Monday, 13 July 2009

Somerset Rivers 4

The River Brue originates in the parish of Brewham in Somerset, England, and reaches the sea some 50km west at Burnham-on-Sea. It originally took a different route from Glastonbury to the sea, but this was changed by the monastery in the twelfth century

Source of River Brue at King Alfred's Tower

The River Brue originates in the same hills as King Alfred's Tower and the sources of the River Wylye and the Dorset Stour. It falls quickly in a narrow valley to a point just beyond Bruton where it is joined by the River Pitt. Here is takes a meandering route through a broad, flat-bottomed valley between Castle Cary and Alhampton. By the time it reaches Baltonsborough it is only some 10m above sea level and the surrounding countryside is drained into it by way of numerous rhynes. It passes Glastonbury before flowing in a largely artificial channel across the Somerset Levels and into the Bristol Channel at Highbridge. It is joined by the North Drain, White's River (which takes the water of the River Sheppey, Cripps River (an artificial channel that connects it to the River Huntspill) and many drainage rhynes. It is tidal below the sluices at New Clyce Bridge in Highbridge.
The River Brue has a long history of flooding. Its lower reaches are close to sea-level, and the river above Bruton drains an area of 31km2 into a steep and narrow valley. In 1768 the river rose very rapidly and destroyed a stone bridge in Bruton. In 1984 a protective dam was built 1km upstream from the town. The valley includes several Sites of Special Scientific Interest including Westhay Moor.


Tootal Bridge at Barton St David over the River Brue

At the time of King Arthur the Brue formed a lake just south of the hilly ground on which Glastonbury stands. This lake is one of the locations suggested by Arthurian legend as the home of the Lady of the Lake. Pomparles Bridge stood at the western end of this lake, guarding Glastonbury from the south, and it is suggested that it was here that Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur into the waters after King Arthur fell at the Battle of Camlann.
John Leland noted in the 16th century that the bridge had four arches, while W.Phelps in an 1839 illustration as having only two arches, one pointed, probably C14-15, and the other round. Excavations in 1912 found the remains of a second round arch regarded as C12 work. The current concrete arch bridge was built in 1911 and extended in 1972. It carries the A39 road over the Brue.

Alteration of route

River Brue with Glastonbury Tor in the background

Prior to the 13th century the direct route to the sea at Highbridge was prevented by gravel banks and peat near Westhay. The course of the river partially encircled Glastonbury from the south, around the western side (through Beckery), and then north through the Panborough-Bleadney gap in the Wedmore-Wookey Hills, to join the River Axe just north of Bleadney. This route made it difficult for the officials of Glastonbury Abbey to transport produce from their outlying estates to the Abbey, and when the valley of the river Axe was in flood it backed up to flood Glastonbury itself. Sometime between 1230 and 1250 a new channel was constructed westwards into Meare Pool north of Meare, and further westwards to Mark Moor. It then divided into two channels, one the Pilrow cut flowing north through Mark to join the Axe near Edingworth, and the other directly west to the sea at Highbridge.

Drainage improvements
Between 1774 and 1797 a series of enclosures took place in the Brue valley between the Poldens and Wedmore. In 1794 the annual floods filled the whole of the Brue valley. Work by the Commissioners of Sewers led to the 1801 Brue Drainage Act which enabled sections at Highbridge and Cripp's Bridge to be straightened, and new feeder channels such as the North and South Drains to be constructed. In 1803 the clyse at Highbridge, which had been built before 1485, was replaced and moved further downstream.


Map of Somerset Coal Canal, now mainly derelict

Both Galton's Canal and Brown's Canal once connected to the river. The Glastonbury Canal used the course of the River Brue from Highbridge to Cripp's Bridge, and part of the South Drain to Ashcott Corner.

Second World War
During the Second World War the Brue was incorporated into GHQ Line and many pillboxes were constructed along the river.

Gants Mill at Pitcombe, near Bruton, is a watermill which is still used to mill cattle feed. A 12kW hydroelectric turbine was recently installed at the site. There has been a mill here since the 13th century, but the current building was built in 1810.
During monastic times, there were several fish weirs along the lower reaches of the river. They used either nets or baskets, the fishing rights belonging to the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Abbot of Glastonbury.

The River Aller is a small river on Exmoor in Somerset, England.
It rises as several small streams around Tivington and Huntscott and flows through the Holnicote Estate past Holnicote and through Allerford, where it passes under a packhorse bridge of medieval origin. It then joins the River Horner, which flows into Porlock Bay near Hurlestone point on the Bristol Channel.

Porlock Bay

The River Avon (pronounced /ˈeɪvən/) is a river in the south west of England.

