River Wey

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Coordinates: 51°10′48″N 0°45′00″W / 51.180°N 0.750°W / 51.180; -0.750

River Wey
Elstead Bridge DSC 1620.jpg
Elstead Bridge, originally built by the monks of Waverley Abbey
River Wey Map.png
Map of the River Wey
CountiesWest Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey
Districts / BoroughsChichester (district), East Hampshire (district), Waverley, Guildford, Woking, Elmbridge, Runnymede
TownsFarnham, Haslemere, Godalming, Guildford, Weybridge, Alton, Hampshire
Physical characteristics
 ⁃ locationFarringdon, Alton, East Hampshire, Hampshire
2nd source 
 ⁃ locationBlack Down, West Sussex, Chichester, West Sussex
Source confluence 
 ⁃ locationTilford, Waverley, Surrey
MouthRiver Thames
 ⁃ location
Weybridge, Elmbridge, Surrey
Length140 km (87 mi)
Basin size904 km2 (349 sq mi)
 ⁃ locationWeybridge
 ⁃ average6.76 m3/s (239 cu ft/s)
 ⁃ minimum1.30 m3/s (46 cu ft/s)12 August 1990
 ⁃ maximum74.8 m3/s (2,640 cu ft/s)29 December 1979
 ⁃ locationFarnham
 ⁃ average0.73 m3/s (26 cu ft/s)
 ⁃ locationTilford
 ⁃ average3.25 m3/s (115 cu ft/s)
 ⁃ locationGuildford
 ⁃ average5.17 m3/s (183 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 ⁃ leftBentworth Stream, Oakhanger Stream, Kingsley Stream, Oxney Stream Hoe Stream, Hollywater, Deadwater, River Slea
 ⁃ rightRiver Tillingbourne, Cranleigh Waters, River Ock, Caker Stream, East Clandon Stream, Guileshill Brook, Royal Brook, Stratford Brook, Truxford Brook

The River Wey is a tributary of the River Thames in south east England and one of two major tributaries in Surrey (the other being the River Mole). The name is of unknown origin and meaning.[1] It begins as two branches rising outside the county[n 1] which join at Tilford between Guildford and Farnham. Once combined the flow is eastwards then northwards via Godalming and Guildford to meet the Thames while in Surrey. The main sub-tributary is the Tillingbourne flowing from the western slopes of Leith Hill in Surrey westwards to a point just south of Guildford between the main village of Shalford and the hamlet of Peasmarsh. Downstream the river forms the backdrop to Newark Priory and Brooklands.

The Wey has a total catchment area of 904 square kilometres (350 sq mi), draining parts of Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.[2] It is navigable from Godalming to its confluence with the Thames as part of the Wey and Godalming Navigations, a trade-minded 17th century canal. The river morphology, biodiversity and flow are well studied, with many places to take samples and record data.


Wey North[edit]

The Wey North branch rises in Alton in Hampshire and runs eastwards through Upper Froyle and Bentley, turning southeast at Farnham to Tilford.[3] This branch was originally the upper catchment of the River Blackwater; this "early river Wey" captured waters from as far as Tilford. When this branch was blocked at Farnham, the flow spilt over into areas such as Elstead; for a short section past Waverley Abbey the flow has become reversed. The Blackwater remains as a much shorter river to the north of Farnham, with a wind gap (empty valley) between it and the Wey.

Wey South[edit]

The Wey South branch commences in two shorter rivers leading from separate sources. One is at Blackdown, south of Haslemere, and beside Gibbet Hill and the Devil's Punch Bowl, next to Hindhead village centre, and runs through Liphook, Bramshott, Passfield, Standford, Lindford and Frensham to Tilford. The other rises at Inval, below Gibbet Hill, Hindhead in the civil parish of Haslemere. This joins the Blackdown-source south branch west of Haslemere. Other smaller tributaries of the south branch are Cooper's Stream and the River Slea.[3]

Combined river[edit]

From Tilford the river runs through Elstead, Eashing, Godalming, Peasmarsh/Shalford, Guildford, Send, Old Woking, Pyrford, Byfleet, New Haw and forms the Addlestone/Weybridge border between Hamm Court and Whittets Ait respectively. From Godalming the river is intertwined with the Wey and Godalming Navigations.[3] It joins the River Thames between Hamm Court and Whittets Ait facing a weirstream of Shepperton Lock.


The River Ock joins at Godalming, Cranleigh Waters and the River Tillingbourne at Shalford and the Hoe Stream at Woking.

Extent of the Wey Towpath and linking paths[edit]

The 19.5 miles (31.4 km) towpath of the lower (navigable) section is open to pedestrians.


On the Wey. Eashing mediaeval double bridge built by monks from Waverley Abbey

During the seventeenth century the river was made navigable to Guildford and extended in the eighteenth century to Godalming. The Basingstoke Canal and Wey and Arun Junction Canal were later connected to the river. The navigable sections are now owned by the National Trust.

The river has long been used as a source of power for mills, and many are recorded in the Domesday Book. At one point there were 22 mills on the river, and more on its tributaries. At various times they have been used for grinding grain, fulling wool, rolling oats, crushing cattle cake, leather dressing, paper production and gunpowder manufacture. Willey Mill, at Farnham, was still in use in 1953.[4] Guildford Town Mill, though no longer used for milling, still harnesses the power of the river to generate electricity.

Natural environment[edit]

Bank-full state between Pyrford and Wisley where it is separate from the Wey Navigation

Wey Valley is a term for the narrowing basin of the River Wey before it empties into the River Thames.

Much of the upper reaches of the river are within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The river passes through a variety of habitats including heathland, woodland and watermeadow, resulting in a diversity of wildlife. There are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Nature Reserves along the river.

The area of the aquifers which drain steeply to the river is great so, as with the Mole, in its natural state much of the flood plains were prone to regular flooding. This has been greatly reduced by flood alleviation, upstream lakes such as Frensham Great Pond and, inadvertently, the Wey Navigation. Urban lowest parts of Godalming, Byfleet and Weybridge saw extensive flooding in the exceptional Winter storms of 2013–14.[5]

Surrey rivers[edit]

Aside from the River Thames, which does not belong to any one county, the river is one of the two main Surrey rivers, alongside the Mole.

Until its incorporation into London in 1965, next in order of size was the River Wandle. Then follow the River Bourne (Addlestone branch) and the River Bourne, Chertsey which merge. They have sources in Surrey and Berkshire. Surrey's Epsom area is drained by the Hogsmill River, most of which is in outer London.

Further reading[edit]

  • Inland Waterways Association (South-East Region) The River Wey and Godalming Navigation: Weybridge to Godalming Inland Waterways Association 1976

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The west and south county border is approximately the watershed of the lower Chertsey Bourne, Wey and Mole
  1. ^ Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ "About the Wey Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy". The Environment Agency website. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2007.
  3. ^ a b c The River Wey and Wey Navigations Community Site
  4. ^ "All About Watermills & Their Millers". The River Wey & Navigations website. Retrieved 23 October 2007.
  5. ^ Recap: Flood-hit communities prepare for further rainfall Surrey Advertiser Group. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014

External links[edit]

Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream
Wey and Godalming Navigations (south) River Wey River Ash (north)