The Swale is one of the fastest rising spate rivers in England, people used to say that the Swale 'rusheth rather than runneth'. The name 'Swale' is from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Sualuae' meaning 'rapid and liable to deluge'.
Annual rainfall figures of 1800mm in the headwaters and 1300mm in the lower waters over a drop of 148m in 32km, gives proof to its name. The rapid runoff may also in part be due to all the leadmining in the surrounding hills. Stripping the soil bare and damming and releasing water to wash out the lead ore has carved out many fast flowing water channels.
From its source the River Swale flows down past Keld and over a series of waterfalls at Kisdon. It continues down through this beautiful valley which is known for its hay meadows and barns. After passing Reeth it heads for Richmond where again there are dramatic waterfalls as the river curves underneath the castle.