Avon Valley Gorge with Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge

Because of a number of other Rivers Avon in England, this river is often also known as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon. The name Avon is a cognate of the Welsh word afon meaning "river" (f is pronounced as v in Welsh).

The Avon rises near Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire, dividing into two before merging again and flowing through Wiltshire. In its lower reaches from Bath to the River Severn at Avonmouth near Bristol the river is navigable and known as the Avon Navigation.

The Avon rises near Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire, between the villages of Old Sodbury and Acton Turville. Running a somewhat circular path, the river drains east and then south through Wiltshire.
Its first main settlement is the village of Luckington, two miles (3 km) inside the Wiltshire border, and then on to Sherston. At Malmesbury it joins up with its first major tributary, the Tetbury Avon, which rises just north of Tetbury in Gloucestershire. This tributary is known locally as the Ingleburn, which in Old English means 'English river'.
Here, the two rivers almost meet but their path is blocked by a rocky outcrop of the Cotswolds, almost creating an island for the ancient hilltop town of Malmesbury to sit on.
After the two rivers merge, the Avon then turns south east away from the Cotswolds and then quickly south into the clay Dauntsey Vale until it reaches the biggest town so far, Chippenham. The wide vale is now known as the Avon Vale, and the river flows on to Melksham, via Lacock, then turns north-west through Bradford on Avon, Bath, Keynsham and Bristol and joins the Severn estuary at Avonmouth near Bristol. For much of its course after leaving Wiltshire, it marks the traditional boundary between Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Palladian Pulteney Bridge and the weir at Bath

In central Bristol, where the river is tidal, it is diverted from its original course onto the "New Cut", a channel dug between 1804 and 1809 at a cost of £600,000. The original course is held at a constant level by lock gates (designed by Jessop) and is known as the Floating Harbour. This gave the port an advantage by enabling shipping to stay afloat rather than grounding when the tide went down. Downstream of central Bristol the river passes through the deep Avon Gorge, spanned by Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Avon is continuously navigable from its mouth at Avonmouth as far as Pulteney weir in the centre of the city of Bath. The Kennet and Avon Canal connects with the Avon just below this weir and Bath Locks. Together with the Kennet Navigation and the River Thames it provides a through route for canal boats from Bristol to London. This navigable stretch can be split into three sections.
From Avonmouth to Bristol through the Avon Gorge, the river is tidal and is navigable by sea going vessels at high tide but drying to a steep sided muddy channel at low tide. It was largely the challenge of navigating this section that sealed the fate of the Floating Harbour as commercial docks, and saw them replaced by docks at Avonmouth.

Bristol Bridge and Floating Harbour
The second stage of the navigation is through the 1870s replacement for Jessop's locks and the Floating Harbour itself. This unusual dock has a tentacled plan resulting from its origins as the natural river course of the Avon and its tributary, the River Frome are intimately entwined with Bristol's city centre as few docks are. As a result of this, the Floating Harbour is one of the more successful pieces of dockland regeneration, with much of the dockside now occupied by residential, office and cultural premises, and the water area heavily used by leisure craft.

Weir at Swineford Lock.

Kelston Brass Mill overlooking Saltford Lock

Upstream of the Floating Harbour via Netham Lock is the Avon Navigation proper, which continues upstream for 12 miles (19 km) as far as Bath. The stretch is made navigable by the use of locks and weirs at Hanham, Keynsham, Swineford, Saltford, Kelston and Weston. The river Avon had been navigable from Bristol to Bath during the early years of the 13th century but construction of mills on the river forced its closure. For most of this distance the navigation makes use of the natural river bed, with six locks overcoming a rise of 30 feet (9 m). The Bristol Avon Navigation was constructed between 1724 and 1727, following legislation passed by Queen Anne, by a company of proprietors and the engineer John Hore of Newbury. The first cargo of 'Deal boards, Pig-Lead and Meal' arrived in Bath in December 1727. It is now administered by British Waterways.

River Avon near Fordingbridge

The river is important for its dragonfly communities, with a strong population of Scarce Chaser (found in only six other areas in England), together with a strong population of White-legged Damselfly. Red-eyed Damselfly is also found.
The river is also important for aquatic plants, including Loddon Pondweed.
The Avon Gorge has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, as have; Bickley Wood, Cleeve Wood, Hanham, Stidham Farm near Keynsham, and Newton Saint Loe (for geological reasons as it represents the only remaining known exposure of fossiliferous Pleistocene gravels along the River Avon.

River Avon at Bristol

The name Avon is a cognate of the Welsh word afon meaning "river" (f is pronounced as v in Welsh). "River Avon", therefore, literally means "River River". This explains the several English rivers with the name Avon.
The County of Avon that existed from 1974 to 1996 covering the Avon valley, including Bristol and Bath, was named after the river.

No comments:

Post a Comment