The public footpath crosses the Navigation back to the site of the towing path on west bank at the bridge across the tail end of College Mead Lock. This overgrown and badly eroded lock can be seen from the bridge but there is no further direct public access. However, on the west side of the lock, there are several seats to rest weary bones. Behind these is the restful Hawksley Corner, a garden planted with trees which are memorials to Southern Water employees. This is sometimes known as Otterbourne Memorial Garden.
As part of the Heritage Trail Project, a gap in the masonry remains of the cill and weir at the head of the lock was “widened” to increase water flow. It would seem though that similar measures were not taken to deal with increased flows in the Navigation between here and Brambridge Lock. This has resulted in a situation where, south of the lock, the path can become very muddy and water levels appear to rise higher than before. There is also a small weir across a very shallow Navigation just before entering the main River Itchen below College Mead Bridge.
The river swings in from the east and on the west bank there is an intake feeding Otterbourne Waterworks, most of which lie to the west of the railway. Originally established by Southampton Corporation towards the end of the nineteenth century as a replacement for the waterworks at Mansbridge, a major expansion took place in the 1930s to provide much of the town‘s water supply. Some water is extracted from the river but most comes from half a dozen boreholes situated in the water meadows to the east. Downstream of the intake, the river flows under a pipe bridge from the boreholes. On the east side the confluence of the river and Navigation runs another channel fed by a number of hatchways from the main river.
Otterbourne Waterworks to Downs Bridge
Almost by stealth, the main river leaves the waterway through a series of hatches and weirs on the east bank so that, south of the sharp bend, the Navigation channel is more like a canal than a river. This is a very pleasant stretch of waterway although, despite some work in 2010, the path beside it can be quite muddy. An area of uncared for woodland occupies the area to the north-west of the towing path and the trees here are prone falling and blocking the path.
Documented as Downs Bridge in the mid-19th century, the next structure of note is a fairly modern concrete replacement of the original structure.
Downs Bridge to Brambridge Lock
South of this bridge, the Navigation is sheltered on both sides by mature trees. The artificial origin of this section of waterway is betrayed by the straightness of the channel with a sudden bend. Near that bend the remains of three hatches controlling culverts under the towing path were cleared during 2008 by volunteers helping with the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project. Two iron ratchet and pawl mechanisms for operating the hatches remained in position although one went missing during conservation work. Water was leaking into the structure, threatening it, and the Navigation’s bank in which it sat, with collapse. Stone gabions were installed in 2010, to support the structure and prevent further deterioration. A replacement oak beam was also installed to allow the remaining cast iron hatch mechanism to be displayed. Further details of the repairs together with photographs see this report (2.27MB) made as part of the project.
These hatches may have been used to drown the water meadows in the area or they may have been involved in the water supply to the moat of Otterbourne Manor which lies just west of the railway. This supply would have been intercepted by the Navigation when it was built. Or they might have been used simply to allow water to bypass Brambridge Lock as there is a water channel running parallel to the canal that enters the Navigation just below the lock. Although these hatches are more substantial and of a slightly different design, an idea of how these hatches looked may be gained from this picture of a similar, former structure north of Shawford at Tumbling Bay.
Some 50 yards further south, the walker comes to Brambridge Lock.
An old eel trap straddles the waterway about 10-15 yards to the north of the former position of the top gates of Brambridge Lock. This trap wasn’t part of the lock, being built after barges stopped plying the Itchen.
A substantial amount of brickwork remains at both the head and the tail of this lock. However, most of the earthen banks once forming this turf-sided lock have been reduced to the lower water level so that brickwork stands up above the ground. Unusually, the courses of brickwork forming the offside tail wall of the lock were laid at a considerable angle from the horizontal. It is not possible to see whether the nearside wall is the same.
There is the remains of a waterwheel near the east side of the head of the lock. Known as Brambridge House Mill, this seems to have been a water powered pumping mill/wheel to supply water to Brambridge House. It was not the centuries old Brambridge Mill that was nearby but demolished before 1870.
The Rosemary Leet that left the Navigation upstream rejoins the waterway below the lock spanned by a footbridge.
Brambridge Lock to Kiln Lane, Brambridge
Below the lock the Navigation, the east bank and the grounds of Kingfisher Lodge are screened from view from the path by high fencing and dense vegetation. Until 2017, a not very long stretch of this path is almost always damp - sometimes flooded. Some trees were cut down widening the normally muddy stretch of path and a new raised boardwalk was built.
One of the pictures on this page is 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.