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The Thames is the largest drainage basin in Britain. For convenience it is subdivided into three regions. The Upper Thames occurs upstream of Reading where it crosses gently dipping Jurassic rocks. Its upper catchment includes the Cotswold Hills and south English Midlands. The Middle and Lower Thames occupy the London Basin, where the Thames is a broadly west to east aligned stream along the axis of the basin, with tributaries from the north and south, before it the North Sea through the Thames Estuary.

Deposits of the Thames and its tributaries occur from the tops of the highest hills on the basin margin (c.180 m O.D.) to below sea level in the Thames Estuary. The earliest Thames deposits, the Pebble Gravel Formation consists of fragmentary gravels composed predominantly of local materials, particularly flint.

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