The Rivers Brue & Axe

Discover these waterways carving into the Somerset Levels

The Rivers Brue & Axe, Somerset

Flowing from the ground at Wookey Hole, the River Axe sweeps through Cheddar and towards the sea at Weston-super-Mare. A few miles to the south, the River Brue reaches the sea at Highbridge, having journeyed 30 miles across the Somerset Levels.

The relationship between the communities of Somerset and the Rivers Brue & Axe is one that extends far back into the history of the county. Lying around or even below sea level, the Somerset Levels have been transformed from an extensive wetland area, once navigated along sweet tracks by our Neolithic ancestors, to the region of rich farmland and beautiful countryside that it is today. It is a transformation that has evolved over centuries, with each generation making alterations and amendments to the way water drains into the river network and away from the land.

Not only are the Brue & Axe key to management of the land, they are also beautiful features within the landscape, offering a wealth of wildlife and playing a key role in the livelihoods and identities of those who admire and enjoy these watery places.


The names “Brue” and “Axe” come from the Celtic word “brwy” and the Brittonic word “isca,” meaning “brisk” and “abounding in fish.”

The River Brue flows through the Avalon Marshes, a fantastic place to admire the phenomenal starling murmurations each winter.

Get involved on the Rivers Brue & Axe

If you love your local river, understand how vital it is to you in your life and share our passion for keeping it healthy for you and your community, then there are many ways for you to get involved. Whether it’s helping on a river clean-up day, becoming a river scientist, going on a river walk or simply making a donation, working together we can help your river bring water to life for many years and generations to come.

Glass eels in the Axe…

Bristol Waters have teamed up with the Westcountry Rivers Trust and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust to trial a unique monitoring programme on the Rivers Axe & Pill for glass eels – a critically endangered species, more threatened than both the snow leopard and the tiger.

The glass eel has an extraordinary life cycle; it migrates across the Atlantic to live in our rivers and lakes, where if grows for decades before making the return journey to spawn. Throughout its epic journey it faces a number of threats, such as barriers in the form of weirs and dams, over exploitation and a distinct loss of wetland habitats.

River Brue & Axe Stories

From Roman times to the present day, Westcountry rivers have been an ever-present thread running through our communities, our culture and our heritage. Ever increasingly, we have come to realise how wonderful it is to spend time on, in or near a river and they are so often the backdrop to our fondest memories of days spent outdoors, being active and spending time with nature.

Latest news from the Rivers Brue & Axe

Confluence: Annual Review 2016

2016 was a challenging year for the Trust, mirroring the wider trials faced by Britain and the world in general. The move towards more nationalistic narratives, often seemingly at the expense of holistic integrated thinking, has brought division, uncertainty and...

read more

Comment: Resilient catchment and communities

Dr Laurence Couldrick, CEO of Westcountry Rivers Trust, discusses catchment resilience There has been a lot of talk about drought in the past few weeks and whilst it has been the driest winter in 20 years our increasingly variable weather patterns are now part of the...

read more