Itchen Navigation: Description
Chicken Hall - Sandy Lock

Distance: 1.2 mile

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The Eastleigh to Fareham railway line was opened in 1841 and crossed the Navigation by means of a two arched bridge, the second arch on the east side of the canal providing access for the occupiers of land on either side of the railway. However, in 1979, the bridge had to be rebuilt and the present 'tube' was considered the most economical. Mindful of their legal obligations towards the Navigation, British Rail took care in its installation to ensure that sufficient width at the correct level was provided to accommodate the Navigation should it ever be restored. In the meantime, the footpath passes through the arch provided for the canal.

After some 50 yards from the railway, the footpath returns to the alignment of the original towing path. About 250 yards south of the railway bridge, a track crosses the canal bed to reach a small, disused water treatment works that once served Eastleigh railway works. About 15 yards north of this track are the overgrown remains of an embankment constructed by the London and South Western Railway in the first decade of the 20th century. This was intended to form part of a diversion of the Eastleigh to Fareham line to avoid the then new Eastleigh railway works but construction seems to have ceased before reaching the main river to the east. Contemporary Ordnance Survey mapping shows a railway track crossing the Navigation but this was probably only for construction purposes.

Between Fish House Bay and Mans Bridge, the Navigation was constructed along the edge of a river terrace which forms a flat area to the west generally about 10 - 15 feet above the flat valley floor. In general, the canal was constructed above the level of the meadows to help with one of the Navigation's main purposes - that is to provide water for the controlled flooding of the water meadows especially in winter.

Much of the bed and banks of the canal as far as Mans Bridge are now covered with trees and bushes but, as these have matured, the amount of undergrowth has been reducing in recent years. A number of small springs along the edge of the river terrace feed water into the Navigation. Parts of the canal bed are waterlogged even in the driest weather despite attempts to drain it by breaching the towing path or inserting pipes through it.

There were four locks between Fish House Bay and Mans Bridge that are now in various states of decay. They can be difficult to find in the vegetation but their presence is usually betrayed by a change in level of the towing path.

The first of the locks was known either as Lock House or Chicken Hall Lock. The first name derives from the fact that there was once a lock cottage beside the canal here. This was lived in until after the Second World War but was then completely demolished, the site becoming a bramble patch that today is a small copse. The remains of the substantial stone and brickwork of the lock can be found across the towing path from the former house. The masonry was once obscured by dense vegetation but today is much more accessible. The towing path for the last 300 yards before the lock runs along a bank about 8 to 10 feet above the meadows. A substantial dip in the towing path just upstream of the lock is the site of a set of hatches used to feed water to the water meadows. The remains of a pond fed by these hatches can be seen south of the path.

Southampton Airport occupies the land to the west of the Navigation from here to the M27 motorway. Whilst fairly busy, the fact that the airport lies on the terrace above the canal with trees along the boundary means that it is fairly well screened from the waterway although some aircraft can be a bit noisy. The meadows along the eastern side of the waterway are now part of the Itchen Valley Country Park. There are a number of footpaths within the country park accessible from the towing path which allow exploration of the water meadows.

Parts of the canal bed between Lock House Lock and the next are in good condition but thickly overgrown. About 500 yards downstream of Lock House Lock is the site of New Barn Bridge which gave access from the now demolished North Stoneham Farm (within the airport) to the water meadows. The former wooden bridge has been replaced by an earth ramp across the canal but this is now disused. A stone edged approach ramp can still be traced in the adjacent meadow. South of New Barn Bridge, the canal is more difficult to recognise and the towing path embankment has in places disappeared. About 150 yards north of the next lock there used to be another wooden occupation bridge called Decoypond Bridge but no remains can now be found. On the approach to Decoypond Lock, the bed is in better condition and the towpath embankment is about 6 feet high.

The next lock was known as Decoypond Lock and lies about level with the south end of the wood known as Decoy Covert within the country park. However, it can be quite difficult to find the remains. A number of large trees growing in the brickwork have extensively damaged the lock masonry and vegetation effectively hides much of it from view. The canal bed within and south of this lock is usually boggy, even waterlogged, but as one nears the next lock, it becomes much drier. In cross-section, the canal is in good condition but with some trees growing in it. The path is somewhat eroded in parts but up to 5 or 6 feet above the meadows.

Sandy Lock was the third lock along the 'dry' section. The head of this turf sided lock is in poor condition: the brickwork that remains is much distorted by tree roots. The rusted remains of barbed wire entanglements, presumably from Second World War defences of the airport, lie at the head of the chamber which is itself fairly intact. The tail is the most impressive on this section of the Navigation with both the near and offside walls about 8 feet high. The brickwork on the offside was, until about 20 years ago, almost complete but part has now collapsed as the mortar between the bricks has decayed. The brickwork on the towpath side has suffered more from the effects of tree roots.

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 28/29 October 2003 - description and pictures combined and expanded with new layout 24 January 2010 - content updated 24 January 2010.

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