Itchen Navigation: A Portrait

Allbrook - Withymead Lock

Distance: 1.1 mile (1.8 km)

Allbrook Lock to Allbrook Railway Bridge

Immediately south of the road bridge at Allbrook, the waterway runs in a channel constructed by the railway company in about 1838 when the London and Southampton Railway was built. According to an old map, the original Allbrook Lock lies under the railway embankment south of the present road but no sign of it remains. The canal curves round to the west and passes under the first of two bridges carrying the railway over the Navigation.

The small area of land south of the road and between the canal and the railway was at one time the site of some saw mills and timber yard. They appear on Ordnance Survey large scale mapping that was first surveyed in 1866-68. They were bought by Southampton Corporation in 1931 as the expansion of the waterworks upstream at Otterbourne reduced the water supplies coming down the Itchen. The wheel pit was filled in and the mill and mill cottages were demolished just before the Second World War.

Allbrook Bridge
Allbrook Bridge

Highbridge Road (B3335) crossing Allbrook Bridge.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 14″ N 1° 20′ 38″ W.

Allbrook Bridge

Highbridge Road (B3335) crossing Allbrook Bridge.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU461210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 14″ N 1° 20′ 38″ W.

(94.4KB)

Allbrook Bridge
Allbrook Bridge

Allbrook Bridge from downstream in 1976.
Image date: 28 May 1976. Image scanned from slide. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 13″ N 1° 20′ 39″ W.

Allbrook Bridge

Allbrook Bridge from downstream in 1976.
Image date: 28 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU461210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 13″ N 1° 20′ 39″ W.

(103.4KB)

Allbrook Bridge
Allbrook Bridge

Allbrook Bridge from downstream in 2019.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 13″ N 1° 20′ 39″ W.

Allbrook Bridge

Allbrook Bridge from downstream in 2019.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU461210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 13″ N 1° 20′ 39″ W.

(102.9KB)

Diverted waterway in 1976
Diverted waterway in 1976

The diverted section of waterway viewed from near the railway bridge.
Image date: 28 May 1976. Image scanned from slide. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

Diverted waterway in 1976

The diverted section of waterway viewed from near the railway bridge.
Image date: 28 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU461210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

(71.2KB)

Diverted waterway in 2015
Diverted waterway in 2015

The diverted section of waterway viewed from near the railway bridge.
Image date: 3 Mar 2015. © 2015 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU461210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

Diverted waterway in 2015

The diverted section of waterway viewed from near the railway bridge.
Image date: 3 Mar 2015.
NG Ref: SU461210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

(121.7KB)

Northern railway bridge
Northern railway bridge

East side of railway bridge at Allbrook.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

Northern railway bridge

East side of railway bridge at Allbrook.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU460210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

(117.7KB)

Northern railway bridge
Northern railway bridge

West side of railway bridge at Allbrook.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 43″ W.

Northern railway bridge

West side of railway bridge at Allbrook.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU460210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 43″ W.

(125.5KB)

Allbrook Railway Bridge to Ham Bridge

West of the railway and on the north side of the canal, the BAM Nuttall plant hire depot dominates. Early maps show that this depot was once a timber yard. The original line of the Navigation rejoins the present line between the railway bridge and the depot where a small stream now joins the canal.

Near the railway bridge, a very small overflow weir has been constructed to help prevent water in the Navigation from overtopping the path and possibly breaching the bank. However, it’s size makes it likely that at times of high water levels it would be inadequate.

The waterway now follows the bottom of the hill upon which the small settlement of Allbrook sits and a number of gardens run down to the waterway. The path runs on top of the canal bank a few feet above the river meadows on the left. The Navigation now describes a large arc, starting westwards but then slowly turning to the south and eventually to the south-east.

From a point just south of the crossing by an electricity pylon line, the towing path bank was improved in the 1990s as part of the repairs to a large breach in the bank. In 2008-9, as part of the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project, some more major work was done to rebuild the crumbling bank on the towing path side of the canal particularly on the Allbrook side of the electricity line. Here the ‘perched’ channel on the edge of a river terrace is raised a few feet above the adjoining floodplain and had experienced bank collapses in the past. Diggers and dumpers transported, laid, and compacted over 2000 tonnes of chalk to rebuild and widen the embankment to at least one metre wide at the top. Also, the surface of the path on top of the bank was made up as far as the next railway bridge.

