Medway

Weaving its way through Sussex and Kent, the Medway tells us much of the rich history of Southern England.

About the river

Rising from springs in the Ashdown Forest (Sussex), the river flows north east across the landscape and is joined by many tributaries, notably the River Beult, River Teise, Upper Medway and River Eden. These converge between Penshurst and Yalding, near Tonbridge, in Kent.

The middle Medway is a major navigation with 11 locks facilitating boating traffic. The navigation was opened upstream of Maidstone in the 17th century to transport corn, fodder, fruit, stone and timber.

In contrast to the more rural catchment upstream, the lower Medway is more densely populated by the Medway towns. Downstream of Allington Lock in Maidstone, the Medway is tidal and flows north into the Thames Estuary and into the English Channel.

What makes it special?

The Medway and its tributaries are known as ‘Wealden Rivers’ – rising from springs across the High Weald where the sand meets impermeable clay.

The iron-rich streams of the Weald support resident populations of highly coloured brown trout. Other fish species include chub, dace, roach and pike. Bream and trench are found in the deeper sections, while minnows, gudgeon, stone loaches, bullheads, brook lampreys and perch are found in the shallower riffles.

As the River Medway enters the sea, it passes through perhaps its most special habitat – the Medway Estuary. Today the estuary is of national and international significance, both economically and environmentally. The estuary supports an impressively diverse ecosystem, providing the perfect habitat for thousands of breeding and wintering birds. The site is so important that the estuary is protected by both national and international designations.

Issues

  • fisheries
  • habitat
  • flooding
  • drought
  • pollution

How Healthy is the Medway?

Co-hosted by the South East Rivers Trust and the Medway Valley Countryside Partnership, the Medway Catchment Partnership is made up of organisations that have an interest in the health of the River Medway and the many benefits of having an environment rich in biodiversity and recreational opportunities. To find out more about the health of the River Medway, please visit the dedicated catchment partnership website.

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