- River Avon, Bristol
name = River Avon
native_name = Lower Avon
other_name = Bristol Avon
image_caption = The Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge
country = England | country_
state = Gloucestershire
state1 = Wiltshire
state_type = Counties
city = Chippenham
Bradford on Avon
city3 = Bath
length = 120
watershed = 2308
source_name = Old Sodbury
source_state = Gloucestershire
source_country = England
source_lat_d = 51
source_lat_m = 31
source_lat_s = 16
source_lat_NS = N
source_long_d = 2
source_long_m = 21
source_long_s = 09
source_long_EW = W
mouth_name = Avonmouth
mouth_lat_d = 51
mouth_lat_m = 30
mouth_lat_s = 22
mouth_lat_NS = N
mouth_long_d = 2
mouth_long_m = 43
mouth_long_s = 06
mouth_long_EW = W
tributary_left = River Frome, Somerset
tributary_left1 = Kennet and Avon Canal
tributary_left2 = River Chew
tributary_right = River Frome, Bristol
The River Avon is a
riverin the south west of England. Because of a number of other River Avons in England, this river is often also known as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon.
The Avon rises near
Chipping Sodburyin Gloucestershire, dividing into two before merging again and flowing through Wiltshire. In its lower reaches from Bath to the River Severnat Avonmouthnear Bristolthe river is navigable and known as the Avon Navigation.
The Avon rises near
Chipping Sodburyin 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 inside the Wiltshireborder, and then on to Sherston. At Malmesbury it joins up with its first major tributary, the Tetbury Avon, which rises just north of Tetburyin Gloucestershire. This tributary is known locally as the Ingleburn, which in Old Englishmeans '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 Valeuntil 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, Keynshamand Bristoland joins the Severn estuaryat Avonmouthnear Bristol. For much of its course after leaving Wiltshire, it marks the traditional boundary between Somersetand Gloucestershire.
In central Bristol, where the river is tidal, it is diverted from its original course onto the "New Cut", a channel dug between
1804and 1809at 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 Canalconnects with the Avon just below this weir and Bath Locks. Together with the Kennet Navigationand the River Thamesit 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
tidaland is navigable by sea going vessels at high tidebut 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.
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 (see 'Course' above), and is 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.
Upstream of the Floating Harbour via
Netham Lockis the Avon Navigation proper, which continues upstream for 12 miles as far as Bath. The stretch is made navigable by the use of locks and weirs at Hanham, Keynsham, Swineford, Saltford, Kelston and Weston. [ cite book |last=Pearson |first=Michael |authorlink= |title=Kennet & Avon Middle Thames:Pearson's Canal Companion |year=2003 |publisher=Central Waterways Supplies|location=Rugby |id=ISBN 0-907864-97-X ] 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. [cite web | title=The Kennet and Avon Museum, Devizes | work=Kennet and Avon Canal Trust | url=http://www.katrust.org/museum_heritage_planning_001.htm | accessdate=2006-08-20] For most of this distance the navigation makes use of the natural river bed, with six locks overcoming a rise of convert|30|ft|m|0. The Bristol Avon Navigation was constructed between 1724and 1727, following legislation passed by Queen Anne, [cite web | title=Navigation of the river Avon | work=Bristol History.com | url=http://weldgen.tripod.com/bristol-history-com/id2.html | accessdate=2006-09-22] by a company of proprietors and the engineer John Horeof Newbury. The first cargo of 'Deal boards, Pig-Lead and Meal' arrived in Bath in December 1727. [cite book |last=Allsop |first=Niall |title=The Kennet & Avon Canal |year=1987 |publisher=Millstream Book |location=Bath |id=ISBN 0-948975-15-6 ] It is now administered by British Waterways.
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 Damselflyis also found.
The river is also important for aquatic plants, including
Avon Gorgehas been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, as have; Bickley Wood, Cleeve Wood, Hanham, Stidham Farmnear Keynsham, and Newton Saint Loe (for geological reasons as it represents the only remaining known exposure of fossiliferous Pleistocenegravels along the River Avon.
The name "Avon" is a
cognateof 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".
County of Avonthat existed from 1974to 1996covering the Avon valley, including Bristoland Bath, was named after the river.
Rivers of the United Kingdom
* [http://www.steinsky.me.uk/river_avon.php Photos of the River Avon from Bath through Bristol, the New Cut, the Avon Gorge and the estuary at Avonmouth]
* [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/commondata/acrobat/ba__cams_1_1038339.pdf The Bristol Avon Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy]
* [http://www.portishead-lifeboat.org.uk Portishead and Bristol Lifeboat]
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