Walking from Chew Magna to Pensford via Stanton Drew

This week we followed the river Chew from the Chew Valley reservoir to Pensford stopping to visit the stone circle at Stanton Drew.

In a recent poll the Chew Valley reservoir came near the top of places for Bristolians to visit. However the river Chew which runs through the Chew valley and feeds the reservoir is not very well known.  The Chew Valley has been in the news this weekend as a group of metal detectorists have discovered a hoard of silver coins dating back to the battle of Hastings and valued at about five million pounds.

A crocodile of walkers walking p
The disused railway viaduct at Pensford

Our walking group followed the river Chew for part of its course from Chew Magna through Stanton Drew to Pensford. For me this was also a chance to catch up with a bit of family history as my grandmother was born in the village of  Stanton Drew in 1882.

The river Chew rises near Chewton Mendip and flows for about seventeen miles to join the Avon at Keynsham. In earlier times it was a much larger river and may have been used by the Romans to transport lead ingots from the Mendip hills.

In 1956 however part of the Chew Valley was flooded to form the Chew valley reservoir  . This supplies water to much of South Bristol and the surrounding area. The reservoir covers 1,200 acres and holds 4,500 million gallons of water. During dry spells you can often see the remains of buildings and tree stumps. The lake is now an important site for birdwatching and wildfowl conservation. Bristol water and Avon wildlife trust have created a series of free nature trails and bird hides.  There is also a good fish and chip restaurant, the salt and malt, on the site and a small exhibition about how the reservoir was created including pictures of the farmland and buildings that were submerged. Other activities on the lake include fly fishing and sailing. There is a small charge for parking.

We picked up the river Chew close to where it emerges from the reservoir and followed the two rivers footpath for part of its route. Chew Magna has several grand houses including the former summer residence of the bishop of Bath and Wells. It owed a lot of its prosperity to the wool trade. From Chew Magna we followed a public footpath through a maize field and along by the side of the river to Stanton Drew.

Stanton Drew

The thatched round told house at Stanton Drew
The toll house

The old toll house is a familiar site for visitors driving through the village. My  grandmother could remember a family with several children  living in the tiny round house.

Sitting on a bench beside Stanton Drew Church.

My great grandparents are buried in the Churchyard at Stanton Drew. My great grandfather was a shoemaker and made a good living making boots for miners from the nearby coalmines. It was a very hot day and we paused for refreshment at the Druid Arms which is next to the church and has a lovely garden complete with ancient stones.

A school photo with boys in suits and girls in pinafore dresses.
Stanton Drew school about 1895

One from the archives. The pupils of Stanton Drew village school about 1895. My grandmother who was a pupil teacher is on the right in front of the headmaster.

Stanton Drew has two claims to fame. The first is as the site of an extensive area of neolithic stones.  Unlike the stones at Stonehenge they were quarried locally and are much smaller. The site has not been extensively studied but geophysical evidence suggests that there were also wooden posts either as part of a building or a wooden circle. The site is managed by English heritage and there is a voluntary £1.00 admission charge. According to an old legend they are the remains of a bridal party and musicians who were turned into stone for dancing on the Sabbath. No one really knows why they were erected  but they were certainly there before the druids.

Walking past the stones.

Stanton Drew’s other claim to fame is that it is the subject of a song by Adge Cutler, the lead singer of the Wurzels. “When the common market comes to Stanton Drew.” Although it was written over forty years ago it is still relevant today with the current debate over Brexit. Click here to hear it on you tube. When the common market comes to Stanton Drew


We walked on through the beautiful rolling countryside to Pensford. The railway viaduct in the top picture used to be part of the Somerset and Dorset railway known as the S & D or slow and dirty. At Pensford we were able to see flood markers from 1968 when the peaceful river Chew burst its banks and flooded nearby villages. The water swept away several bridges and killed eight people. A night I remember well.

I hope you enjoyed my ramble. Unfortunately we did not find any treasure. I always look forward to reading your coments.Next week’s walk should be a visit to Salisbury famous for its cathedral which has the highest spire in England.

Author: Anne Fraser

Hi, I am Anne, I am a retired nurse from Bristol in South West England. I am married with five grown up children, four boys and a girl , a grandson and a cat. I like History, travel and reading. I hope to connect with other people with similar interests.

9 thoughts on “Walking from Chew Magna to Pensford via Stanton Drew”

  1. Anne, are you therefore related to the Mr and Mrs Fraser who lived at Mill Place by the bridge across from Stanton Court, had a Butler / Handyman called Mr. Barnes? I seem to remember that Mr. Fraser was a retired magistrate. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s they used to hold community events on their lawn. One day I was picking conkers from the trees near the road (trespassing of course) when Mrs Fraser called me over and introduced me to Lady May Abel-Smith. I would have been maybe 6 or 7 at that time.
    I grew up along Sandy Lane, we built Odtaa in 1955 (I am 9 months older that that house) and I was much involved in Village affairs ntil I moved to Calgary, Canada in 1975. Just wondering …

    1. No I am sorry. My grandmother was Mabel Cox . Fraser is my husband’s surname but his dad came from Inverness in Scotland. I am glad you remember Stanton Drew and I hope you liked my photos.

  2. Had written a comment but don’t see it here. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us via #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.

  3. That toll house looks like something out of The Hobbit. More like a troll house than toll house! Pleased to see a number of girls in the class photo from the Stanton Drew school as far back as 1895. Thank you for sharing with us for the #blogginggrandmothers link party.

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