The river cuts a large swathe as it meanders through north east Somerset, an area collectively known as the Chew Valley. The majority of the Chew's course is rural, with the fertile flood plains and valley sides mainly used for agricultural purposes. Mill sites can be found at many of the villages in the Chew Valley.
Whilst the River Chew is relatively shallow and slow-to medium flowing, periods of heavy rain can considerably swell the stream, at times causing major floods such as those experienced in 1968. Bank and land erosion causes the river to take on a reddish-brown colouration in times of spate.
The Chew has been contained by dams at Litton and Chew Stoke to create a total of 3 reservoirs, providing drinking water to the Bristol Water region. The largest of these - Chew Valley Lake - is a world reknowned fly fishing venue and one of the most important sites in the country for wintering wildfowl.
The Chew Valley area is a magnet for a large variety of wildlife, whilst the relatively unpolluted waters are home to many species of fish and aquatic life. There are also extensive areas of new and ancient woodland, with some trees, such as the Publow Oak, estimated to be in excess of 500 years old.
There are a great number of designated footpaths in the Chew area, including the Three Peaks Walk and the Two Rivers Way. There are also nature trails, picnic areas and a visitors centre at Chew Valley Lake, whilst the Forest of Avon skirts many of the lower Chew towns and villages, offering a wealth of permissive woodland footpaths.
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