The River Medway was opened to navigation over two and a half centuries ago. It flows largely through Kent in England, with a flow-length of almost 70 miles, beginning from inside the border of West Sussex and then entering the Thames Estuary. The River Medway's catchment area, which is the biggest for a river in England, is 930 square miles. It has an extensive network of tributaries, and smaller streams which feed into the primary river. Its major tributaries are the River Eden, River Teise, River Bourne, River Beult, River Len and Loose Stream, while its minor tributaries include The East Malling Stream, The Wateringbury Stream and formerly also the Old Bourne River, which ran through the Brook, in Chatham.
Human civilization has had a long-standing impact on the River Medway - an impact that can be traced back for centuries. This is evident from the fact that River Medway is rich in important historical sites. Moreover, it is known that the River Medway was a key transport link and has also been an important source of water power. These activities have left their indelible mark on the River Medway, though it continues to be a major draw for tourist and leisure attraction seekers.
The River Medway and its tributaries extend mainly through rural areas, though it also connects with Medway, Tonbridge and Maidstone. It first flows in a west-east direction south of the North Downs; but turns towards the North at the confluence of the River Beult and then breaks through the North Downs at the Medway Gap.
The middle part of the River Medway, specifically the section above Tonbridge, has always tended to flood because of the numerous tributaries that enter it in this area. In fact, the town itself has seen extensive flooding over the centuries, causing the part that lies higher than the rest of the town to be named Dryhill. There have been constant efforts to put flood protection measures in place, and this led to the construction of a flood barrier near Leigh in 1981. This barrier was built to protect Tonbridge from the flooding River Medway, since it was severely affected by major floods in 1968.
In the present day, the part of the River Medway that lies between Maidstone and Tonbridge is maintained as a public right of navigation. This makes it possible for those traversing it to witness the delightful scenery of the Garden of England. The River Medway is also a favorite vacation destination for canoeists and fishing enthusiasts. The local authorities in these parts have provided facilities such as power boats to make trips down the River Medway possible. While this is a popular means of taking in the scenery, many visitors prefer to use row boats to get maximum mileage out of their River Medway experience. The other tourist attractions offered include visits to the parks near the River Medway - these afford an invigorating view of the meadows, weirs, pastures and medieval bridges located there. Many beautiful villages are located near to the River Medway, and serve as ideal stopping points for visitors who are in need of refreshment or wish to explore the rural settings.
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