For much of this length, the waterway itself has a rather neglected air with many trees overhanging, or even fallen, and nearly blocking the channel. This contrasts with the re-built path - it’s almost as though the canal didn’t feature in the plans.

The Ham Farm public house, restaurant and Travelodge hotel complex lies on the offside of the canal just before Ham Bridge. Part of the restaurant overlooks the Navigation and the meadows beyond. It is a little surprising that willow trees have been allowed to grow and block much of the view.

Original line of canal joined here
Original line of canal joined here

The diverted line of the Navigation joins the original line here where a stream emerges between the railway bridge and the plant hire depot.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 45″ W.

Original line of canal joined here

The diverted line of the Navigation joins the original line here.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU460210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 45″ W.

(83.2KB)

Overflow weir
Overflow weir

Overflow weir under the towing path just west of the railway bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 45″ W.

Overflow weir

Overflow weir under the towing path just west of the railway bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU460210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 45″ W.

(94.8KB)

Overflow weir
Overflow weir

Close up of overflow weir under the towing path just west of the railway bridge.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 45″ W.

Overflow weir

Overflow weir under the towing path just west of the railway bridge.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009.
NG Ref: SU460210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 45″ W.

(110.0KB)

BAM Nuttall plant hire
BAM Nuttall plant hire

BAM Nuttall plant hire depot on west side of railway.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU459210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 46″ W.

BAM Nuttall plant hire

BAM Nuttall plant hire depot on west side of railway.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009.
NG Ref: SU459210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 12″ N 1° 20′ 46″ W.

(111.4KB)

Houses by canal in Allbrook
Houses by canal in Allbrook

Houses and gardens in Allbrook backing onto the Navigation.
Image date: 3 Mar 2015. © 2015 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU458210. WGS84: 50° 59′ 13″ N 1° 20′ 51″ W.

Houses by canal in Allbrook

Houses and gardens in Allbrook backing onto the Navigation.
Image date: 3 Mar 2015.
NG Ref: SU458210.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 13″ N 1° 20′ 51″ W.

(115.9KB)

Rebuilding the bank
Rebuilding the bank

Major rebuilding of a previously vulnerable bank and the path atop it.
Image date: 2009. Image: Dennis Bright. NG Ref: SU457209. WGS84: 50° 59′ 10″ N 1° 20′ 56″ W.

Rebuilding the bank

Major rebuilding of a previously vulnerable bank and the path atop it.
Image date: 2009.
NG Ref: SU457209.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 10″ N 1° 20′ 56″ W.

(88.0KB)

Made up path - neglected canal
Made up path - neglected canal

A well made-up path - but still a neglected canal. It’s a pity that the fallen tree wasn’t cleared away during work on the path. It was down in 2000 and is still there in 2019.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU457209. WGS84: 50° 59′ 10″ N 1° 20′ 56″ W.

Made up path - neglected canal

A well made-up path - but still a neglected canal. It’s a pity that the fallen tree wasn’t cleared away during work on the path.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009.
NG Ref: SU457209.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 10″ N 1° 20′ 56″ W.

(109.6KB)

Made up path - neglected canal
Made up path - neglected canal

Still a good path - but the fallen tree is still there in the mass of branches behind the two trees on the edge of the path. Even ducks have difficulty swimming past it.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU457209. WGS84: 50° 59′ 10″ N 1° 20′ 56″ W.

Made up path - neglected canal

The fallen tree is still there in the mass of branches behind the two trees on the edge of the path. Even ducks have difficulty swimming past it.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU457209.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 10″ N 1° 20′ 56″ W.

(65.6KB)

Looking south
Looking south

Looking south towards Ham Bridge.
Image date: 3 May 2014. © 2014 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU457208. WGS84: 50° 59′ 07″ N 1° 20′ 59″ W.

Looking south

Looking south towards Ham Bridge.
Image date: 3 May 2014.
NG Ref: SU457208.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 07″ N 1° 20′ 59″ W.

(83.8KB)

Ham Farm pub
Ham Farm pub

The restaurant of the Ham Farm public house.
Image date: 11 Sep 2013. © 2013 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU457207. WGS84: 50° 59′ 02″ N 1° 21′ 00″ W.

Ham Farm pub

The restaurant of the Ham Farm public house.
Image date: 11 Sep 2013.
NG Ref: SU457207.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 02″ N 1° 21′ 00″ W.

