The lake was completed in 1956 and harnesses the abundant rainfall of the Mendip catchment area (14,000 acres), providing drinking water for the nearby city of Bristol and the surrounding area. It has a total area of some 1,200 acres (575 hectares) and a total capacity of 4,500 million gallons.
Surprisingly, the maximum depth is just 37 feet at the dam (north) end, with an average depth of 14 feet. The lake has one main island called Denny Island. The River Chew enters Chew Valley Lake via the Herriots Pool nature reserve at the shallow southern end of the lake.
Rich agricultral farmland was flooded in order to form Chew Valley Lake including several farms and dwellings, which were removed beforehand. When water levels receed during dry spells, old hedgerows, tree stumps, roads and even a bridge can be seen once again.
The Bristol Water-owned reservoir is rich with wildlife and has been designated a SSSI, a Special Protection Area, and is one of Britain's most important sites for wintering wildfowl. It is a world-reknowned fly fishing venue and is one of the most heavily stocked Trout fisheries in Europe, with specimens in excess of 10lb in weight reported each season. Anglers can chose between 7 miles of bank fishing or one of over 30 boats available for day hire.
The lake is also a popular water sports venue, hosting windsurfing and sailing in addition to housing a nature reserve, several public picnic areas, woodland walks and a newly-refurbished restaurant at Woodford Lodge. Further information can be found here
During the storm of 1968, the lake gained an extra 471 million gallons and rose 19 inches in under 12 hours. At one point worried Bristol police issued a warning that the dam at Chew Valley Lake may not hold, prompting localised evacuation of populated valley areas downstream.
In actual fact the reservoir was 17 inches under head (below capacity) at the time the storm commenced, and so it held back 90 percent of the excess rain water, arguably preventing much worse consequences for the towns of the Chew Valley as a result.
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