Itchen Navigation: Description
Withymead - Bishopstoke

Distance: 0.7 mile

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It was usual, when the waterway carried commercial traffic, for the top gates to be kept closed and the bottom gates open. Any excess water in the Navigation could pass through special holes in the top gates. Unusually, at Withymead, a bypass channel seems to have been provided on the west side of the lock for such water and the remains of this stream are still in evidence as you leave the lock. It is likely that this arrangement was part of the now derelict system for drowning the water meadows below Withymead.

Just below Withymead Lock, the Navigation enters the main river and, for about half a mile, the two share a common course. Several sharp bends below Withymead would have made navigation difficult with a horse-drawn barge, particularly when the river was in flood.

As Bishopstoke is approached, the Barton River (a side stream of the Itchen) leaves through a set of modern sluices over which the footpath passes at point formerly known as Barton Bay. This stream used to power Barton Peveril Mill.

This area is plagued with a good deal of tree growth and the open aspect that is so evident in the 1976 photograph has now gone. This growth of trees and bushes started when the towing path was fenced off from the adjacent meadows in the 1980's. The cause is probably that cattle in the meadows can no longer graze on the young saplings near the side of the river before they become established as larger plants.

Soon the Navigation leaves the main river at a much silted and overgrown junction and shortly the remains of Stoke Lock are reached. This lock has suffered from a lot of piecemeal brickwork and steel piling over the years. A set of sluices has been inserted at the head of the lock and fairly recently a fish pass has also been added. A footbridge carries a public footpath into the centre of Bishopstoke over the tail of the lock.

The stretch of waterway south of the lock is very shallow, the towing path is tarmaced and the bank protected with brick walling. Locally, this stretch is still known as the Barge River and the adjoining footway as the Barge Path. Stoke Bridge carries the Eastleigh to Bishopstoke road over the Navigation. This bridge was built in the early 1900's when the road between the two settlements was re-aligned. A car park for the adjacent playing fields (and available to walkers) lies on the west side of the waterway and several pubs can be found within a few hundred yards to the east in Bishopstoke.

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 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 23 January 2010.

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