(125.4KB)

Ham Bridge to Withymead Lock

The next feature of note is Ham Bridge, which is an accommodation bridge that also carries a public footpath along the track up to Twyford Road (A335) and to the Ham Farm public house. The concrete bridge was built in about 1950 and it reputably replaced the last original wooden bridge along the waterway.

The Navigation continues south past the gardens of houses on the outskirts of Eastleigh. As usual with canalside properties, some make a feature of the water whilst others seem do their best to ignore it. The next bridge encountered is the second main line railway crossing, the waterway now flowing south-eastwards. The original brick railway bridge dating from 1838 has been extended three times, the last in 1943 when preparations were in hand for the invasion of Europe.

South of the railway bridge, on the offside of the Navigation, lie the extensive sidings in the Eastleigh railway infrastructure maintenance and long welded rail depots.

Ham Bridge
Ham Bridge

Ham Bridge seen from the north.
Image date: 3 May 2014. © 2014 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU457206. WGS84: 50° 59′ 01″ N 1° 20′ 59″ W.

Ham Bridge

Ham Bridge seen from the north.
Image date: 3 May 2014.
NG Ref: SU457206.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 01″ N 1° 20′ 59″ W.

(100.3KB)

Ham Bridge
Ham Bridge

Ham Bridge from the south.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU457206. WGS84: 50° 59′ 00″ N 1° 20′ 58″ W.

Ham Bridge

Ham Bridge from the south.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009.
NG Ref: SU457206.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 00″ N 1° 20′ 58″ W.

(124.5KB)

Houses by the canal
Houses by the canal

Houses and gardens south of Ham Bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU457206. WGS84: 50° 59′ 00″ N 1° 20′ 58″ W.

Houses by the canal

Houses and gardens south of Ham Bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU457206.
WGS84: 50° 59′ 00″ N 1° 20′ 58″ W.

(75.6KB)

Gardens by the canal
Gardens by the canal

Gardens by the canal and newly made-up path south of Ham Bridge.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU458205. WGS84: 50° 58′ 57″ N 1° 20′ 54″ W.

Gardens by the canal

Gardens by the canal and newly made-up path south of Ham Bridge.
Image date: 25 Sep 2009.
NG Ref: SU458205.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 57″ N 1° 20′ 54″ W.

(145.0KB)

A place to rest
A place to rest

A place to rest and a ‘Dog Dip’ near the Withymead railway bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU458205. WGS84: 50° 58′ 56″ N 1° 20′ 52″ W.

A place to rest

A place to rest and a ‘Dog Dip’ near the Withymead railway bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU458205.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 56″ N 1° 20′ 52″ W.

(95.2KB)

Railway bridge near Withymead
Railway bridge near Withymead

Upstream side of the railway bridge near Withymead.
Image date: 28 May 1976. Image scanned from slide. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU459204. WGS84: 50° 58′ 55″ N 1° 20′ 50″ W.

Railway bridge near Withymead

Upstream side of the railway bridge near Withymead.
Image date: 28 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU459204.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 55″ N 1° 20′ 50″ W.

(99.5KB)

Under the railway bridge
Under the railway bridge

Under the railway bridge near Withymead showing the extensions since 1838. The original bridge is the lowest part with its arch reinforced.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU459204. WGS84: 50° 58′ 54″ N 1° 20′ 49″ W.

Under the railway bridge

Under the railway bridge near Withymead showing the extensions since 1838.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU459204.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 54″ N 1° 20′ 49″ W.

(68.5KB)

Downstream of the railway bridge
Downstream of the railway bridge

The downstream side of the railway bridge near Withymead.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460204. WGS84: 50° 58′ 52″ N 1° 20′ 46″ W.

Downstream of the railway bridge

The downstream side of the railway bridge near Withymead.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU460204.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 52″ N 1° 20′ 46″ W.

(61.3KB)

Downstream of the railway bridge
Downstream of the railway bridge

Looking downstream from near the railway bridge towards Withymead Lock.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460204. WGS84: 50° 58′ 52″ N 1° 20′ 46″ W.

Downstream of the railway bridge

Looking downstream from near the railway bridge towards Withymead Lock.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU460204.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 52″ N 1° 20′ 46″ W.

