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The quiet River Stort runs past watermills and country houses, mills and maltings, through the pretty Hertfordshire countryside.

Bridge next to River Stort River Stort, courtesy of John Smith

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The rural surroundings make this river a haven for nature, with wild flowers growing along the banks and many species of water and wetland birds in the area.

The River Stort is a tributary of the River Lee, which it joins at Hoddesdon, and extends navigation for 14 miles from there to Bishops Stortford. The River Stort's gentle, winding course has remained unaltered by human intervention, unlike the Lee, which has been straightened to improve navigation.

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The history

The River Stort joins the River Lee  a few miles below Hertford. The Stort follows a narrower, more meandering course than the Lee and is of a totally different character. Together the two rivers comprise over 40 miles of navigable waterways through a valley that since 1967 has been managed by The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

The Stort is not as old a navigation as the Lee and the first Act for navigational improvements was passed in the 18th Century. By 1769 parts of the river had been canalised to allow for movement of timber and cereals. Plans were mooted for the construction of a canal to extend the line beyond its terminus at Bishop's Stortford, the birthplace of Cecil Rhodes, and connect with the River Cam near Cambridge - but trade never matched aspirations and the river continued to rely principally on local traffic.

Throughout the latter stages of the 19th Century ownership of the Stort passed through various hands until 1909 when, following damage to works at Roydon, it was offered free to the Lee Conservancy Board. By the end of World War II commercial traffic along the Stort had declined considerably but struggled on until the 1970s before being superseded by holiday and leisure usage.