River Chew - A Somerset Stream
"If nature has taught us anything it is that the impossible is probable." - Ilyas Kassam
Chew Valley Lake
CHEW VALLEY LAKE is a large man-made reservoir nestling in the foothills of the Mendips, ten miles south of Bristol. It was formed by the construction of a dam on the River Chew near Chew Stoke in the 1950's.

Chew Valley Lake viewed from Knowle Hill 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.

Fly fishing at Chew Valley Lake 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 restaurant at Woodford Lodge. Further information can be found here.

Sunset viewed from North Shore 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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Related Articles, Maps & Further Reading
Chew Valley Lake viewed from Dundry Hill
Chew Valley Lake viewed
from Dundry Hill

Chew Valley Lake and the Mendip Hills
Chew Valley Lake and
the Mendip Hills

Sunset at Herons Green
Sunset at Herons Green

Gulls at Chew Valley Lake
Gulls at Chew Valley Lake

Chew Valley Lake from Burledge Hill
Chew Valley Lake from
Burledge Hill

Control tower at the dam
Control tower at the dam

'Fishermen Only' sign at Chew Valley Lake
'Fishermen Only' sign at
Chew Valley Lake

River Chew inlet at Herriots Bridge
River Chew inlet at
Herriots Bridge

Chew Valley Lake
Chew Valley Lake

Herriots End where the Chew enters the lake
Herriots End where the
Chew enters the lake

Unglamorous River Chew entrance during dry spell
Unglamorous River Chew
entrance during a dry spell
www.riverchew.co.uk

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