Down on the River Bank

Autumn 2019 has seen a major crisis in the banks – that is, the river banks, where the exceptional rainfall in October and November has produced extensive flooding and substantial damage to property and hardship to people, most notably along the River Don in South Yorkshire. Our rivers are an important part of our local landscape and except for when they are in a dangerous flood state they provide a great outdoor destination. In spring and summer this may conjure up images of sunny walks, picnics and ‘messing about in boats’. In autumn and winter, though, they may simply provide a mean and moody backdrop to ‘getting out more!’.

Every county has its own record river locations, and one of the most interesting is to identify the longest river in the county. The longest river is very often the widest river, too, and also the river with the greatest flow (discharge), usually at the point where it either flows into the sea or, for a landlocked county, where it flows out of the county. But this is not always the case, as the examples below show all too clearly!

The county of Worcestershire in the West Midlands is dominated by the River Severn, which passes through on its way from the slopes of Plynlimon in the mountains of Wales to the Bristol Channel. The Severn is the longest river in the UK (354km), and flows for 61.25km through Worcestershire from 7km north of Kidderminster (Grid Reference SO75408240) to 1km east of Tewkesbury (in Gloucestershire) (Grid Reference SO88303300). It is the largest river in Worcestershire in every dimension (length, width and discharge) and so these record locations for the county can be ‘ticked off’ in a single visit.

Similarly, in Greater London the River Thames provides all of the main county river records. The river flows for 68.5km through Greater London from Hampton in the Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames (Grid Reference TQ12506890) to Rainham Marshes in the Borough of Havering (Grid Reference TQ53507910)), before heading into the Thames Estuary and out to the North Sea.

But other counties don’t have such simple ‘record’ rivers. For example, ask the question ‘What is the longest river in East Sussex?’ and there are three possible correct answers – the River Medway, the River Rother or the River Cuckmere. The first ‘correct answer’ is the River Medway, which is the longest river that flows, at least in part, through East Sussex. It is 113km long from its source at Turners Hill in West Sussex (Grid Reference TQ34903764) to its mouth near to Chatham and Gillingham in North Kent (Grid Reference TQ78026996), and while most of its course is in Kent (92km) it also runs through the northern part of East Sussex for 16km. The second ‘correct answer’ is the River Rother, which is the river that has the longest course within East Sussex. It rises at Rotherfield near to Crowborough and then flows eastwards to eventually reach the English Channel at Rye Harbour. Its total length is 56km of which 53km are in East Sussex –north of Rye, however, it flows in Kent for just 3km, where it is known as The Kent Ditch, and this means it is not entirely an East Sussex river. The third ‘correct answer’ is the River Cuckmere, which is actually the longest river that flows entirely within the county of East Sussex. Its source is just east of Heathfield and it then runs south for 31km until it flows into the English Channel at the famous and beautiful location of Cuckmere Haven, set between the chalk cliffs of Seaford Head and the Seven Sisters (Grid Reference TV51649773).

The county of Derbyshire also has more than one correct answer to the question ‘What is the longest river?’. The longest river that flows in part through Derbyshire is the River Trent, which forms part of the southern boundary of the county on its 296km journey from the Staffordshire Moorlands to the Humber Estuary near Hull. But it is the River Derwent that is the river with the longest course in Derbyshire and also the longest river that flows entirely within the county. Its 106km course runs from the slopes of Bleaklow Hill in the ‘Dark Peak’ of the Peak District National Park (Grid Reference SK12609680) to the point where it joins the River Trent at Derwent Mouth, just south of Derby (Grid Reference SK45803080).

So, when it comes to identifying the longest river in your own county you may find there are several possible answers. You can take your pick, therefore, about which is the real right answer to the question –  or, of course, you could take the opportunity to visit ALL of the longest rivers in your patch of the UK.

And Finally….!

The Must Get Out More Question !

Actually, two questions for you to think about while you enjoy a glass of wine over the Christmas and New Year festivities…….Where is the largest vineyard in the UK? : and, Where is the largest wine producer in the UK?


The Answer to the Last Question

Where is the oldest working lighthouse in the UK?

The Bell Rock (or Inchcape Rock) Lighthouse stands 11km offshore in the approaches to the Firth of Tay, south east of Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland. It was constructed by Robert Stevenson between 1807 and 1810, and is 35m tall. It is also the oldest sea-based lighthouse in the world, and has been fully automated since 1988. (Grid Reference NO76122694)


The Record Locations

You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at

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