The River Stour is a the generic name for a group of rivers in Kent, England. The Stour has Kent's second largest catchment area (the River Medway having the largest). Both Ashford and Canterbury are situated on it.
The lower half of the river is tidal; its original mouth was on the Wantsum Channel, an important sea route in medieval times. The river has three major tributaries, and many minor ones. For much of its length it and flows in a generally south-west to north-east direction.
The town of Ashford marks the start of the middle section of the river, and the point where the several tributaries enter, the largest of which is the East Stour river from its source near Hythe. Now the Stour breaches the North Downs; for most of this distance there are no tributaries. After the Brook stream enters from the right there is now fifteen miles (24km) to Canterbury, where the river flows past the north end of the city. Fordwich, three miles (4.8km) further still, is the upper limit to which tides reach.
Beyond Fordwich, at the hamlet of Plucks Gutter,TR 26943 63444 the second of the large tributaries enters the main river: the 18.9 mile (30.2km) River Little Stour , which begins life as the springfed Nailbourne Stream. The twin villages in the parish of Stourmouth (West and East) mark the original point where the Stour entered the erstwhile Wantsum Channel, a strait used for hundreds of years until silting and land reclamation turned the sea channel into a large drainage ditch. At this point the third large tributary, the 8.4 mile (13.4km) Sarre Penn (named locally as the ‘’Fishbourne Stream’’) enters with the Wantsum Channel .Here the river turns southwards and, after making a loop to take it in a northward direction, it enters the Strait of Dover at Pegwell Bay. The Stonar Cut obviates the need for seagoing craft to take the longer route around the loop.
During WWI huge volumes of both troops and supplies were needed on the Continent and, in the utmost secrecy, a new port was built at Richborough. Landing facilities along the Cut were built, and the East Kent Light Railway was extended to service the port. Nothing now remains of much of those works, and the Cut has been allowed to return to its natural state.
Settlements on the river vary in size. The four most important are Ashford, sited at a crossing point of the river and on ancient track ways; Canterbury, at a junction of four Roman roads, where their Watling Street connected with the sea; Fordwich, the outport of Canterbury and tidal limit; and the once-thriving port of Sandwich. The villages of Wye, Chilham and Chartham lie on the stretch through the North Downs gap, Wye being a fordable crossing. Beyond Fordwich are the smaller settlements of Westbere and Chislet; and Stourmouth.
|Ruckinge Dyke (a)||Hamstreet||Willesborough|
|Whitewater Dyke (a)||Shadoxhurst||Ashford|
|Brook Stream (b)||Brook||Ashford|
|Kennington Stream (c )||Kennington||Ashford|
|Little Stour||Littlebourne||Plucks Gutter|
|River Wingham (e)||Ash (near Sandwich)||Wickhambreaux|
|North Stream, Chislet (f)||Herne||Reculver|
|North and South Streams||Hacklinge area||Sandwich|
In 1831 Joseph Priestley wrote his ‘’Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals and Railways’’. In it he described in one section the ‘’Canterbury Navigation, or River Stour’’. He includes an account of its course and the improvements being carried out at that time to assist navigation, and details of new port facilities.
The 51.5 mile (82.4km) Stour Valley Walk follows the river for much of its length .