Chew Valley Lake is the largest reservoir in the South-west of England, with an area of 1,200 acres (4.9 km²). The lake, created in the early 1950s and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956, provides much of the drinking water for the city of Bristol and surrounding area, taking its supply from the Mendip Hills. Some of the water from the lake is used to maintain the flow in the River Chew.

Before the lake was created, archaeological investigations were carried out that showed evidence of occupation since Neolithic times and included Roman artefacts. The lake is an important site for wildlife and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. It is a national centre for birdwatching, with over 260 species recorded. The lake has indigenous and migrant water birds throughout the year, and two nature trails have been created.

Nature Trails

Grebe nature trail

Starting and finishing at the wooded picnic area 2, this short and sweet 1.2km circuit takes you into the heart of our conservation area. Listen out for the distinctive “tuwit-tuwit-tichutt-tichutt” song of the shy but vocal Cetti’s warblers. Stop at the Hollow Brook footbridge and spot the swans and moorhens. The path is suitable for pedestrians, pushchairs and wheelchairs. Dogs must be kept on leads.

Bittern nature trail

Explore the boardwalks, bird hide and lookout tower on this 1.5km circular path (this one’s not surfaced and can be muddy in places). The meadows are filled with wildflowers, including the bright blue meadow cranesbill, as well as butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies. Dogs are not allowed.