The River Chess is historically very important. It was instrumental in the founding of the towns and villages in the valley, providing food and water and driving, at one time, some 13 water mills along its course.

As a consequence of activities such as agricultural cultivation, ornamental landscaping, industry and urban development, the river has been extensively modified over many years and became quite polluted at one time.  Although water quality has improved in recent years, demand for water in the area has increased to a point where the river’s upper reaches are now particularly vulnerable to drying up during drought.

Despite these issues the R. Chess is perhaps the most unspoilt of all the Chilterns’ chalk streams and is an extremely valuable habitat for wildlife. It is one of the strongholds in the Chilterns for the water vole and supports fish such as trout and grayling, along with an abundance ofinsect species such as the banded demoiselle and blue-winged olive.  It also provides valuable sanctuary for bird species such as kingfisher, water rail, green sandpiper and even the beautiful osprey.

One of the main tributaries is the  Vale Brook which is culverted under Chesham town centre.

Explore your local river

There are many attractive walks along our rivers and other waterbodies in the Colne Catchment. The Misbourne Valley walk, Chess valley walk and the Gade Valley discovery walk can be found here.

The River Chess Story Map
This website is a graphic and factual overview of the geography and ecology of the river Chess, and how people use the river as a resource.
To view click here River Chess Story Map.
created by ChessWatch

News for River Chess

The River Chess Story Map is a new website created by ChessWatch headed by the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London.

The Association has called on water companies and the Environment Agency to take action to protect the River Chess as groundwater levels hit a record low.

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.