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Chew Magna Lake is the fifth largest artificial lake in England, a reservoir in Chew Stoke, Somerset, opened by H M Queen Elizabeth II on 17th April, 1956. It is owned by Bristol Water, who encourage the use of the lake for leisure purposes.

Last week’s ‘first Friday’ walk was a circular one from its north-western edge up part of the 17-mile Chew Valley nearly to Chew Magna, and back along a different route. It is only a small river at the best of times. In the present drought conditions, it is even smaller, and slow-moving.

We parked our cars at Woodford Lodge, which now calles itself the Woodford at Chew. The Chew Valley Lake Sailing Club is adjacent.

You don’t need a boat to go fishing, but it must make for a different experience.

As we approached the dam at the lake’s northern end, we could appreciate just how low the water was, with spillway on the left and outlet tower to the right. (I have, minutes ago, just learned the term ‘outlet tower’, and much more from The British Dam Society.)

I think this would be called a ‘shaft’ spillway (same source). Whatever it is called, it is not needed right now.

We heard the tower humming as we passed it.

In the far distance, we could see dabchicks (aka little grebes) and Canada geese. I have not been able to find a collective noun for dabchicks, or any grebe, but did find in this list a wedge, nide, skein or plump of geese, depending on where they are located.

We turned away from the lake and walked northwards, along the Chew valley, frequently encountering the small river or its even smaller tributary streams.

At one point we came across a large patch of scabious,

and I was thrilled to capture this small blue butterfly, even if it was clearly nearing the end of its life cycle.

Many small bridges – or was this a stile? – helped us along. I loved this huge slab across a small stream. I wonder how long it’s been serving.

One information sheet pinned to this tree told us, among other things, that it was Californian redwood, (aka Sequoia, and Wellingtonia) and the other how much treecreepers loved the arrival of the species in the UK because of its soft bark.

Zoe for scale

I like to think that this is a packhorse bridge, though it is not included in the ‘official list‘. Note the ‘tidemark’.

This is Chota Castle, described on one site as a cottage and on another as a 19th century folly-castle. Chew Valley Films have made a 52-minute film about one of its post-war residents. Or, lasting one minute, here is a Facebook entry by British Country Homes, giving a good look round!

But perhaps this magnificent tree is its greatest attribute.

We thought that perhaps these steps were to help cattle escape should they fall into the stream. Though, come to think of it, why not humans too?

Zoe spotted this deer in the distance.

This beautiful tree greeted us as we neared Woodford Lodge again,

where we had lunch enjoying this view.