Itchen Navigation: Access
The “Itchen Way” is a footpath that follows the river from near its source at Cheriton to Woolston where the Itchen joins Southampton Water. Although substantial lengths of the path following the Navigation were improved by the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project between 2007 and 2012, other lengths of the path are not in the best of repair although passable. Some places, particularly between Mans Bridge and Bishopstoke, are eroded and, as the towing path was originally built out of chalk rubble, it can be quite slippery in all but the driest weather. It is advisable that suitable footwear is worn.
The “Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail” (formerly known as the “Itchen Navigation Footpath”) is a portion of the “Itchen Way” running alongside or near the Navigation from Winchester to Wood Mill.
Following work to restore the disused Hockley Railway Viaduct, Winchester City Council designated the “Viaduct Way” to run from the Winchester Guildhall to the South Winchester Park & Ride in Otterbourne Road via the Hockley Viaduct. Part of the “Viaduct Way” parallels the Navigation, particularly between Tun Bridge and Hockley following Twyford Lane. The Way is also part of National Cycle Route 23 which runs from Reading to Sandown on the Isle of Wight.
In 2020, a Facebook group was established with a view to fostering interest in the Navigation. Currently (March 2023) the group has about 1,500 members. Details can be found on Facebook. In addition, a charity, “The Itchen Navigation Preservation Trust” is being set up. One of the first things it aims to do is a condition survey of the whole Navigation and then to set up a maintenance plan for clearing vegetation on the locks. The charity will have lots more aims other than the physical work and it is hoped to raise money soon for some larger projects.
The pages within the Portrait of the Waterway form a guide to those walking the Navigation, with pictures which should help in recognising the features along the way.
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust set up a series of circular walks which incorporate lengths of the Navigation. The Trust produced leaflets giving details of these walks for all abilities, between 2 and 6 miles in length which used to be available on their website but are no longer advertised there. However, copies of these leaflets maybe downloaded from these sites:
|Winchester||Mills & Meadows. This leaflet seems to be no longer available. Similar guides available online.||3 miles / 5 km||A walk along two branches of the River Itchen alongside historic water meadows and the Iron Age hill fort of St. Catherine’s Hill nature reserve.|
|Compton||Valley of Fields||6 miles / 10 km||From Shawford walk beside the Navigation towards St Cross, then head for Compton Down and discover views and ancient yews.|
|Twyford||Kingfisher Trail||6 miles / 10 km||Take a walk across the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park and along the stunning Itchen river valley.|
|Otterbourne||Otter Trail||3.5 miles / 5.5 km||Follow in the footsteps of otters along the Itchen Navigation. Discover an old churchyard and wonderful ancient woodland on the outskirts of Otterbourne.|
|Bishopstoke||Water Vole Way||3.5 miles / 5.5 km||From Bishopstoke to Allbrook and Highbridge.|
|Mansbridge||Bargeman's Walk. This leaflet seems to be no longer available.||2 miles / 3 km||Follow the start of the bargeman’s journey up the Itchen Navigation across old river crossings, past a historic mill and medieval church.|
At a total distance of about 11 miles between Woodmill and Winchester, the Itchen Navigation can be walked from end to end in a day by anyone reasonably fit. Alternatively the walk can be split into shorter sections. See this page for a detailed distance table. The recommended access points are Northam Bridge, Cobden Bridge, Woodmill, Mans Bridge, Bishopstoke, Shawford, Tun Bridge and Blackbridge Wharf, Winchester.
There are public houses close to the Navigation at Mansbridge, Bishopstoke, Ham Bridge south of Allbrook, Shawford and Wharf Hill, Winchester.
It is also possible to walk beside the tidal river for about 1½ out of the 2 miles between Wood Mill and Northam.
Wheelchair access is possible between Woodmill and Mans Bridge. From there, access can be gained to Gaters Mill beside the river and also across the river to Mansbridge Lock.
The path between Compton Lock and Tun Bridge is described as ‘easy access’ and suitable for pushchairs and some wheelchairs. However, the path between Compton Lock and Shawford might prove more problematic.
