At Shawford Bridge the towing path swaps to the west bank of the Navigation. The path was probably constructed on this side to reduce the possibility of trespass in the grounds of Shawford House on the east bank. Here the waterway passes through a more built up part of the village although this is relative. A number of houses in Park View lie on the west side of the Navigation between the towing path and the railway. Indeed, this path is their only means of access to the outside world. To the east of the waterway, lie the grounds of Shawford House, a Grade 2* listed building built in 1685 to which there is no public access.
One hundred yards south of the bridge can be found the remains of Shawford Single Gates in amongst some trees. This structure was effectively half of a lock - much of the brickwork remains and the narrowing of the waterway shows its position. In the 1970s there was a weir that had been inserted in place of the gates but this is no longer in evidence. It has been suggested that the structure’s original purpose was to retain a head of water for Shawford Mill which lies just upstream of Shawford Bridge.
At the end of Park View, the path is met by the access road to Bridge Terrace. In the 19th century there used to be a bridge over the Navigation into Shawford Park as an extension of the road but it had disappeared by 1896.
Shawford to Malms Farm
Passing south, the houses in Bridge Terrace are soon left behind with a narrow paddock lying between the Navigation and the railway. The footpath, which is often rather muddy, generally follows the Navigation fairly closely. The waterway is rather secretive being partially hidden by trees and bushes growing along the bank. Just over 100 yards from Bridge Terrace, almost hidden by vegetation are the remains of a footbridge that once spanned the canal. Gradually, the waterway draws nearer the railway until the footpath beside the Navigation reaches the private road at the foot of the embankment.
Shortly, the canal and railway diverge again and, passing through a gate, it is possible to see the towing path cut into the gentle slope of the hill against which the waterway was built. From documentary evidence, it would appear that this section of the Navigation was built in the first decade of the 18th Century.
Malms Farm to Malm Lock
At the next bridge, by the buildings of Malms Farm, the public right of way crosses the Navigation by a replacement of the original wooden bridge. This path follows the ‘offside’ bank southwards almost as far as Malm Lock whence it leaves the waterway. The original towing path did not cross over but remained on the west bank until College Mead Lock. However, the public footpath was diverted in 1914 and the original path is no longer open to the public.
Until about 2002, the next part of the Navigation was overlooked by the imposing, if rather gaunt, Malms House which was built just before the First World War by Winchester solicitor Alfred Bowker. He had been mayor of the city in 1900-1 and was also a keen gardener and sculptor.
The house was demolished in about 2002. It has been replaced by a large block of apartments which, although partially screened by trees, does not sit comfortably with its surroundings.
Although a public footpath (Compton & Shawford Footpath No 10) is defined as continuing south along the east bank to the southern end of Malm Lock (and ending there), it is in fact almost impossible to clamber over the fence and through the thick vegetation from the well worn Itchen Way. But it is interesting that the weir at the top of the lock, although fixed, has been built in the position and shape of the original top gates.
Alfred Bowker was responsible for a number changes around the Navigation. Using the height difference of around six feet at Malm Lock he built a channel bypassing the head of the lock to accommodate a turbine, presumably to generate electricity. On the east bank below the lock, his gardening interest led him to build a Japanese water garden getting its water from the Navigation.
Early in 2003, a breach in the bank of the Navigation just above the lock led to flooding of the fields to the east and a lowering of water levels as far upstream as Shawford. The breach had been repaired by the middle of April 2003. There was a further breach through the bank south of Shawford in the winter of 2009-10 which was mended as part of work of the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project.
Malm Lock and College Mead Lock downstream both held up water behind them leading to water overtopping the banks, erosion and the breaches. Such structures can also impact fish passage and lead to sluggish silted waters which are unsuited to chalk stream specialist species. Just improving flows would not allow fish to overcome the high rise of the lock. Instead, a 100 metre long by-pass channel was created around the side of the lock in 2012 as part of the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project. This new channel was excavated and lined with rocks and gravels, carefully placed to provide a range of flow conditions passable by smaller fish as well as the more athletic salmonid species.
Malm Lock to College Mead
A few yards before reaching Malm Lock, the public footpath leaves the Navigation. It crosses the adjacent field for about 50 yards and then, turning southwards, follows a disused track for over quarter of a mile. This runs roughly parallel to the Navigation, and about 70 yards from it, reaching College Mead Lock before rejoining the canal. The canal between the two locks is in water but is inaccessible to the public.
Several of the pictures on this page are 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.