River Teme
Welsh: Afon Tefeidiad
The River Teme at Ludlow, Shropshire
CountryWales, England
CountiesPowys, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire
Physical characteristics
 • locationKerry Hills, Radnorshire, Powys, Wales
 • coordinates52°28′18″N 3°19′28″W / 52.47167°N 3.32444°W / 52.47167; -3.32444
 • elevation506 m (1,660 ft)
MouthConfluence with River Severn
 • location
Powick, Worcestershire, England
 • coordinates
52°09′48″N 2°14′44″W / 52.16333°N 2.24556°W / 52.16333; -2.24556Coordinates: 52°09′48″N 2°14′44″W / 52.16333°N 2.24556°W / 52.16333; -2.24556
 • elevation
14 m (46 ft)
Length130 km (81 mi)
Basin features
 • leftRiver Clun, River Onny, River Corve, Ledwyche Brook, River Rea
 • rightLeigh Brook, Kyre Brook

The River Teme (pronounced /tm/; Welsh: Afon Tefeidiad) rises in Mid Wales, south of Newtown, and flows southeast roughly forming the border between England and Wales for several miles through Knighton before becoming fully English in the vicinity of Bucknell and continuing east to Ludlow in Shropshire, then to the north of Tenbury Wells on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border there, on its way to join the River Severn south of Worcester. The whole of the River Teme was designated as an SSSI, by English Nature, in 1996.

The river is crossed by a number of historic bridges including one at Tenbury Wells that was rebuilt by Thomas Telford following flood damage in 1795.[1] It is also crossed, several times, by the Elan aqueduct.[2]


The name Teme is similar to many other river names in England, testament to the name's ancient origin. Similar names include River Team, River Thames, River Thame, River Tame and River Tamar. Scholars now believe these names and the older names Temese and Tamesis derive from Brythonic Tamesa, possibly meaning 'the dark one'.[3]


'The Ring', one mile below the source of the River Teme
'The Ring', one mile below the source of the River Teme

The river source is in Mid Wales on the western side of Bryn Coch in the Kerry Hills near Dolfor, south of Newtown, Powys. Two other rivers - the River Ithon and the River Mule - rise within 500 metres. It is roughly coincident with the border between England and Wales for several miles downstream from the Powys village of Felindre, passing Beguildy, Lloyney and Knucklas on the Powys side and Llanfair Waterdine on the Shropshire side before flowing past the small Powys town of Knighton. It continues to shadow the border eastwards as far as the vicinity of Bucknell and Brampton Bryan. It is joined by the River Clun at Leintwardine in north Herefordshire then embarks on a circuitous course southeast then northeast to Bromfield where it is joined by the River Onny. From there to its confluence with the River Severn, at Worcester (about 40 miles/65 km downstream) it flows through the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. The upper reaches of the river are usually steep with fast flowing but relatively shallow waters. There are some water mills, and a number of weirs, including several at the historic town of Ludlow. Below Tenbury Wells the river is more tranquil but still shallow, with strong cross currents. Water levels in the Teme are highly variable, something which has been made worse in recent years through increases in water extraction for agriculture use.[4]

River Teme at Ludlow
River Teme at Ludlow

During its journey the river flows over Upper Ludlow shales and Devonian sandstones.[5]

The River Corve flows into the Teme just outside Ludlow and the Ledwyche Brook flows into the Teme at Burford, close to the Herefordshire/Shropshire/Worcestershire tripoint. The Kyre Brook flows into the Teme at Tenbury Wells, and the River Rea flows into the Teme at Newnham Bridge, Worcestershire, a few miles south of Cleobury Mortimer, a small Shropshire town.

The river is the 16th longest river in the United Kingdom. It falls from a height of about 450 metres above sea level at its source[6] to just 14 metres above sea-level at its confluence with the River Severn.[7]

The Teme has in recent times often burst its banks. June and July 2007 saw serious floods in a number of areas, including Leintwardine,[8] Tenbury Wells and Ludlow although the watercourse that flooded the last location was a tributary, the River Corve.[9] However, the upper reaches are also prone to drying out, noted by the Environment Agency to occur every three years in the past 20 years.[10]


The Teme is a clean river and after many years of decline the population of otters is recovering,[11] but obstructions keep salmon numbers at a low level.[12][13]

Recreational use


Fishing is a popular sport on many parts of the River Teme, with its barbel fishing being particularly noted.[13][14]

Leisure boating

One of several weirs built on the stretch of the river as it flows around the town of Ludlow.
One of several weirs built on the stretch of the river as it flows around the town of Ludlow.

