River Tame, West Midlands

River Tame, West Midlands

The River Tame is the main river of the West Midlands, and the most important tributary of the River Trent. [ [http://www.asiantaeth-yr-amgylchedd.cymru.gov.uk/yourenv/consultations/837013/?version=1&lang=_e.html Environment Agency, River Tame flood risk management scoping report] - 2: The Tame Catchment, 2004, p. 3,] The Tame is about 40km from source at Oldbury to its confluence with the Trent near Alrewas, but the main river length of the entire catchment, i.e the Tame and its main tributaries, is about 285 km.


The name derives from the Celtic language, although it may have even earlier roots. It is usually thought to mean "dark", [Kenneth Cameron, "English Place Names", Batsford, London, 1996, p.37, ISBN 0 7134 7378 9.] by analogy with the Sanskrit word "tamas", meaning darkness. Other possibilities are "slow moving", or "flowing" [John Ayto and Ian Crofton, "Brewer's Britain and Ireland", Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 2005, p.1085] although the precise meaning is uncertain.

Course and catchment

The Tame is generally considered to have two main sources; Willenhall and Oldbury, West Midlands. However, some of its tributary streams rise as far to the west and north as Wolverhampton. Much of the course of the river has been modified over the centuries and it now runs mainly through culverts or canalised channels in urban areas.

Both arms of the Tame flow through the Black Country. The shorter, Willenhall arm runs south from Willenhall, through Bentley, then turns south-east, following a realigned course alongside the M6 motorway. The Oldbury arm winds its way up through Great Bridge and Wednesbury meeting the Willenhall arm near Bescot, on the edge of Walsall.

The unified Tame then flows, partly through channels realigned to make way for the M6 motorway and its interchange with the M5 motorway, through Sandwell Valley and into north Birmingham. It passes through Hamstead to Perry Barr, through Witton and beneath Spaghetti Junction to Washwood Heath.

Skirting to the north of Castle Bromwich, it leaves Birmingham to the north east, passing Water Orton in Warwickshire. It then crosses into Staffordshire, past Tamworth (which takes its name from the river), before joining the River Trent near Alrewas. the eventual outflow is into the Humber Estuary.

The catchment of the Tame covers an area of nearly 1500 km² and contains a population of about 1.7 million people. The Tame has the most urbanised river basin in the United Kingdom with approximately 42% of the basin being urbanised. [cite book |title=Sediment Dynamics and the Hydromorphology of Fluvial Systems |author=John S. Rowan |coauthors=R. W. Duck, A. Werritty |year=2006 |publisher=IAHS |pages=98 |isbn=1901502686] .

The traditional industries of Birmingham and the Black Country, based on coal, iron and steel, were heavily polluting, and the Tame is conducted through a series of purification lakes below Lea Marston, in Warwickshire, to remove pollutants, an arrangement unique in the UK. [ [http://www.asiantaeth-yr-amgylchedd.cymru.gov.uk/yourenv/consultations/837013/?version=1&lang=_e.html Environment Agency, River Tame flood risk management scoping report] - 2: The Tame Catchment, 2004, page 5,] A large part of this lake area forms the Kingsbury Water Park. Clean-up operations in a notoriously polluted stretch of the river in the Witton area of Birmingham have meant that aquatic wildfowl such as ducks and swans have settled on that stretch of the river. Sandwell Valley has evolved over the last two decades into an important urban wildlife habitat.


There have been major flooding problems associated with the river. These result largely from the mainly urban character of the upper catchment. Rainfall runs off the roofs and hard surfaces, raising river levels very rapidly. Rapid house-building and commercial development may have exacerbated the problem in recent years. Another development contributing to worse flooding has been the general rise in groundwater levels in the upper catchment area. As traditional industries have declined and been replaced by light industries and services, far less water has been taken from the river and the underlying aquifer. [ [http://www.asiantaeth-yr-amgylchedd.cymru.gov.uk/yourenv/consultations/837013/?version=1&lang=_e.html Environment Agency, River Tame flood risk management scoping report] - 5: Key Issues, 2004, page 29,]

The river is susceptible to spectacular flooding at the village of Hopwas between Tamworth and Lichfield during periods of heavy autumnal rain, attested by the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the village's name:- hop - nook of land, was - watery. There is also a substantial bend in the course of the river between Hopwas and Elford, giving rise to the name of the area of Tamhorn.

The river is non-navigable. However clean-up operations in a notoriously polluted stretch of the river in the Witton area of Birmingham have meant that aquatic wildfowl such as ducks and swans have settled on that stretch of the river.


Flood prevention work was carried out on Sandwell Valley in the 1980s. Forge Mill Lake was created as a stormwater retention basin by enlarging an existing depression. The river was dredged to deepen it and the gravel used to construct an island in the lake. [C. Philip Wheater, Jo Wright: Urban Habitats, Routledge, London, 1999, p.125.] This evolved into part of a nature reserve, at present leased to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

In 2005, the river's alignment through Perry Hall Park in Perry Barr, Birmingham, just downstream of Sandwell Valley, was remodelled to slow the flow, alleviate flooding and create improved habitats for wildlife, as part of the SMURF (Sustainable Management of Urban Rivers and Floodplains) project.

Nonetheless, in June 2007, after heavy rain, the river burst its banks in the Witton area of Birmingham (just downstream of Perry Barr) [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/6759603.stm |title=Trapped workers home after flood |date=2007-06-16 |publisher="BBC News" |accessdate=2008-06-21] and at Kingsbury Water Park.



Great Bridge and West Bromwich. At this point it is still only 1-2 metres wide if not in flood.
Wednesbury. This section is heavily industrial, with very little public access, and the river often passing under warehouses and factories.
Black Country Route. Despite the appearance at this point it here enters an area of heavy industry.
Bescot Stadium railway station, under the M6 Motorway.
Tame Valley Canal over the River Tame at Ray Hall.
M5 motorway interchange with the M6 motorway northbound, after which it enters Sandwell Valley.

Sandwell Valley.
RSPB reserve's bird hide is visible across the lake, in the centre of the photograph.

National Memorial Arboretum, with Croxall Lakes to the left.
Pillbox on the west bank of the Tame, one of many defences constructed along the Midlands rivers during World War II.


:"See tributary"
*River Blythe
**River Cole
*River Rea
*River Anker
*Darlaston Brook

ee also

*Brookvale Park Lake
*Witton Lakes
*Tame Valley
*Tame Valley Canal
*River Tame, Greater Manchester
*Rivers of the United Kingdom


External links

* [http://www.smurf-project.info/ SMURF]
* [http://urgent.nerc.ac.uk/Meetings/2000/2000Proc/water/heng.htm Management of the Lower River Tame]

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