(122.4KB)

Withymead Lock

Several hundred yards beyond the railway bridge, Withymead Lock is encountered. Brickwork remains at both the head and tail of the Lock but much of this (particularly at the latter) is quite overgrown. A weir has been constructed at the head of the lock and the present day path crosses the Navigation at this point by means of a modern footbridge. When the waterway was in use, the towing path crossed via a bridge at the tail of the lock.

When the waterway carried commercial traffic, it was usual after use that the top gates would be kept closed and the bottom gates open. Any excess water in the Navigation could pass through special holes in the top gates. At Withymead, a bypass channel may have been provided on the west side of the lock for such water and the remains of this stream are still in evidence as you leave the lock. It is seems that this arrangement had its origin in the now derelict system for drowning the water meadows below Withymead as the Ordnance Survey map of 1869 shows no stream returning water to the Navigation.

In early June 2013 the wooden footbridge was vandalised closing the footpath. According to Hampshire County Council it was going to cost £70,000 to replace it. So, the path remained closed and the signs kept changing with later and later dates for the bridge to be repaired. But then Henry Russell, the farmer who owns High Bridge Farm at Allbrook, stepped in. “It’s such a well used and important footway that I felt the delay was embarrassing,” he said. He used the farm facilities to build a vandal proof bridge from steel and donated it to the county. A most generous man! The new bridge opened in December 2013.

Head of Withymead Lock
Head of Withymead Lock

The footbridge at the head of Withymead Lock seen from upstream showing the old footbridge.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 48″ N 1° 20′ 42″ W.

Head of Withymead Lock

The footbridge at the head of Withymead Lock seen from upstream showing the old footbridge.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU460202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 48″ N 1° 20′ 42″ W.

(114.8KB)

Head of Withymead Lock
Head of Withymead Lock

The footbridge and weir at the head of Withymead Lock seen from beside the chamber.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

Head of Withymead Lock

The footbridge and weir at the head of Withymead Lock seen from beside the chamber.
Image date: 15 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU461202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

(120.8KB)

Vandalised footbridge
Vandalised footbridge

The vandalised footbridge at Withymead Lock.
Image date: 29 Jun 2013. © 2013 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk NG Ref: SU460202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

Vandalised footbridge

The vandalised footbridge at Withymead Lock.
Image date: 29 Jun 2013.
NG Ref: SU460202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

(87.2KB)

New footbridge
New footbridge

The new steel footbridge at Withymead Lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

New footbridge

The new steel footbridge at Withymead Lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU461202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

(88.4KB)

Withymead Lock chamber
Withymead Lock chamber

Withymead Lock chamber viewed from the footbridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

Withymead Lock chamber

Withymead Lock chamber viewed from the footbridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU460202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

(80.6KB)

Tail of Withymead Lock
Tail of Withymead Lock

The tail of Withymead Lock seen from the footpath.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 46″ N 1° 20′ 39″ W.

Tail of Withymead Lock

The tail of Withymead Lock seen from the footpath.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU461202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 46″ N 1° 20′ 39″ W.

(93.1KB)

Tail of Withymead Lock
Tail of Withymead Lock

Some of the overgrown brickwork forming the offside of the tail of the lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

Tail of Withymead Lock

Some of the overgrown brickwork forming the offside of the tail of the lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU461202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

(94.6KB)

Tail of Withymead Lock
Tail of Withymead Lock

Some of the remaining brickwork on the nearside of the tail of the lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

Tail of Withymead Lock

Some of the remaining brickwork on the nearside of the tail of the lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU461202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

(89.7KB)

Withymead Lock by-pass
Withymead Lock by-pass

The by-pass channel passing under the footpath near the head of Withymead Lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU461202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

Withymead Lock by-pass

The by-pass channel passing under the footpath near the head of Withymead Lock.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU461202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 40″ W.

(75.0KB)

Withymead Lock by-pass
Withymead Lock by-pass

The Withymead Lock by-pass looking downstream from the culvert under the path.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU460202. WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

Withymead Lock by-pass

The Withymead Lock by-pass looking downstream from the culvert under the path.
Image date: 16 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU460202.
WGS84: 50° 58′ 47″ N 1° 20′ 41″ W.

(80.0KB)

A number of the pictures on this page are shown by kind permission of Marie Keates. A keen walker, she has written about and illustrated several attempts to walk the full length of the Navigation during 2013 in her blog at http://www.iwalkalone.co.uk. She has walked along all or parts of the Navigation often since then: all illustrated with some excellent photographs.