River Avon, Bristol

River Avon, Bristol

name = River Avon
native_name = Lower Avon
other_name = Bristol Avon
other_name1 =

image_size =
image_caption = The Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge
country = England | country_

country1 =
state = Gloucestershire
state1 = Wiltshire
state_type = Counties
region =
region1 =
district =
district1 =
city = Chippenham
city1 = Melksham
city2 = Bradford on Avon
city3 = Bath
city4 = Bristol
length = 120
watershed = 2308
discharge_location =
discharge_average =
discharge_max =
discharge_min =
discharge1_location =
discharge1_average =
source_name = Old Sodbury
source_location =
source_district =
source_region =
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
source_elevation =
source_length =
mouth_name = Avonmouth
mouth_location =
mouth_district =
mouth_region =
mouth_state =
mouth_country =
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
mouth_elevation =
tributary_left = River Frome, Somerset
tributary_left1 = Kennet and Avon Canal
tributary_left2 = River Chew
tributary_right = River Frome, Bristol
tributary_right1 =
free_name =
free_value =

map_size =
map_caption =

The River Avon is a river in 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 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 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.

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.

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 Lock is 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 1724 and 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 Hore of 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 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.


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.


See also

*Other River Avons
* Rivers of the United Kingdom

External links

* [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]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • River Frome, Bristol — Geobox|River name = Frome map size = map caption = other name = other name1 = country = England country region type = Counties region = South Gloucestershire region1 = Bristol region2 = region3 = | region6 = region7 = city = Bristol city1 = city2 …   Wikipedia

  • River Avon — (from Welsh afon , river ) may refer to:In England: *River Avon, Devon, Bigbury on Sea near Salcombe *River Avon, Warwickshire through Stratford upon Avon *River Avon, Hampshire through Salisbury, Wiltshire and Christchurch, Dorset *River Avon,… …   Wikipedia

  • River Avon, Wiltshire — There are two rivers in Wiltshire, England, named Avon: * River Avon, Bristol, which flows through the north of the county and into the Bristol Channel at Avonmouth, Bristol * River Avon, Hampshire, which flows through Salisbury and into the… …   Wikipedia

  • River Avon — noun 1. a river in southwestern England rising in Gloucestershire and flowing through Bristol to empty into the estuary of the Severn • Syn: ↑Avon • Instance Hypernyms: ↑river • Part Holonyms: ↑England 2. a river in central England that flows… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Río Avon (Bristol) — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Para otros usos de este término, véase Río Avon. Avon Vista del río Avon …   Wikipedia Español

  • River Chew — Geobox|River name =River Chew native name = other name = other name1 = image size = image caption = River Chew between Stanton Drew and Pensford country = England | country country1 = state = Somerset state type = County state1 = region = region1 …   Wikipedia

  • Bristol Harbour — is the harbour in the city of Bristol, England. The harbour covers an area of convert|70|acre|ha|1|abbr=off|lk=on. It has existed since the 13th century but was developed into its current form in the early 19th century by installing lock gates on …   Wikipedia

  • Avon (county) — Avon Avon shown within England Geography Status Non metropolitan county 1974 area …   Wikipedia

  • Avon (Rivière) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Avon. Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Plusieurs rivières de Grande Bretagne sont nommées Avon. Sommaire …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Avon (riviere) — Avon (rivière) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Avon. Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Plusieurs rivières de Grande Bretagne sont nommées Avon. Sommaire …   Wikipédia en Français