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A range of two- and three-dimensional problems is explored featuring the gravity-driven flow of a continuous thin liquid film over a non-porous inclined flat surface containing well-defined topography. These are analysed principally within the framework of the lubrication approximation, where accurate numerical solution of the governing nonlinear equations is achieved using an efficient multigrid solver.\ud \ud Results for flow over one-dimensional steep-sided topographies are shown to be in very good agreement with previously reported data. The accuracy of the lubrication approximation in the context of such topographies is assessed and quantified by comparison with finite element solutions of the full Navier–Stokes equations, and results support the consensus that lubrication theory provides an accurate description of these flows even when its inherent assumptions are not strictly satisfied. The Navier–Stokes solutions also illustrate the effect of inertia on the capillary ridge/trough and the two-dimensional flow structures caused by steep topography.\ud \ud Solutions obtained for flow over localized topography are shown to be in excellent agreement with the recent experimental results of Decré & Baret (2003) for the motion of thin water films over finite trenches. The spread of the ‘bow wave’, as measured by the positions of spanwise local extrema in free-surface height, is shown to be well-represented both upstream and downstream of the topography by an inverse hyperbolic cosine function.\ud \ud An explanation, in terms of local flow rate, is given for the presence of the ‘downstream surge’ following square trenches, and its evolution as trench aspect ratio is increased is discussed. Unlike the upstream capillary ridge, this feature cannot be completely suppressed by increasing the normal component of gravity. The linearity of free-surface response to topographies is explored by superposition of the free surfaces corresponding to two ‘equal-but-opposite’ topographies. Results confirm the findings of Decré & Baret (2003) that, under the conditions considered, the responses behave in a near-linear fashion.\ud
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