Itchen Navigation: Description
Allbrook - Withymead

Distance: 0.9 mile

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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 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.

West of the railway and on the north side of the canal, the Nuttall plant hire depot dominates. The old line of the Navigation rejoins the present line between the railway bridge and the depot.

As part of the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project some major work has been done to strengthen the bank on the towing path side of the canal as far as Ham Bridge. Also, the surface of the path on top of the bank has been made up as far as the next railway bridge. Near the railway bridge here at Allbrook, a small overflow weir has been constructed to help prevent water in the Navigation from overtopping the path and possibly breaching the bank.

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. For much of this length, the Navigation has a rather neglected air with many trees overhanging, or even fallen, and nearly blocking the channel. This contrasts with the recently re-built path - it's almost as though the canal didn't feature in the plans. From a point just south of the crossing by an electricity pylon line, the towing path was improved in the 1990's as part of the repairs to a large breach in the bank.

The next feature of note is Ham Bridge, which is an accommodation bridge that also carries a public footpath up to the main Eastleigh to Twyford road 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 several times, the last in 1943 when preparations were in hand for the invasion of Europe.

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.

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.

The pictures relating to the vandalism at Withymead Lock footbridge are shown here by kind permission of Marie Keates. She has written about and illustrated several attempts to walk the full length of the Navigation during 2013 in her blog at The pictures on this page together with further details can be found at for 30 June and 29 December 2013. She has walked along all or parts of the Navigation often since then: all illustrated with some excellent photographs.

Send your comments to the Southampton Canal Society Web Site manager (Peter Oates).

Text © Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2017.
Pictures © Peter Oates and Marie Keates 2003 - 2014. Pictures on or accessed through this page may not be reproduced without the express permission of the Web Site manager.

Original page covering Allbrook to Bishopstoke created 15 June 1999 - split into two pages 20 October 2003 - picture gallery created 20 October 2003 - description and pictures combined and expanded with new layout 23 January 2010 - content updated 12 January 2014 and 3 September 2017.

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