Leisure boats have long been used on the river and rowing boats can still be hired at The Linney Park, Ludlow.[15] An annual coracle regatta has been held on the Teme. In June 2005 it was held at Leintwardine. In June 2006, the 12th regatta was held at Mortimer's Cross.[16]

A Countryside Agency report in September 2003 entitled Improving access for canoeing on inland waterways: A study of the feasibility of access agreements stated:

There are no formal access agreements for canoeing on the Teme. However, unlawful canoeing does occur and there are many claims about the resulting conflict. As a result of its character, the demand for canoeing is seasonal, when there is enough water in the river, and is more in the upper reaches where the faster water can be found. However, this part of the river is also the most valuable for fishing, with riparian owners keen to protect their interests and prevent canoeing, on the grounds that the Teme is not suited to canoeing under any circumstances. While there is probably less conflict below Tenbury, there is also less interest in canoeing, and probably less opportunity, given the water levels.[4]

Information on canoeing on the Teme in the Ludlow area is available here[17] and on the Tenbury Wells to Broadwas area here.[18]

Leisure boating in the past

Historical evidence of leisure boating includes:


Navigation to Powick Mill

The final 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Powick bridge and Mill to its confluence with the river Severn that the Teme is (or was) navigable. There was a coal wharf near Powick Bridge, belonging with the mill, whose owner had the right to use a towing path to the river Severn. In the 18th century, pig iron was brought up the river to Powick forge (as the mill then was).[26] In 1810 it was reported that "The Teme is also navigable for barges from its junction with the Severn near Powick upwards to a small distance above Powick Bridge. The river having considerable declivity its navigation is soon interrupted by shoals and shallows"[27]

Above Powick Mill

River Teme at Powick Mill and the A449 road bridge
River Teme at Powick Mill and the A449 road bridge

Except for its lowest reaches, there is no substantial evidence that the river was navigable by barges. Claims have been made that traffic on the Teme began in Roman times and "continued in Norman times, when it is known the stone for the mill at Ashford Carbonel was brought from Caen in the 14th century, using water transport all the way".[28] However no unequivocal documentary or archaeological evidence has been adduced in support of this.

William Sandys who between 1636 and 1639 made the Avon navigable from Tewkesbury to Stratford-upon-Avon was at the same time also authorised to improve the Teme between Worcester and Ludlow. There is however no evidence that he did so, perhaps due to his having used up all his resources on the Avon. Having failed to recover the Avon after the Restoration, Sir William Sandys and his son undertook work on the Wye and Lugg.[29]

Ferries formerly existed at Rochford,[30] at Cotheridge[31] and at Clifton on Teme.[32] Some very local navigation is indicated by a newspaper advertisement in 1750 that the miller at Stanford-on-Teme had a boat for sale, capable of carrying 10 tons.[33] However, with no locks available, this vessel would have been unable to pass mill weirs.

Pictures, allegedly of Ludlow or its castle with a river and boats (thought to date from c. 1830), such as a painting allegedly of Dinham Bridge, Ludlow,[34] are probably at least partly derived from the artist's imagination.[citation needed]

This subject was debated at length in 2006 in the Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society.[35][36]

Railway lines

A school inspector in the mid-19th century, wishing to visit the endowed school at Shelsley Beauchamp where the Teme turns to run south through wooded hills, found that he must travel there on horseback in the absence of either coaches or railway.[37] There had, indeed, been a slightly earlier proposal for a railway line that followed the lower course of the river. Under the name of the Worcester, Tenbury and Ludlow Railway, this was submitted to Parliament in November 1846,[38] but by 1849 the scheme had been wound up.[39]

More or less the same course was proposed for the Teme Valley Railway in 1866. This was planned as a link between a line from Worcester to South Wales, that in the end was never built, and the recently opened Tenbury and Bewdley Railway, from which there was a connection to Ludlow via the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway. Lacking funds or any particular need for such a line through sparsely settled agricultural land, however, the plan came to nothing.[40]

Settlements on the River Teme

See also


  1. ^ Teme Valley Times, Spring 2007, p2
  2. ^ Bing aerial imagery; OpenStreetMap
  3. ^ Ekwall, E., English Place-Names (4th ed), OUP, 1960, ISBN 0-19-869103-3, pp 459, 463, 464
  4. ^ a b Wendy Thompson Improving access for canoeing on inland waterways: A study of the feasibility of access agreements for the Countryside Agency September 2003
  5. ^ The Teme Valley a blog on the Herfordshre & Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust website
  6. ^ "Bing maps (Ordnance Survey)". Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  7. ^ Ordnance Survey: Worcester & Droitwich Spa
  8. ^ YouTube - video of flooding
  9. ^ Ludlow Advertiser
  10. ^ "UK heatwave: Photos show dramatic impact on River Teme". BBC News. 5 July 2018.
  11. ^ S. M. Macdonald, C. F. Mason, I. S. Coghill The Otter and Its Conservation in the River Teme Catchment The Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Aug., 1978), pp. 373-384 doi:10.2307/2402597
  12. ^ Local Environment Focus: Focus Local environmental issues in Bishop's Castle, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Knighton, Ludlow, Cleobury Mortimer, Tenbury Wells, Whitbourne, Colwall and Worcester | issue 2. This citation needs a page number
  13. ^ a b Tales From The Teme Bloor's Barbel Bulletin - December 2001
  14. ^ Tenbury Wells and the Teme Valley, 2007, p2
  15. ^ Ludlow "England's finest market town" - Country Life
  16. ^ Leintwardine Coracle Society Annual Regatta
  17. ^ "River Teme - Ludlow to Ashford Carbonell | Midlands | England | Rivers - the UK Rivers Guidebook".
  18. ^ "River Teme - Tenbury Wells to Broadwas | Midlands | England | Rivers - the UK Rivers Guidebook".
  19. ^ Ordnance Survey, six-inch maps (1st edition), various: accessible at www.old-maps.co.uk.
  20. ^ Billings Directory lists "Eckley Vincent, farmer, Boat House" at Eastham in 1855.
  21. ^ Internal framing of barn at Boat House farm, Eastham, Worcestershire
  22. ^ Northern Area Development Control Committee Minutes of the Malvern Hills District Council, 6 October 2004.
  23. ^ F. Wayland Joyce, Tenbury - Some Record of its History (1931)
  24. ^ Richard Holding, Down Along Temeside (1963).
  25. ^ Howard Miller, Tenbury Wells and the Teme Valley (1996).
  26. ^ H. Lloyd, The Quaker Lloyds in the Industrial Revolution (1975), 148-50.
  27. ^ William Pitt, A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Worcester With Observations on the Means of Its Improvement (Board of Agriculture, Great Britain)[1]
  28. ^ Colin Green. Severn Traders, Black Dwarf Publications (1999), ISBN 0-9533028-2-2. p.33.
  29. ^ I. Cohen 'The non-tidal Wye and its navigation' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club 34 (1955), 83-101; P. King, 'The River Teme and Other Midlands Navigations' Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society 35(5) (July 2006), 350-1.
  30. ^ A History of the County of Worcester: volume 4: 'Parishes: Rochford' (1924), pp. 317-19. Date accessed: 29 May 2007.
  31. ^ A History of the County of Worcester: volume 4: 'Parishes: Cotheridge' (1924), pp. 255-60. Date accessed: 29 May 2007.
  32. ^ A History of the County of Worcester: volume 4: 'Parishes: Clifton upon Teme' (1924), pp. 246-55. Date accessed: 29 May 2007.
  33. ^ C. Hadfield, Canals of the West Midlands (1969), 58-9.
  34. ^ "1840s painting of river Teme at Ludlow". Retrieved 3 April 2015. "This painting of Dinham Bridge showing six Severn Trows moored and a square rigged boat sailing upstream below the Castle must have been produced before 1823 as this was when the multi arched bridge was demolished and the present bridge built. The trows on the right are unloading wheat and taking on board bags of flour." "Painting of Worcestershire". WorcesterVista.com. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  35. ^ Pat Jones 'Navigation on the river Teme' Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society 35(4) (March 2006), 293-300.
  36. ^ Peter King 'The River Teme and Other Midland Navigations' Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society 35(5) (July 2006), 348-55. Correspondence about this also appears in the two subsequent issues.
  37. ^ George Griffith, Going to Markets and Grammar Schools (London, 1870), Vol.2, p.484
  38. ^ The London Gazette, Part 4, p.4357-58
  39. ^ Reports of Cases Decided in the High Court of Chancery (London 1852), vol.3, p.189
  40. ^ Donald J. Grant, Directory of the Railway Companies of Great Britain, Troubador Publishing 2017, p.557

Further reading