Itchen Navigation: Description
Bishopstoke - Chicken Hall

Distance: 1.0 mile

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The Itchen Way along the Navigation between Bishopstoke and Mansbridge is currently the least well used section of the path and as a result is walkable but unkempt and less "cared for". It should be pointed out that the walk between these two places is over three miles and that it is, to all intents and purposes, impossible to gain access to, or leave, the path en route.

South of Bishopstoke, the Navigation passes across an area of fairly open water meadows. Both banks consist of embankments up to about 4 feet high with the remains of various hatches can be found. At least one of these was faced with finely dressed stonework.

After about 200 yards, the towing path bank has become very overgrown, much of it with hawthorn. As a result, in places walkers have had to resort to taking to the side of the bank of the canal.

After about 350 yards, the remains of Conegar Lock can be found. The lock was sometimes also known as Coneger, Coneygear or Stoke Conygar Lock. The name derives from "coney garth": an artificial rabbit warren.

This lock is probably the best preserved of the turf sided locks on the Itchen Navigation. Much of the area of the lock, particularly around the head, has become very overgrown by bushes in the last dozen or so years. Indeed, there is a danger that within a few years this area could become impassable. Formerly, substantial amounts of masonry could be seen at the head of the lock but this is now very difficult to find or see. On the offside of the waterway, some fine stonework provides the setting for a hatch that was used for drowning the water meadows on the east side of the Navigation. There is also a fine brick arched culvert passing under the towing path just above the lock which served a similar purpose but it is now fenced off and hidden by vegetation.

The "upper apron" or top cill (the step in the bed of the Navigation overcome by the lock) has collapsed and been almost completely washed away. Indeed, a report of 1863 said that it was then about to disintegrate. This has led to erosion of the bed of the canal above the lock into a series of rapids for some distance upstream. This has exaggerated the height of the banks considerably. Until around 20 years ago, the "turf sided" chamber had well defined sloping, earthen banks on both sides of the lock. However, that on the east side was destroyed in the late 1980's. An unusual feature of this lock is the brick walling at the foot of these slopes which would have been installed to prevent erosion when the lock chamber was being filled. It was more usual for a wooden structure to be built for this purpose. Vertical baulks of timber would also have been positioned above the walling to prevent boats settling on the sloping sides as the lock was emptied.

A modern footbridge uses the well-preserved brickwork at the tail of the lock to carry the path from the west to the east bank of the waterway. When the canal was commercially used, there used to be a wooden horse bridge below the lock by which means the towing path crossed the waterway.

Nearly 300 yards south of Conegar Lock, at Fish House Bay, the Barton River rejoins the Navigation, only to cross and leave again almost immediately to join the main River Itchen to the south east. The footpath used to cross the Barton River as it left the Navigation by means of a plank bridge with a handrail. Some years ago this was replaced by a more substantial footbridge on a slightly different alignment. It is recorded that, in the days of navigation, there were hatches and a horse bridge on this site. However, the hatches, which retained a higher water level, were destroyed about 125 years ago in order to drain the Navigation to the south. The result is that the artificial waterway from here almost as far south as Mans Bridge is now 'dry' although some parts can still get quite waterlogged.

Within a few yards, the path crosses the dry bed of the canal to the west side. Originally, the towing path continued along the east bank of the Navigation as far as Mansbridge Lock. The present day public footpath now turns south again along a private, metalled track between the Navigation and Chicken Hall Sewage Works to the west. As the track climbs up a rise, the course of the canal was tucked in below the hill. At one point, the main River Itchen comes so close to the Navigation that it has started eroding away the east bank of the canal. The track descends again to run alongside the course of the canal.

About four hundred yards from Fish House Bay, the track passes through a gate, crossing the site of the canal, which ran just on the east side of the fence. The footpath continues to the right of the gate.

Here is one of the few places were the canal has been actively destroyed, happening here in about 1977. The public footpath continues southwards between what was the west side of the Navigation and the sewage works. After about 150 yards, the remains of the canal can once again be seen on the east side of the footpath. At the south end of the sewage works the public footpath diverges from the Navigation as it passes the site of Chicken Hall Farm which stood to the west. Some 140 yards south of the sewage works, the Navigation has again been destroyed where the footpath crosses a field to Chicken Hall railway bridge. Near the north end of this field there used to be a wooden occupation bridge known as Chickenhall Bridge but no trace of it can be seen.

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

Text © Southampton Canal Society 1999 - 2010.
Pictures © Peter Oates 2003 - 2010. Pictures on or accessed through this page may not be reproduced without the express permission of the Web Site manager.

Original page covering Bishopstoke to Mansbridge created 16 June 1999 - split into three pages 28/29 October 2003 - picture gallery created 28 October 2003 - description and pictures combined and expanded with new layout 23 January 2010 - content updated 24 January 2010.

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