ABC of Chippenham: Avon

Today dawned frosty, misty and sunny: a perfect time to go downtown and take pictures of the River Avon. It's one of several rivers in England with the name Avon: This one is called the Bristol Avon because there's actually two River Avons in Wiltshire. The other is in the south of the county - we're in the north - and is called the Hampshire Avon.

Our River Avon arises near Old Sodbury in Gloucestershire and finally drains into the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth, near Bristol. It flows south from Gloucestershire into Wiltshire, where it joins with the Tetbury Avon at Malmesbury, not far north of Chippenham.

It then meanders around in a generally westwards direction forming the lifeblood of many Wiltshire towns and villages such as Lacock, Melksham and Bradford-on-Avon - in addition to Chippenham - before flowing into Somerset, and the city of Bath. If you take the train from Bath to the south coast, the line follows the Avon valley for many miles and is one of the finest rail journeys in England.

The photo is taken looking upstream from the wooden bridge in Monkton Park, a view I've not shown you before. I'm standing just a few yards from office buildings and a shopping centre and I like that this scene is more like the out of town rural views. We also have a slight connection with the river where we live as the stream at the side of our house - the Hardenhuish Brook - is one of the river's tributaries, joining it in the centre of town.

At various times I've used both the brook and the river as an outdoor classroom to teach people how to identify freshwater invertebrates and their importance in showing the water's health. This has improved over the years and on many evenings and weekends you can see quite a few people 'camped' downtown taking advantage of the coarse fishing available. However, I'm worried about the continued health of the varied bankside plants as I've seen the dreaded invasive Himalayan Balsam has arrived.

Going forward, Chippenham Vision has identified our river as a valued and underused resource which can be used to increase the town's quality of life. Awareness raising of its possibilities started two years ago by holding an annual summer River Festival with various events such as dragon boat racing. The river is a pleasant place for a stroll at any time of the year (except when it's awash with rain!) and cycling is another possibility as the Sustrans National Cycle Route 4 is routed alongside for a few miles on its way to/from Calne.

NB Avon is the old Celtic word for river, so it quite amuses me we're really saying the River River when we talk about it ;)

This is for ABC Wednesday and forms part 1 of my themed round of posts about Chippenham.


  1. other than ripping them out, is there any way to get rid of the himlayan balsam? lovely shot. it tickles me hearing a girl called 'colleen'--especially so when the parents don't realize they've named their child 'girl'.

  2. Language is so funny - River River!
    So is geography - TWO Avon Rivers?!

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  3. Great to have you aboard for Round 8! Yes I think a theme is a great challenge - hence mine! Looking forward to Round 8 for sure.
    ABC Team

  4. It reminds me that, when the weather is warmer, we will need to entice you back to Dorset to look at our salt and brackish water through Didcott's microscope.


  5. Lovely picture, so calm and peaceful. I had no idea that there were two Avons. Looks like there is also a village called Avon just outside Chippenham, so you could visit River on the River River! :-D Sara

  6. What a lovely picture. Cold but at least sunny here today. Having worked on such 'vision' documents they at least mean well. Looks like we've kept our library which is good news.

  7. I agree that the river is an underused resource of Chippenham. Have you ever been to the sailing club when they are sailing boats on the river - it quite comical to see sail boats in such a short space?

    Upstream from the 'bird bridge' is also the best place I ever known for dragon and damson flies - it is marvellous sort trip on a canoe - fancy coming sometime VP?

    In Wales the word Avon means river - so I guess it would mean River River over the bridge.

  8. Sorry can't let that typo go - I menat damsel flies not damson flies - there's a thought though.

  9. I liked the idea of damson flies.


  10. I'm your newest follower from ABC-WED, hope you will follow me back here@ Step Up
    Take Care

  11. What a beautiful photo, VP. Made even better by knowing that it's so close to a built-up area.

  12. Glad to see you back ABCing :) Look forward to finding out more about your locality. Not an area that I am at all familiar with and I am sure that you will provide an unique armchair guide.

  13. should we do a bit of balsam ripping in the spring do you think? as soon as it flowers its too late for the year really. It might help at least to slow down the spread.

  14. I learned about the two River Avons when I visited Bath a couple of years ago. When I left, a friend presented me with a book about the this 'River River' - now I want to take that train journey on my next visit.

  15. ohhh thanks for the heads up about the national 4 cycle route...years ago we did a 7 day cycle through the Cotswolds and loved it. Can't wait for the next and will note this post for research!

