea and brown trout, elvers and other species. Clearly, should fish passes be built then the fish population could increase. 

However, the river is not always open to the sea. After storms it is sometimes blocked at the Ham by a shoal of pebbles with the water percolating through to the sea. These pebbles do eventually clear and open the river to the sea and potential migration.   

Pollution Potential: River Sid and Tributaries

Pollution from cesspit overflows higher up the valley and agricultural run-off along the whole length are serious pollution risks and has resulted in volunteers monitoring the river and tributaries on a regular basis. Tests carried out include those for  temperature, phosphates, turbidity, and TDS (total dissolved solids).

River Sid Geology

The River Sid rises at the junction of the Greensand and Keuper Marl in Crowpits Covert, some 620 feet above sea level. Other underlying strata include the silty mudstones and sandstones of the Triassic Keuper Marl which is overlaid with Greensands and clay with flints.  

Sid Valley’s place analysis can be found by following the link.

River Sid: A Single Parish River 

The river Sid is the only complete river in England that flows it’s whole length in a single parish.

River Sid: Fish in The Shortest River in England

There’s a huge variety of trees along the river Sid and it’s tributaries. From alders and oaks to elms, sycamores and limes, in fact the Sidmouth Arboretum lists over 700 trees across hundreds of species and many are on the banks of the Sid, it’s tributaries or nearby. Take for example the magnificent Cedar of Lebanon at the Ford or the willows in the Byes. They form the perfect backdrop to “England’s shortest river”.

River Sid Walks

There are 39 miles of footpaths and 20 miles of bridleways within the Sid Valley, but perhaps the best known to locals and visitors is the Byes walk from Sidford to Sidmouth, much of which closely follows the river. 


More Details on the River Sid 

A number of websites can information on the River Sid. Some are included below.

Westcountry Rivers Trust …..  

is instrumental in setting up the Citizen Science water quality monitoring project that local volunteers use to monitor the Sid and it’s tributaries.

Cartographer …. 
 Is where river monitoring results are reported.  

The Vision Group for Sidmouth River Sid website   ……

provides extensive information about the river Sid and the relevant organisations and projects.  

River Sid: River Level Monitoring …. 

this site provides detailed and current information on the river levels  

The River Sid  is a relatively shallow river. River levels on the Sid are monitored in Sidbury and Sidmouth and current levels can be seen by following the links below.

Current river levels at Sidmouth can be seen at

Current river levels at Sidbury can be seen at

The location of the monitoring stations can be seen below …

2 thoughts on “River Sid: The Shortest River in England?

  1. John Edwin Porter says:

    Hi. May I suggest the River Ems, five miles long, flowing from Stoughton, West Sussex to Emsworth, Hampshire as shorter. Or the River Jordan in Dorset. Even the River Limburne at Langstone, Hampshire. All flow to the sea. The River Wey at Weymouth is also about six miles long.

  2. Thanks John, an interesting list. The Ems and Jordan are certainly short and much of course depends on where a watercourse changes from being a brook or stream to being a river. The Wey, at a claimed 7.5 miles, is longer than the Sid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *