The Huntspill River was built during World War 2 to supply huge quantities of water to a vital munitions factory but now serves as an important land drainage feature. Unlike the other nature reserves of the peat moors it is a reed-lined “canal” cutting across the coastal levels. It starts at Gold Corner with its vital pumps and ends at the mud of the Parrett Estuary with its wealth of bird life.
World War 2 brought the need for a huge expansion in the manufacture of explosives. In 1939 a site for a major new plant to produce RDX was identified at Puriton not far from Bridgwater which required 20.5 million litres (4.5 gallons) of water a day! The newly appointed engineer to the Somerset Drainage Board was sworn to secrecy and asked to come up with a plan. He quickly realised that supplying water to the factory presented a unique opportunity to improve the drainage and flood defence of the area; the idea for the Huntspill “River” was born.
Overcoming great constructional difficulties, such as major bank slips and deep soft ground, a 8 km (5 mile) channel, five major bridges and Gold Corner pumping station were completed and in use by 1942.
Huntspill River today
Whilst the factory closed in 2008 the river still serves a vital drainage and irrigation function. The Environment Agency has worked to enhance its wildlife value with the planting of copses, creation of reed-beds and regrading of banks. Its wildlife importance has led to its designation as a National Nature Reserve (NNR) The river also plays a vital role in helping to maintain the right conditions for wildlife and farming over a significant portion of the southern half of the Avalon Marshes.
Gold Corner pumping station showing high tide level above the door!
Leisure use today
- A National Nature Reserve.
- Fishing available along most of its length.
- A section at the western end is available for canoeing.
- A permissive footpath runs the whole length of the river (see map). The western end of this links with the new England Coast Path.
- Gold Corner pumping station is on our Romans, Rivers & Railways walking route and our Roman Saltworks & Peat Moors cycling route.
Huntspill River – Parking, paths and heritage
- You get a better view full screen – click on the top right icon – the “square”
- Now use the menu, click on name see where the feature is and find out more
- Or, click on the flags to find out what the feature is.
- Want Map View? Go to the bottom of the menu, click the box.
- Use the + and – to zoom in and out
See map. Click on P symbols for post codes and grid refrences
Open to the public all the year round. No charges.
The reserve has car parks – see map
Permits from the Bridgwater Angling Association
Access by arrangement with the Environment Agency (contact details below)
The paved track from Bleak Bridge to Huntspill Clyse gives the best access.
At local cafes and pubs
Dogs allowed, please keep under close control
The Environment Agency