Walk Duration: 1hr 30 (longer in wet, muddy weather)
OS Map: OS Landranger 172 Bristol & Bath; OS Explorer 155 Bristol & Bath;
Suitable for: Babies in backpacks (n.b. x 2 tricky stiles); older children
Walk features: field walking, riverside walking, lake, river, dam, pub, tea shop, bank, point of historical interest, ducks and wildfowl, visitor centre, fire station,
Related walks: Chew Valley Lake Nature Trails Walk
The Chew Valley is a beautiful area for walking and is easily accessible from Bristol. With its lush green fields and gentle hills and idyllic Chew Valley Lake this is a very charming spot to enjoy a rural ramble. The Chew Valley Lake to Chew Magna walk is a lovely circular riverside wander taking in two of Chew Valley ‘s villages - Chew Stoke and Chew Magna before returning to the lakeside.
This is a great family walk for dry spring and summer days as it involves mainly gentle field walking with the occasional scramble over a stile. In winter after periods of heavy rain it can be very muddy and is best avoided. There is parking at the walk start at Chew Valley Lake picnic area as well as other facilities including a tea shop, baby changing and an information centre and there are pub and cafe options in Chew Magna. It is perfectly possible to walk this route with a baby in backpack but it does involve climbing over stiles and you should be aware that there are two metal rail stiles on the Chew Stoke to Chew Magna stretch that can be tricky (particularly when wet) for solo walkers with baby riding behind.
The walk starts from Chew Valley Lake picnic area (the one closest to Chew Stoke and adjacent to the dam). Exit the car park to the main road and turn left along the grass verge towards Chew Valley Lake dam. Be careful when you walk around the bend – cars come quite quickly around here so keep mini-walkers close to the hedge. Join the path across the dam and enjoy the views over Chew Valley Lake. The walls are quite high here to discourage traffic from dawdling dangerously but little legs will get the chance for views towards the far end where there are railings on both sides where excess water cascades down the overflow when the reservoir levels are high.
Cross over the road and continue walking along the grass verge past the entrance to Bristol Water. Pass through the small copse (again – keep kiddies well in from the road here) and just the other side of it you will find a small farmer’s lane with a footpath sign marked turning back on the direction you have come from on your side of the road, directly opposite the gateway to Chew Valley Sailing Club which is on the other side of the road. Turn right and walk down this lane.
At the end of the lane, turn onto the path through the woods to the right hand side of the gate. This footpath leads into the field at the far side of the woods. Continue walking along the left hand edge of the field until you come to a stile (if the stile is in a bad state, as it was at time of writing, continue a little further along and you will come to a gateway. Walk through and follow left hand side of field and rejoin the walk at ** below). Go over the stile and keeping to the field’s right hand side, walk to the far right hand corner. Here you will find both a kissing gate into the next field and the River Chew whose course the walk follows to Chew Magna. Go through the gate and turn left, following the edge of the field.
**Cross over the stone bridge in the left hand corner of the field and through the kissing gate on the opposite bank of the river. The path now leads diagonally right and gently uphill across the field – when you get to the opposite hedge follow it as it bends to the right and the path leads to another kissing gate. Walk through and continue straight on and through two more metal kissing gates. There are some lovely views here across this gentle pastoral countryside as it sprawls lazily on either bank of the river.
Go through a third gate to the sports field (keep dogs on a lead here). There is a gate in the treeline on the bank directly opposite here which you need to head for. It can get very wet here after prolonged rain so please help Chew Valley School prevent their rugby pitch turning into a bog by skirting the field and walk up on the path to your left that leads round the bank.
Go through the gate in the treeline, following the public footpath signs and into the field beyond. The path leads to a metal stile which was in a poor state at time of writing. If you are walking with a baby in a backpack you may find it easier and safer to take the backpack off and lift it first before climbing over yourself as the rails are quite slippery. Up on the hill top to your right you will walk past Chota Castle and its grounds – a mid-19th century folly-castle with pretty gardens. Pass over another metal stile (take care again with baby backpacks) and head for the kissing gate straight ahead.
The path now takes you through the woods, with plenty of opportunities for budding wildlife enthusiasts to search for signs of badgers and foxes around the series of burrows and holes along the side of the path. On the far side of the copse pass through the kissing gate to your right and bear right across the field. At the opposite side you will come to a bridge over the river – a perfect spot for playing Pooh sticks!
Don’t cross the bridge (unless wanting to cut the walk short by missing out Chew Magna, in which case go over the bridge and rejoin the walk at *** below, where you will be turning right instead of left) but turn left up the hill. A bit of a climb will bring you out on the main road in Chew Magna opposite the opticians. Cross over the road and turn right to walk into Chew Magna ‘s village centre. Here you will find a Cooperative, a post office, a cash point and Moondance cafe. There are three pubs in Chew Magna offering good tasty meals - the Bear and Swan and the Pelican you will pass on the main street whilst the Queen’s Arms is tucked down behind the church.
Continue on the raised pavement through Chew Magna , passing the entrance to pretty 12th century St. Andrew’s Church on your left and worth exploring in its own right. Children in search of grizzly tales will be fascinated by the grave of William Fowler here who according to his effigy was shot by a highwayman on Dundry Hill in 1814!
Follow the pavement round to the right and cross over the road after Natwest bank. The raised pavement carries on through Chew Magna village and passes over the river. At this bridge, cross the road and passing to the right hand side of the fire station, walk down Dumpers Lane.
Pass Dumpers House on your right – an impressive 15th century farmhouse – and just around the bend you will come to a footpath signpost. *** Turn left following the sign to Dumpers Cottage and go through the kissing gate a short way along the track and into the field beyond.
The path now follows the River Chew all the way on its return leg. Follow the riverside through the meadow to the gate at the far side (in the winter and if it has been wet then keep up on the left hand bank instead as the flat part of the field is likely to be very boggy). At the far side of the next field pass through the pair of kissing gates and small footbridge. Follow the general line of the telegraph poles to another footbridge. This ones needs quite a big step up to it at time of writing due to recent flooding eroding the soil at its base, so take care.
The path curve around gently to the left before reaching another gate. This field can get quite wet and marshy so its best to keep up the bank on the left hand side and walk to the opposite end where you will find a small footbridge leading into the woods beyond.
Carry on over a second bridge and follow the path until you meet the lane leading to the sewage works away to your right. Turn left up the lane and just before the gate leading onto the road beyond you will see a footpath across the field to your right hand side. Take this path and enjoy the lovely views of Chew Valley lake that open up before you as you reach the brow of the hill. Follow the path downhill and over the stile and cross over the road back to Chew Valley Lake picnic area where you started.
Map of Route:
Chew Valley Lake picnic area is located between Bishop Sutton and Chew Stoke on Wally Lane. There are two picnic areas - the walk starts from the one closest to Chew Stoke and next to the dam, with its entrance found close to the intersection of Denny Lane with Wally Lane.
Pay and display parking is available all day at the picnic area (with an incentive at time of writing for money back if you spend over £6 in the teashop).
For those travelling by public transport, take the 672 Chew Valley Explorer bus from Colston Avenue or Bristol Temple Meads railway station and begin the walk at Chew Magna instead of Chew Valley Lake. There are several buses daily from central Bristol. You can find timetables here.
View Chew Valley Lake to Chew Magna circular walk in a larger map
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