The River Leam (pronounced lɛm) flows through eastern and southern Warwickshire. It is 19 miles long, rising just inside Northamptonshire, as do many rivers, and falling into the Warwickshire Avon between Royal Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon. The town of Royal Leamington Spa stands on the Leam and is named after it.
The name of the river Leam comes through Old English but ultimately from the ancient British language leman or lemin meaning "having elm trees" or "marshy river". River Leame is given as an alternative spelling in Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary.
The River Leam rises by the village of Hellidon in Northamptonshire, at the foot of Arbury Hill, that county's top and from whose slopes come the River Nene to go northeast and River Cherwell to head south, while the Leam sets its course west to the Avon and the Severn Sea.
From Hellidon the Leam's early stream wanders north. Two miles from its source, the Leam passes under the A425 main road from Daventry to Southam and from here to the village of Braunston it marks the boundary between Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.
At Braunston, the river is crossed by a substantial embankment carrying the Grand Union Canal over the river on an aqueduct. From here, the River Leam sets its course west into Warwickshire. In Warwickshire, the Leam opens into a broad flat valley and flows through open farmland passing the small village of Grandborough where there was once a water mill on the Leam. At Woolscott it takes in the Rains Brook, which swells its size. The river soon passes north of the hamlet of Kites Hardwick on the A426 road (where there is a gauging station and where water from the river is pumped into to a large storage reservoir named Draycote Water.
From here, the river valley becomes narrower past the villages of Leamington Hastings and Birdingbury. At Marton, the river is bridged by the busy A423 road – until the 1990s there were substantial floods here in wet weather until a new bridge was built to keep traffic well above river level, the mediæval bridge remains alongside it. There were watermills at Eathorpe and Hunningham. After Hunningham, the river passes Offchurch, traditionally the home of King Offa, where the pedestrian footway is raised above road level as a counter to flooding.
Though Leamington the river is surrounded almost entirely by parks, after passing an open area of grass and woodland called Newbold Comyn, the river widens dramatically into Jephson Gardens, the main municipal park in Leamington Spa. The widening is due to a weir spanned by an ornate Victorian iron footbridge.
Several brooks are tributaries of the River Leam, including the Rains Brook which joins it near Kites Hardwick, the Warwickshire River Itchen which joins near Marton and Pingle Brook which joins near Cubbington.
- Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, Third Edition, p. 636.
- Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, Third Edition. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1997. ISBN 0-87779-546-0.