Bed conditions (micro-relief, textural associations and packing structural arrangements) in the gravel-bed channel of Seale's Brook are shown to be closely interrelated; various categories are identified and related to mode of bed material transport and deposition.

Entrainment of bed material, commonly treated as a simple function of particle weight and channel hydraulics, is also shown to be strongly affected by varying and variable bed conditions. In particular, the classic concept of competence appears to be of restricted utility in such channels; resistance of bed material to fluid drag and to particle impact is augmented, over large parts of the channel bed, by its interlocking structure, made possible by the wide range in particle calibre, and by the characteristic disc and blade shapes of the slate debris.

Particle mobility, as indicated by distance of travel of labelled bed material, is only partly a function of particle weight; indeed, although particle mobility decreases from small pebbles to large cobbles, it also decreases for the finest bed material (very small pebbles). This appears to be explicable, partly in terms of the ease of entrainment (and duration of travel), and, partly in relation to the ease of transport of material over an uneven channel bed surface. Particle mobility is greatest for material in open and infilled structures and smallest for sediment in tight structural arrangements. Local bed slope also exerts an influence on the probability of particle entrainment and on particle mobility.

The findings emphasize the need for combining sedimentological and engineering approaches to bed material transport in coarse-bedded channels, and, at the same time, illustrate some of the reasons for the existence of indeterminacy in the modelling of bed-material transporting processes.