Traditional England: Chew Magna

The picturesque village of Chew Magna is located in the beautiful Somerset countryside only a few miles from Bristol and a short drive from Bath. Its long history dates back to Saxon times, when its name was recorded as ‘Ciw’ in 1065, developing into ‘Chiwe’ from the Celtic word ‘Ciw’ i.e’winding water’, when it was listed in the Domesday Book some 20 years later. Ultimately, the name Chew Magna derives from its settlement on the River Chew and wherever you wander in the village, the sound of running water is never far away.

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Chew Magna made its living on wool to begin with and an old ‘tucking mill’ remains close by the River Chew, from which the village has undoubtedly prospered from. Once at the centre of the mediaeval woollen industry, the village attracted rich traders to set up home and a number of notable old buildings still stand. There is an Old School Room and Medieval Beamed Hall dating back to the 16th century, still often used today for community activities. Next to the largely medieval church is 14th century Chew Court, built as a country residence for the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

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There are few villages across the United Kingdom that could match Chew Magna’s total of 50 Buildings that hold Special Architectural or Historic Interest, with several picturesque areas found upstream, such as by the medieval, cobbled and grade II listed Crickback Bridge, which leads you through the adjoining woodland, with only the gentle ripple of the river and birdsong to be heard. You can also trace local legend back to the Neolithic standing stones in nearby Stanton Drew.

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Neighbouring Chew Valley Lake provides a wide draw for local walkers, nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike, as a great spot to catch rare birds gracing the diverse habitat across the seasons. The winter gull roost is particularly spectacular, as up to 50,00+ birds can gather round the reservoir’s watery depths. For families passing through there is also a visitor centre and cafe at the picnic site near the dam, known to serve up some rather tasty fish n’chips by the lake side.

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There are two pubs in the village, one of which is the Bear and Swan, its reputation standing as one of the finest ‘gastro-pubs’ in the county. The quaint village is also a leader in zero-waste initiatives, which led to the village being dubbed ‘the greenest place in Britain’ and is currently working towards attaining ‘Fair-trade Village’ status, as Chew Magna already supports charities on the African continent.