Increased public water supply demands have greatly stripped the river of its flow. When the reservoir is below capacity, the flow rate downstream of the lake is actually less than that above, despite having been augmented by the many additional streams and springs that feed the reservoir. Coupled with abstraction further downstream, this helps to explain why the River Chew is no longer the navigable water course that it once was.
From the lake outfall the Chew flows north to the town of Chew Magna, where it is crossed by the medieval Tun Bridge. The town was a thriving woollen centre in the Middle Ages, with a former tucking mill sited close to the bridge. The river is bolstered by Winford Brook as it leaves the town on its way to Stanton Drew.
The river deepens as it approaches the high weir at Stanton Drew, built to supply power to the nearby mill. After flowing beneath another medieval limestone bridge, the Chew passes to the left of the Stanton Drew Stone Circles, which date from approximately 3000-2000 BC. Legend states that the stones are the remains of a wedding party and musicians, petrified by the Devil for revelling on the Sabbath.
After meandering for another mile, the flow is checked once more by the weir and sluice at Bye Mills, a former iron and copper battery mill that was in use from the 1600's until 1860. The site was later used as a paper mill and is now a restored residential property, having been derelict and overgrown for many years.
The valley sides close in as the river travels to Pensford, beneath the impressive 330-yard, 16 arch railway viaduct which was built in 1873 to carry the Bristol and North Somerset Railway over the Chew Valley. It was closed following the floods of 1968, which had weakened its structure, though the last passenger service had already ceased in 1957 when major national rail cuts took place.
Downstream the River Chew once powered Pensford Mill via a small leat and mill race, creating a small island on which the St Thomas A Beckett Church, graveyard and public house gardens now stand. It mainly operated as a grist mill but also served as a copper warehouse. Pensford was an important medieval wool town and doubtless the original building acted as a fulling or tucking mill.
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