The determined wheelchair user might also gain access to fairly short lengths at Bishopstoke and south of Shawford Bridge.
It should also be possible for a wheelchair user to access to nearly one mile of the tidal river in Riverside Park between Wood Mill and Cobden Bridge and also to about half a mile between Horseshoe Bridge, St Denys and Northam Bridge.
There are free car parks next to the Navigation at Woodmill, at Shawford Down (about 250 yards from Shawford Bridge on the other side of the railway) and adjoining the waterway at Tun Bridge. In addition, it is possible to park a car in the vicinity of the White Swan at Mansbridge on the remains of the old road next to the river.
At the playing fields next to the Navigation at Bishopstoke, a charge is currently made between 8.00am and 6.00pm Monday to Friday and between 8.00am and 2.00pm on Saturday but is free for the first 3 hours within these times and anytime outside these times.
There are Park & Ride facilities at St Catherine's car park about 500 yards east of Tun Bridge and Barfield car park off Bar End Road in Winchester. Fees are payable for parking at certain times.
More detailed information about car parking can be found on the Parkopedia website.
Using public transport it is fairly easy to make a one way walk into a round trip. In addition to the resources listed below, there is a website that incorporates a journey planner for Hampshire called https://myjourneyhampshire.com/ which should help to indicate possible journeys in all modes of transport with timings.
The Winchester to Southampton railway line parallels the waterway and the train is a good way to get to or from one end of your walk. See the maps of the waterway: Map 1: Winchester to Allbrook and Map 2: Allbrook to Northam.
- Southampton station is inconveniently about 1½ miles west from Northam Bridge.
- St Denys station is about ½ mile south west of Cobden Bridge, 200 yards from Priory Hard and ¾ mile north of Northam Bridge.
- Swaythling station is about ½ mile north of Woodmill and a similar distance from Mans Bridge.
- Eastleigh station is ½ mile west of Stoke Bridge, Bishopstoke.
- Shawford station is 100 yards from the Navigation.
- Winchester station is less convenient at about 1 mile west from Blackbridge Wharf.
Trains usually run at hourly intervals between these stations. More details from National Rail Enquiries on 0845 6000 650 (calls charged at local rate) or rail timetables on the web.
Bluestar service 1 runs between Winchester and Southampton which stops at Shawford Down (1⁄3 mile north-west from Shawford) and at the White Horse, Otterbourne (¾ mile west of Brambridge). Bluestar also operates Service 2 between Bishopstoke and Southampton. Details from Bluestar or by telephone on 01202 338421.
Stagecoach in Hampshire operate buses in the area including services E1 & E2 from Eastleigh to Winchester via Allbrook, Highbridge / Brambridge (½ mile east of the Navigation), Twyford (½ mile east of Shawford) and Hockley. Further details from Stagecoach or by telephone on 0345 241 8000 (calls are charged at geographic rates - the same as 01/02 numbers) during office hours.
Xelabus operate services mainly in the Borough of Eastleigh. Details from Xelabus or by telephone on 023 8064 4715.
The majority of the Navigation is in water and the public right of navigation has not been legally extinguished. However, access by boat is normally prevented by riparian landowners and fishing interests - sometimes forcefully.
It is possible to launch and use a small boat over the bank at Wood Mill into the non-tidal Navigation (there is no slipway). About three quarters of a mile of river can be used through Mans Bridge and on to the entrance to Gaters Mill.
Please note: that the current through the single arch of the old Mans Bridge can be very strong, and may be very difficult to navigate. This, together with very limited headroom, means that the greatest care is necessary, particularly when navigating downstream with the current.
Of course, the tidal river downstream of Wood Mill is available to boats. It is possible to launch small boats at Wood Mill from a sloping bank. The nearest public hard to Wood Mill is Priory Hard at Priory Road, St Denys where trailable boats may be put in the water. There are other public hards further downstream. It should be pointed out that the river at Wood Mill virtually dries out at low water.
The details given above are listed in good faith. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information is up-to-date, details may change at any time. This site cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of third-party websites and it is recommended that any details are checked with the sources given above. The web site manager would be pleased to hear about changes or errors found.