This paper describes the spatial and temporal pattern of groundwater flow accretion to the River Lambourn, a 234 km2 chalk catchment of the West Berkshire Downs, UK, which has been largely unaffected by groundwater abstraction. Variations in the discharge measured at four fixed gauges in the catchment, coupled with information on the length of flowing channel over the period 1983-2001, are used to describe regional patterns in flow accretion. Mean catchment accretion generally exceeds 0·15 m3 s-1 km-1, but there are significant differences between perennial reaches indicating how the combination of local structural controls and seasonal changes in the drainage net affect flow accretion. Data from current meter surveys were used to determine the spatial variability in flow accretion: 505 paired observations along 12 reaches between 1 and 2·95 km in length indicated a consistent spatial trend in accretion. Accretion was high in upstream and downstream channel reaches, and in middle reaches where dry valleys intersected the main valley. A flow accretion index was developed to describe the relationship of flow accretion in each of the 12 study reaches to catchment discharge. The relationship varied from a strong positive correlation with catchment discharge (two reaches), a weak positive correlation (three reaches), a strong negative correlation (two reaches), to no relationship to catchment discharge (four reaches). The results highlight the need to reconsider the usual assumption of uniform, or uniformly increasing, flow accretion in chalk catchments. Moreover, they emphasize the importance of catchment topography, and illustrate how flow accretion in individual reaches may vary between high and low groundwater levels.