River Witham

River Witham
The Grand Sluice at Boston, where the River Witham empties into The Haven, which is tidal below this point
CountryUnited Kingdom
Country within the UKEngland
CountiesLincolnshire, Leicestershire
TownsGrantham, Boston
Physical characteristics
 - locationSouth Witham, Lincolnshire
 - coordinates52°45′20″N 0°41′27″W / 52°45′20″N 0°41′27″W / 52.755622; -0.690858
 - elevation130 m (430 ft)
 - location
The Haven, Boston, Lincolnshire
 - coordinates
52°57′52″N 0°00′36″W / 52°57′52″N 0°00′36″W / 52.964541; -0.01004237.61 m3/s (1,328 cu ft/s)[2]
 - locationColsterworth
 - average0.23 m3/s (8.1 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 - leftGrantham Canal, Foston Beck, Ease Drain, Shire Dyke, Fossdyke Navigation, Barlings Eau, Tupholme Beck, Bucknall Beck, Catchwater Drain, The Sewer, Engine Drain, Cut Dike, Newham Drain, Cowbridge Drain, Maud Foster, Hobhole Drain
 - rightHonington Beck, River Brant, Branston Delph, Middle Drain, Cathole Drain, Nocton Drain, Nocton Bankside Drain, Dunston Bankside Drain, Water Dike, Duns Dike, Metheringham Delph, Dales Drain, Blankney Town Drain, Black Horse Drain, Timberland Delph, Town Dike
Progression : River Witham — The HavenNorth Sea
River Witham is located in Lincolnshire
Map showing the course of the Witham and locations along its length

The River Witham is a river almost entirely in the county of Lincolnshire in the east of England. It rises south of Grantham close to SK8818, passes SK9771 and at TF3244, flows into The Haven, a tidal arm of The Wash, near RSPB Frampton Marsh. The name "Witham" seems to be extremely old and of unknown origin.[4] Archaeological and documentary evidence shows the importance of the Witham as a navigation from the Iron Age onwards. From Roman times it was navigable to Lincoln, from where the Fossdyke was constructed to link it to the River Trent. The mouth of the river moved in 1014 following severe flooding, and Boston became important as a port.

From 1142 onwards, sluices were constructed to prevent flooding by the sea, and this culminated in the Great Sluice, which was constructed in 1766. It maintained river levels above Boston, and helped to scour the channel below it. The land through which the lower river runs has been the subject of much land drainage, and many drains are connected to the Witham by flood doors, which block them off if river levels rise rapidly. The river is navigable from Brayford Pool in Lincoln to Boston. Its locks are at Lincoln, Bardney and the Grand/Great Sluice. Passage through the latter is restricted typically to 12-hour intervals during daylight when the tidal levels are suitable. The river provides access for boaters to the Witham Navigable Drains, to the north of Boston, and to the South Forty-Foot Drain to the south, which was reopened as part of the Fens Waterways Link, a project to link the river to the Nene flowing through the city of Peterborough. From Brayford Pool the Fossdyke Navigation links to the Trent.


River Witham at Saltersford Bridge 1 mile south of Grantham. This part of the Witham is home to one of the last viable white clawed crayfish populations in the UK.[5]
(Credit: Mark A. O'Neill)
River Witham at New Somerby, Grantham

The Witham's course is one of the strangest of British rivers,[citation needed] the result of glaciation (and possibly isostatic rebound) redirecting older rivers. The source of the river is on high ground near South Witham, Lincolnshire,[6] from whence it flows generally north, very close to and almost parallel with the Trent around the outskirts of Newark, before turning east towards Lincoln. The upper waters are important for agricultural water extraction, and for coarse fish such as roach, common bream and pike; small mammals like water voles, and native crayfish.[5] A gap in the limestone scarp (see Lincolnshire Wolds) near Ancaster may represent an earlier course of the River Trent towards Boston, but is now occupied by the River Slea.[7]

For about 3 miles (4.8 km) from near Claypole to Beckingham, the river forms the boundary between Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. From North Witham to Long Bennington, the A1 road largely follows the line of the river, which it crosses near Easton.

In Lincoln, the river flows into Brayford Pool and exits along a narrow channel that passes under the medieval High Bridge.[8] The bridge not only restricts navigation due to its small size, but the volume of water that can pass through the gap is limited in times of flood. This is alleviated by the Sincil Dyke, which leaves the main channel at Bargate Weir and runs for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) through the industrial areas to the south of the main city centre. It used to rejoin the main channel at Stamp End, but was re-routed into the South Delph, a drainage ditch constructed by John Rennie in the early 19th century that joins the main channel below Bardney lock. The origins of the Sincil Dyke are unknown, but it is known to have been used as a drainage channel in the mid-13th century and is thought to be pre-medieval or even Roman. Parts of it were culverted in 1847 to allow the construction of Lincoln Central railway station.[9]

From Lincoln, the river again turns first east, then south, making a cut through a belt of upland known as the Lincoln Gap. This section has again been suggested as a lower course of the Trent during and before periods of glaciation.[7]

From Dogdyke near river was used by a section of the Great Northern Railway from Lincoln to Boston. A long-distance footpath, the Water Rail Way, follows the course of the river from Lincoln to Boston. The path uses sections of the river towpath and abandoned railway tracks, and has been opened in stages, with the final 2 miles (3.2 km) being completed in September 2008. The path is now part of Route 1 of the National Cycle Network and features a number of sculptures along its length, each commissioned from local artists.[10] They include Lincoln longwool sheep at Stixwould, Lincoln Red cows at Washingborough, and Lincoln curly pigs, which became extinct in 1972, at Southrey.[11]

Other Languages
Cebuano: River Witham
Deutsch: River Witham
español: Río Witham
norsk nynorsk: Witham
српски / srpski: Видам (река)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Witham
svenska: River Witham