The main centre for birding at Chew is Herriott's Bridge - the A368 causeway at the southern end of the lake. It's probably the best single place on the lake for birds, and you can usually find other birders here who can tell you what's been seen. Good views of Villice Bay and Heron's Green Bay can be had from the B3114 that runs down the west side of the lake. The only other viewpoint from public roads is overlooking the north end of the lake from the minor road that runs along the main dam and north shore.
Otherwise, you'll need to use the private roads and paths that run inside the lake enclosure. The road to Woodford Lodge and the nature trails that run from the two picnic sites on the north-east shore are both open to the public, but to visit the hides and use the roads in the southern half of the lake you will need a permit.
There are six birdwatching hides, only one of which (Bernard King hide on the Bittern Trail) is open to the public. The others are at Villice Bay, Nunnery Point, Moreton, Stratford Bay and Wick Green Point. Of these, Stratford hide, situated at the southern end of the lake is arguably the best. It is also one of the newest hides, and contains a logbook detailing the most recent sightings. Unless someone's pinched it or chucked it in the lake.
Stratford hide, from Herriott's Bridge.
To use the hides (except Bernard King hide) and private paths, you will need to purchase a birdwatching permit. BW's website states that you are expected to belong to a "recognised ornithological or naturalist society". Bristol Water issue daily, half-yearly and yearly permits either on the day or by post from Woodford Lodge, which is open from Monday to Friday in winter (15th October until 1st April) and on all seven days in summer, and daily permits can also be purchased from the tea shop at No.1 picnic site. These give you access to the five hides and access roads within the reservoir enclosure not open to the public; they also cover Blagdon Lake and Barrow Tanks.
You can check current permit prices or whether there are any restrictions at BW's website here
With the exception of the Grebe Trail and picnic sites, dogs are NOT allowed inside the reservoir enclosure.
Car parks within the enclosure which are open to the general public are marked in blue on the map. Those open to permit holders only are marked in red. You would be well advised to remove all valuables from your car, as unfortunately thefts from vehicles do happen - especially during the fishing season. Finally, please ensure that you close all gates behind you!
Please keep to the paths!
Your permit only allows access to the paths, roads and hides marked in red on the map - it doesn't entitle you to bowl about around the margins of the lake, and you should note that large areas are out of bounds. This particularly applies to the Nature Reserve at the southern end of the lake - there is strictly no access south of Wick Green Point or Stratford hide.
Wandering about on the shore invariably means that you end up trampling something or disturbing the birds, birdwatchers or fishermen. If a rare bird turns up in an area not visible from the paths or hides, arrangements are normally made to accommodate viewing.
A small group of local birders act as voluntary wardens - they can give you information on what's been seen and the best places to go. Particularly fierce ones will also ask to see your permit, so make sure you keep it with you. In addition, there are several uniformed, full-time BW rangers patrolling both Chew and Blagdon - mostly during the fishing season.
Please report any vandalism, damage to hides and any unauthorised or suspicious behaviour to any of the rangers or Woodford Lodge in the first instance, or the BW Operations Room. Phone numbers are given above.
Woodford Lodge and the Sailing Club.