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River Chew

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Title: River Chew  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Chew Valley, River Avon (Bristol), Keynsham, Bath and North East Somerset, Mendip Hills
Collection: Bath and North East Somerset, Mendip Hills, Monarch's Way, Rivers of Somerset
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

River Chew

River Chew
River Chew between Stanton Drew and Pensford
Country England
County Somerset
District Chew Valley
 - left Strode Brook, Winford Brook
Source Chewton Mendip
 - location Mendip Hills, Somerset, England
 - elevation 305 m (1,001 ft)
 - coordinates
Mouth River Avon, Bristol
 - location Keynsham, Somerset, England
 - elevation 10 m (33 ft)
 - coordinates
Length 27 km (17 mi)
Basin 145 km2 (56 sq mi)
Discharge for Keynsham
 - average 1.18 m3/s (42 cu ft/s)
 - max 20 m3/s (706 cu ft/s)
 - min 0.5 m3/s (18 cu ft/s)
Topographical map of the Chew Valley

The River Chew is a small river in England. It merges with the River Avon after 17 miles (27 km) forming the Chew Valley.

The spring from which the Chew rises is just upstream from Chewton Mendip. The river flows North West from Chewton Mendip through Litton, Chew Valley Lake, Chew Stoke, Chew Magna and Stanton Drew. The river passes under the A37 at Pensford almost making the old church and pub garden into an island. The river then flows through the villages of Publow, Woollard, Compton Dando and Chewton Keynsham before joining the River Avon at Keynsham. For much of the Chew's route the Two Rivers Way footpath is alongside, the same route for part of its length is also part of the Monarch's Way long distance footpath. In total the Chew flows for some 17 miles (27 km) through the North Somerset countryside.


  • The name "Chew" 1
  • Course 2
  • Roman use 3
  • Floods of 1968 4
  • Fishing 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7
  • Gallery 8

The name "Chew"

The name "Chew" has Celtic origins, cognate with the River Chwefru, cliwyf-ffrenwy, "the moving, gushing water", ancient forms are Estoca (Chew Stoke), Chiu (Chew Magna) and Ciwetune (Chewton Mendip).[1] Its exact meaning has suggested several other explanations, including "winding water",[2] the ew being a variant of the French eau, meaning "water". The word chewer is a western dialect for a narrow passage and chare is Old English for turning.

However, some people agree with Ekwall's interpretation that it is derived from the Welsh cyw meaning "the young of an animal, or chicken", so that Afon Cyw would have been "the river of the chickens".[3]

Other possible explanations suggest it comes from the Old English word cēo ("fish gill"), used in the transferred sense of a ravine, in a similar way to Old Norse gil, or possibly a derogatory nickname from Middle English chowe ("chough"), Old English cēo, a bird closely related to the crow and the jackdaw, notorious for its chattering and thieving.[4] According to Robinson it is named after the Viking war god Tiw.[5]


It is likely that the current course of the river occurred after the last ice age and that previously the river followed the course of the Congresbury Yeo to the Bristol Channel. When ice blocked the Bristol Channel the course is likely to have been diverted so that the Chew flowed north rather than west through Compton Martin to join the Avon.[6]

Roman use

"Pigs" (ingots) of lead from the Charterhouse Roman Town on the Mendips were brought to the river to be transported to Sea Mills on the Avon for transshipment overseas.[7]

Floods of 1968

Memorial stained glass window in the Church of St Peter, Marksbury to a resident who lost her life when the Pensford Bridge was swept away.

The river suffered a major flood in Great Flood of 1968 with serious damage to towns and villages along its route, including sweeping away the bridge at Pensford.[8]

On 10–11 July a storm brought heavy rainfall to the Valley, with 175 millimetres (7 in) falling in 18 hours on Chew Stoke, double the area's average rainfall for the whole of July.[9]


Fish ladders have been installed at three weirs in Keynsham and Chewton Keynsham to allow fish to travel upstream. Fishing rights for the Millground and Chewton sections of the river are owned by Keynsham Angling Club.[10] The Mill Ground stretch of the River Chew consists of the six left-bank fields (looking downstream) from Chewton Place at Chewton Keynsham to the Albert Mill, Keynsham. The water is home to a good stock of sizeable Chub, Roach, European perch and Rudd, along with good numbers of Gudgeon, Dace and Trout. In the Chewton section, waters are much more 'wild' than the Mill Ground, with overhanging trees and fast-flowing runs, leading to deeper eddies and pools. Not all swims are fishable and some will need hacking out before angling, but this is a classic roving river. Trout, Grayling and Chub lurk in the shady, meandering stream, along with a good showing of Dace, Roach and Eel.

Any flood alerts for this river are available from the Environment Agency River Chew from Chewstoke to Keynsham page.[11]


  1. ^ "Notes on the names of parishes in the county of Somerset", Notes and Queries 15 September 1883:204, drawing upon Eyton, Domesday Studies and Collinson, Somerset.
  2. ^ "History of the River Chew". River Chew Web Site. Retrieved 3 July 2006. 
  3. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1928). English River-Names. Oxford University Press.  
  4. ^ "What we know about the Chew Family". Retrieved 3 July 2006. 
  5. ^ Robinson, Stephen (1992). Somerset Place Names. Wimbourne: The Dovecote Press Ltd.  
  6. ^ Haslett, Simon K. (2010). Somerset Landscapes: Geology and landforms. Usk: Blackbarn Books. pp. 116–118.  
  7. ^ Havinden, Michael. The Somerset Landscape. The making of the English landscape. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 71.  
  8. ^ "The great flood of 1968". Memories of Bristol. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2006. 
  9. ^ Richley, Rob (June 2008). The Chew Valley floods of 1968 (PDF). Exeter: Environment Agency. 
  10. ^ "River Chew". Keynsham Angling Club. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  11. ^ "River Chew from Chew Stoke to Keynsham, Chew Stoke Stream and Winford Brook". Environment Agency. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 

External links

For further information, visit the dedicated River Chew website at


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