Itchen Navigation: Description
St Catherine Lock - Tumbling Bay

Distance: 0.8 mile


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Below St Catherine Lock, in contrast to above the lock, the Navigation is quite neglected and becoming overgrown. Until the M3 was constructed, this length of the waterway was usually full of water. Since then, the channel may carry water at times of high flow in the river, but often the Navigation is dry especially in summer. Much of the water that flows through St Catherine Lock leaves the Navigation via a side stream just below the lock where former sluices no longer maintain a level in the canal.

The towing path that used to follow the bank of the Navigation is now overgrown and unusable. The modern path follows the line of Twyford Lane parallel to the Navigation but a few yards to the east.

The embankment of the old railway has been swept away in the vicinity of St Catherine's Lock. The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway, which was operated by the Great Western Railway, reached Winchester from Newbury in May 1885. However, the connection with the London & South Western Railway at Shawford wasn't opened until October 1891. A busy line during World War II but use of the railway later declined and passenger traffic ceased in 1961 with goods ending five years later.

About 350 yards south of the lock, the old lane turns away from the Navigation and passes under the railway embankment. The waterway itself passes under the line by means of an iron-decked skew bridge. A towing path used to pass under the bridge beside the Navigation but this is now much eroded. As this section of railway was not opened until 1891, it would not have seen any commercial boat traffic pass under it.

Shortly after the railway bridge at Hockley, the waterway is culverted under the M3 and its associated side-roads. The Navigation used to pass diagonally under Hockley Crossroads on the old Winchester By-pass in a "tunnel" with full headroom. When the M3 was constructed, the Department of Transport obtained legal powers to divert the Navigation along the south side of the railway embankment to join the River Itchen close to the Hockley railway viaduct. The diversion (including a lock) will only be built by the Department if and when restoration of the adjoining waterway is undertaken.

From the site of Hockley crossroads, going south, two routes are available to the walker:

  1. At the traffic lights, don't cross the road immediately but follow the tarmac path along the A3090 road for about 100 yards (90 metres) towards but not crossing the River Itchen. Cross the road (taking care with the traffic) and pass under the motorway along the east (nearest) bank of the main River Itchen. This new section of footpath was created when part of the river was diverted during construction of the M3. The former route of the Navigation will be rejoined after several hundred yards at a modern footbridge.
  2. This option follows the old line of the Navigation more closely but runs alongside a busy road. At the traffic lights pass under the motorway by means of the bridge, following the road towards Twyford. Just over 100 yards after the motorway, the old towing path can be rejoined opposite the entrance to Hockley Golf Course. Within a few yards the remains of the next lock, Twyford Lane End Lock or Lock No 2, are encountered on the right. This lock is fairly overgrown and it is difficult to see a great deal. A dilapidated wooden bridge crosses the lock in the position once occupied by the bottom gates. The main River Itchen is reached in another 100 yards where the first route is joined at the modern footbridge.

The river and the Navigation now share a common course in a southerly direction. This section of waterway towards Shawford flows through lovely open countryside although noise from the motorway can intrude at times.

However, the path along this section can become impassable in times of high flow in the river during the winter. The path has become worn away and water sometimes overflows the path. During the summer, it is becoming increasingly difficult to walk along the path between the junction and Tumbling Bay. Before the 1980's the path ran along the original towing path on top of the bank. However, a fence was erected close alongside that path. Subsequently, vegetation, including bushes and even trees, has become established along here, protected by the barbed wire fence. The result is that, in places, walkers are resorting to walking along the side of the towing path bank almost in the river. In winter, passage can be difficult with higher water levels.

After several hundred yards, at Tumbling Bay, a set of hatches (as sluices are known locally) control water levels in the Navigation and in the Twyford Drain, a branch of the river which leaves to flow along the eastern side of the valley near Twyford. The remains of the old hatches can just be seen a few yards to the south of the new sluices which replaced them.


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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 St Catherine Lock to Shawford created 11 June 1999 - split into two pages 12 April 2003 - picture gallery created 11 April 2003 - description and pictures combined and expanded with new layout 19 January 2010 - content updated 22 January 2010.


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