River Teme

River Teme

The River Teme (Welsh Afon Tefeidiad) rises in Mid Wales, south of Newtown in Powys, and flows through Ludlow in Shropshire, then to the north of Tenbury Wells on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border there, on its way to join the River Severn south of Worcester. The whole of the River Teme was designated as an SSSI, by English Nature, in 1996.

The river is crossed by a number of historic bridges including one at Tenbury Wells that was rebuilt by Thomas Telford following flood damage in 1795.


The name Teme is similar to many other river names in England, testament to the name's ancient origin. Similar names include River Team, River Thames, River Thame and River Tame. Scholars now believe these names and the older names Temese and Tamesis derive from Brythonic Tamesa, possibly meaning 'the dark one'.


The river source is in Mid Wales on Cilfaesty Hill in the Kerry Hills near Dolfor, south of Newtown. Two other rivers - the River Ithon and the River Mule - rise within 500 metres. It flows across the border into England close to Knighton. From there to its confluence with the River Severn, at Worcester (about 60 miles/100 km downstream) it flows through the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. The upper reaches of the river are usually steep with fast flowing but relatively shallow waters. There are some water mills, and a number of weirs, including several at the historic town of Ludlow. Below Tenbury Wells the river is more tranquil but still shallow, with strong cross currents. Water levels in the Teme are highly variable, something which has been made worse in recent years through increases in water extraction for agriculture use.

During its journey the river flows over Upper Ludlow shales and Devonian sandstones.

The River Clun flows into the Teme at Leintwardine in north Herefordshire. The River Corve flows into the Teme just outside Ludlow and the Ledwyche Brook flows into the Teme at Burford on the Herefordshire/Shropshire border. The Kyre Brook flows into the Teme at Tenbury Wells, and the River Rea flows into the Teme at Newnham Bridge, Worcestershire, a few miles south of Cleobury Mortimer, a small Shropshire town.

The Teme falls nearly 500 metres during its length from a height of 506 metres above sea level at its source to just 14 metres above sea-level at its confluence with the River Severn.

The Teme has in recent times often bursts its banks. June and July 2007 saw serious floods in a number of areas, including Leintwardine, Tenbury Wells and Ludlow although the watercourse that flooded the latter location was a tributary, the River Corve.

It is the 14th longest river in the United Kingdom; top-10 for England and Wales.


The Teme is a clean river and after many years of decline the population of otters is recovering, but obstructions keep salmon numbers at a low level.

Recreational use


Fishing is popular on many stretches of the Teme, with its barbel fishing being particularly noted.

Leisure boating

Leisure boats have long been used on the river and rowing boats can still be hired at The Linney Park, Ludlow. An annual coracle regatta is held on the Teme. In June 2005 it was held at Leintwardine. In June 2006, the 12th regatta was held at Mortimer's Cross.

A Countryside Agency report in September 2003 entitled Improving access for canoeing on inland waterways: A study of the feasibility of access agreements stated:

There are no formal access agreements for canoeing on the Teme. However, unlawful canoeing does occur and there are many claims about the resulting conflict. As a result of its character, the demand for canoeing is seasonal, when there is enough water in the river, and is more in the upper reaches where the faster water can be found. However, this part of the river is also the most valuable for fishing, with riparian owners keen to protect their interests and prevent canoeing, on the grounds that the Teme is not suited to canoeing under any circumstances. While there is probably less conflict below Tenbury, there is also less interest in canoeing, and probably less opportunity, given the water levels.
Information on canoeing on the Teme in the Ludlow area is available at http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/teme.htm - information on the Tenbury Wells to Broadwas area is available at http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/temetenbury.htm

Leisure boating in the past

Historical evidence of leisure boating includes:

  • Old maps show a few boat houses along the river in Worcestershire.
  • Billings Directory 1855 mentions Boat House, evidently a farmhouse, at Eastham (five miles downstream of Tenbury Wells). Boat House Farm still exists at Eastham
  • The boathouse at Newnham Bridge (three miles downstream of Tenbury Wells) was large enough, and substantial enough, to be converted into a house.
  • At Tenbury Wells in 1886, people were rescued during floods using a boat that had broken loose from its mooring so there must have been at least one boat on the river at that time.
  • Down Along Temeside includes an account of travelling by boat from Ludford Mill to Orleton (a couple of miles upstream of Stanford Bridge) in the early 20th century.
  • Tenbury Wells and the Teme Valley includes a photograph taken at Little Hereford described as 'Boating on the Teme in 1905'. The author mentions two gentlemen from Oxford who in 1894 travelled up the Teme from Worcester to Ludlow in 17.5 hours, and returned (downstream) in 9 hours.

Commercial navigation

There is no doubt that the final from Powick bridge and Mill to its confluence with the river Severn that the Teme is (or was) navigable. There was a coal wharf near Powick Bridge, belonging with the mill, whose owner had the right to use a towing path to the river Severn. In the 18th century, pig iron was brought up the river to Powick forge (as the mill then was).

There are two opposing views as to whether the river Teme was navigable by boats carrying cargo above Powick Mill for more than short distances or as ferries. Undoubtedly, navigation would have been very convenient for the ironmasters at Bringewood Ironworks, Herefordshire, but the proponents of navigation have not been able to bring forward any unequivocal documentary or archaeological evidence of its use. They allege that there were flashlocks to enable vessels to pass mill weirs, as on the river Thames, but adduce no evidence of any, or of actual voyages.

An 1810 book states "The Teme is also navigable for barges from its junction with the Severn near Powick upwards to a small distance above Powick Bridge. The river having considerable declivity its navigation is soon interrupted by shoals and shallows"

Maxwell Fraser writing in 1939 in the Companion into Worcestershire, "comment on the River Teme", states "... half it course lies in Worcestershire, and the most easily navigated part is wholly in that county.

In 1999 Colin Green claimed that traffic on the Teme began in Roman times and 'continued in Norman times, when it is known the stone for the mill at Ashford Carbonel was brought from Caen in the 14th century, using water transport all the way'. However no earlier published source for this claim has been provided.

William Sandys (who improved the Avon) was at the same time also authorised to improve the Teme, but there is no evidence that he did so, perhaps due to his having used up all his resources on the Avon. Having failed to recover the Avon after the Restoration, Sir William Sandys and his son undertook work on the Wye and Lugg.

One indication of commercial use of vessels above Powick is a newspaper advertisement in 1750 that the miller at Stanford on Teme had a boat for sale, capable of carrying 10 tons. Unless locks had been installed, this could not have operated over any great distance, as a boat of this size would have been unable to pass mill weirs. Evidence that has been offered in support of navigability at Ludlow consists of certain paintings (thought to date from c.1830) which show a river with boats. It is not clear if these paintings show Ludlow as it actually was, or if they were at least partly derived from the artist's imagination.

Other commercial vessels included the ferry at Rochford, the ferry at Cotheridge and the ferry at Clifton on Teme.

In an article published in March 2006 in the Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society, Pat Jones, reviewing the evidence, asserts that the Teme was navigable above Powick. However in an article published in the same journal in July 2006 Peter King refutes this and writes that evidence of substantial commercial use of the river as a navigable waterway above Powick is minimal.

Cultural influences

A.E. Housman wrote the following verse, which makes reference to the River Teme:
In valleys of springs of rivers
By Ony and Teme and Clun
The country for easy livers
The quietest under the sun

External links


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