  16. That is an arrestingly lovely shot! The reflections, mirror calm water and soft light make it especially beautiful - a pleasure to gaze at.

    When we were little, and being driven down to Cornwall for family holidays, my brother and I used to giggle at the names Old Sodbury and Little Sodbury. Lovely to hear that mentioned again.

  17. Dear VP,
    Great photo which perfectly catches the stillness and cold. How wonderful to have that space and stillness so close to town.
    Completely agree re Balsam.
    I see it in one of my routine travels about 15 miles out of Bristol and it is over the years progressing very nicely along a ditch! Of course beside water the only really safe hope is to manually remove before seed projection.

  18. Petoskystone - ripping out is about the only solution when it's next to a watercourse. Lots of hard work!

    ROG - yes, in Wiltshire alone. Then there's the Warwickshire Avon (as in Stratford and Shakespeare). Afon is the equivalent in Welsh (and the f is prononced as v), so we have loads of them!

    Mrs Nesbitt - my last ABC (round 6) was also themed (weather). I remember when you themed yours around where you live, around the house is quite a challenge though!

    Esther - looking forward to it :)

    hillwards - that appeals very much to my sense of quirliness - I will seek it out immediately ;)

    Hermes - that's very good news. I saw the report on what's happening to Wiltshire's libraries in the Gazette and Herald yesterday - very depressing

    Mark - they must get a lot of tacking practice! Did you know Chippenham Swimming Club (one of the oldest in the country) originally had its sessions in the river? So wild swimming is nothing new around here! We get quite a few dragonflies in the garden - I love seeing them and it drives the cats mad. I'm much better at identifying the nymphs though.

    Esther - I rather the like the idea of damson flies too ;)

    jijie - welcome! I'm on my way over...

    HM - it makes me feel better that we have such a view in the middle of town

    Anna - I think you'll find it more difficult to predict what each letter will be than the last one :)

    Lu - we definitely need to do some balsam ripping in the spring

    Violetsky - welcome! You'll enjoy it very much. It's worth stopping off along the way and exploring the towns and villages.

    Joan - if you come this way, let me know :)

    PMN - Old Sodbury makes me snigger too ;)

    Robert - thanks, we're very lucky here. It was quite depressing to see the balsam there though :(

  19. I love the Avon - actually I love rivers! Nice for the Sodburys to get a mention too. We live so close to Chipping Sodbury (of vandalised tree fame) and I used to buy organic lamb from a farm in Old Sodbury. The pub does wonderful food. We really should take the kayak out on the Avon, there is nothing quite like the noise of paddles entering the water. Beautiful photo.

  20. Plantaliscious - thanks. I like the idea of taking a kayak on the river

  21. Yes, Himalayan Balsam, aka Policeman's Helmet - it bothers me too (I live in the Waveney Valley) but I don't hear many people expressing concern about it. It's pretty, after all.

    I heard about another invasive, non-native plant today: Piri Piri Burr, which is a problem at Minsmere Nature Reserve, and other places too.

  22. Mag - welcome and thanks for following :)

    I'm surprised about the lack of fuss - it's a reportable plant if I remember correctly. It's also edible - perhaps that's the way to get rid of it, eat it to death!

  23. Hi, just caught up with this page, comment on the balsam, some members of the sailing club went on a 'nature' paddle up stream towards kellaways with 2 of Wilts Wildlife people to see what we could find, very interesting, the seed pods when ready (or disturbed) will open by force and contort to throw the seeds out, no wonder it is so succesfull. I recomend paddling the river at any time of year it is facinating.


  24. Hi Meryl - Happy New Year!

    Yep, paddling's a really good thing to do :)

    That Himalyan Balsam has a very good survival strategy - even though it's a menace you have to admire it. Did you know it's edible?

  25. Yes I did find that out recently, I think from a book by Alyes Fowler (but can't find it now).

  26. yes I did, found it in a book by Alys Fowler I think (but can't find it now)The seed pods are really sculptural when they explode, I love them, pity about the problem though.

  27. There's a recipe on the self-sufficientish website somewhere too :)

    I wonder if we can eat up the problem? ;)

  28. Pity I didn't know a few months ago, would have tried some out, have to remember for next year. I did find a few recipes on the net


Your essential reads

Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

Salad Days: Mastering Lettuce

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

From The Editor's Post Bag...

Just Chilling

June Drop

Jack Go To Bed At Noon

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: The Best of Summer

Dessert Apple Jelly: Seasonal Recipe

Weekend Wandering: To the Sunflowers!