River Chew - A Somerset Stream
"Nature does nothing uselessly." - Aristotle
The End Of The River Chew
THE ONCE-SMALL brook that began its life as a modest hillside spring seventeen miles upstream at Chewton Mendip, finally meets its match in the form of the Bristol Avon at Keynsham.

River Chew confluence with the Bristol Avon, Keynsham With little fuss the River Chew joins its larger cousin beneath Avon Bridge, just over the county borderline in South Gloucestershire. The Chew's home straight is a tree lined, steep sided channel that runs parallel with the main Willsbridge road. Ordinarily, the river here is only a few feet deep with overgrown banks during the summer.

In times of flood, the waters of the Avon back up into the lower Chew as far as the Memorial Park weir, while a very high tide can also effect the Chew's lower reaches. Viewed from above on Avon Bridge, the confluence in spate often resembles a large lake, with the redder waters of the Chew contrasting the clay coloured torrent of the Avon as the two rivers intertwine like fighting snakes downstream of the road crossing.

Flounder resting on the river bed below Avon Mill Bridge During the floods of 1968, the old County Bridge over the Avon was damaged beyond repair, ironically by the swollen River Chew and its cargo of debris which had already destroyed several other key bridges upstream between Pensford and Keynsham.

Subsequently, a new road bridge was built to the east of the old one and the River Avon's route was redirected under it upon completion. This effectively added a few dozen extra yards to the length of the River Chew, which now utilises part of the abandoned Avon river bed on its way to the re-located confluence.

This strange twist of fate means the Chew now flows under the spot where the old Avon-spanning bridge once stood. The county line shown on recent Ordnance Survey maps follows the old route of the Bristol Avon, a lasting reminder of the days when the River Chew was a true 'Somerset stream'.

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Related Articles, Maps & Further Reading
Final straight
Final straight

High spring tide, Keynsham Park
High spring tide,
Keynsham Park

Looking towards Avon Mill Lane Bridge
Looking towards Avon
Mill Lane Bridge

The Chew / Avon confluence in flood
The Chew / Avon
confluence in flood

Avon Bridge plaque
Avon Bridge plaque

Site of the old County Bridge crossing
Site of the old County
Bridge crossing

Flooded final straight
Flooded final straight
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