Crimple Beck, Yorkshire, UK 1975-1978

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Location and Scale[edit]

Crimple Beck, Yorkshire, UK (Map Reference (SE) 284 519) 8.1 km^2

Crimple Beck from Beven et al., JH1984Crimple Beck from Beven HSB1978


Nested catchment network from 1975-1978

Continuing measurements of discharge at catchment outlet from 1972 (Crimple Beck at Burn Bridge, Environment Agency gauge 27051)


Average annual precipitation of about 800 mm.


The underlying bedrock is predominantly sandstones and intercalcated shales, mostly overlain by Pleistocene glacial tills (0.25- 1.5 m thick) with periglacial and fluvial deposits in the lower part. The drainage network is incised into these deposits and bedrock sections are rare. At least two local bedrock aquifers in the area give rise to minor springs. The quality of the superficial deposits varies greatly from unweathered impermeable blue glacial clay to local lenses of almost pure sand found near the upper watershed. Over most of the area, however, the subsoil has been shown to be relatively impermeable.

Most of the relatively flat upper slopes are characterized by stagno-gley soils, especially where the bedrock is shale or till material. On steeper slopes and over sandstone the better drainage conditions result in soils that vary from humic brown podsols to typical brown earth soils. There is some evidence in the headwaters for soils with interbedded layers of peat and stony sand developed over head or clay till.


The basin ranges from 115 to 250 m OD with moderate slopes and flat divides.

Vegetation / Land Use[edit]

The vegetation reflects the most intensive agricultural use to which most of the area has been subjected. Much of the basin is under improved pasture for sheep and cattle grazing, with a grass/summer barley rotation on some areas of better soil. Areas of other crops and woodland (mostly mixed deciduous trees along the channel banks) are small. Large areas of the lower part of the basin are underdrained, mostly by mole and tile drains but with some stone drains dating back to the nineteenth century (Harris, 1975).

In the highest part of the basin (Stainburn Moor) there is an area of unimproved rough grazing dominated by Nardus and Molinia grasses. There are Sphagnum and other bog mosses and Juncus rushes in poorly drained marsh and flush areas, and heather communities on the drier sand lenses noted above.

(Beven and Kirkby 1979)


The Crimple Beck experiment was carried out as part of a research project on the "Development of a simple physically-based hydrograph model for moderate-sized basins." funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council and led by Professor Mike Kirkby at the University of Leeds with Keith Beven as post-doc and Richard Iredale as a field technician. The work was later extended with Nick Schofield (later at the University of Western Australia) and Andy Tagg (later at Hydraulics Research Wallingford). Other fieldwork was also carried out in Crimple Beck, including the PhD thesis of Graham Harris (1975) on the response of old stone field under-drains (he went on to work at the Field Drainage Experimental Unit in Cambridge).

In addition to the outlet gauge with a Flat-V Crump Weir structure, a network of 7 gauging stations equipped with V notch weirs and 5 tilting syphon or tipping bucket rain gages was installed. The network was designed to study the differing responses of headwater and sideline areas as reported in Beven (1978). Additional ratings of the weirs were carried out using salt dilution gauging. The results of the field programme are presented in Beven (1978). Since all the recording was on charts, methods were developed for processing the charts into digital form (Beven and Callen, 1979).

The model that was developed in the project was the first version of the hydrological model Topmodel, making use of the topographic index first proposed by Kirkby (e.g. Kirkby, 1975). The model was first presented in a University of Leeds working paper (Beven and Kirkby, 1976), rejected by the Journal of Hydrology (Eamonn Nash wrote that it was of too local an interest) and then published in the Hydrological Sciences Bulletin (Beven and Kirkby, 1979). The Crimple Beck data was also used in a further test of the model, this time published in the Journal go Hydrology (Beven et al., 1984). For more on the assumptions, theory, versions and applications of Topmodel see Kirkby (1997), Beven (1997) and Beven (2012).

Reference Material[edit]

Harris, G. (1975) Modelling rainfall-runoff relationships in a very small catchment within the Crimple Beck basin, Yorks. Working Paper No. 102, School of Geography, University of Leeds

Kirkby, M J, 1975, Hydroograph Modelling Strategies, in R Peel, M Chisholm and P Haggett, eds., Processes in Physical and Human Geography, Ch. 3, 69-80, Heinemann: London

Beven, K.J. & Kirkby, M.J. (1976) Towards a simple physically based variable contributing model of catchment hydrology. Working Paper 154, School of Geography, University of Leeds.

Beven, K.J. (1978), 'The hydrological response of headwater and sideslope areas'. Hydological Sciences Bulletin, 23(4), 419-437.

Beven, K.J., Callen, J.L. (1979), 'HYDRODAT: A system of FORTRAN computer programs for the preparation and analysis of hydrological data from charts. British Geomorphological Research Group, Technical Bulletin 23.

Beven, K.J., Kirkby, M.J. (1979), "A physically-based variable contributing area model of basin hydrology'. Hydrological Sciences Bulletin, 24(1), 43-69.

Beven, K.J., Kirkby, M.J., Schofield, N., Tagg, A. (1984), 'Testing a physically-based flood forecasting model (TOPMODEL) for three UK catchments, J. Hydrology, 69, 119-143.

Kirkby, M J, 1997, Topmodel - a personal view, Hydrological Processes, 11: 1087-1097

Beven, K J, 1997, Topmodel: a critique, Hydrol. Process., 11(9), 1069-1086

Beven, K J, 2012, Rainfall-Runoff Modelling - The Primer, Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester.


Crimple Beck at Burn Bridge, Environment Agency gauge 27051