We have contributed £400k to an exciting £2m project in Hampshire. This will restore the historic towpath along the Itchen Navigation from Winchester to Southampton to create a better place for people and wildlife.
About the project
The Itchen Heritage Navigation Trail runs for 17km and connects Southampton and Eastleigh before reaching the historic city of Winchester. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) along most of its length.
It is steeped in industrial history, being a popular route for barges carrying goods in the past. It is also a haven for rare wildlife such as water voles, otters, kingfishers and the southern damselfly, which is of international importance.
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are leading this five year lottery funded project, which is also one of the region's flagship projects. It aims to conserve the Itchen Navigation so that future generations can continue to enjoy the wonderful wildlife found along the river. Many of its historic features, such as locks, will also be restored.
The Itchen Navigation is part of the River Itchen system, an internationally important chalk river and is protected under European law. Over the years, banks along the navigation have breached and footpaths and bridges have fallen into disrepair, meaning much of it was in need of restoration.
Restoring the Itchen Navigation
The project aims to breathe new life into the navigation and make it a place that people will value and visit time and time again. In the past year, the project has:
- reduced flood risk and erosion by stabilising and restoring river banks along three stretches of the navigation
- improved footpaths and footbridges, allowing more people to access the river and enjoy their local environment
- enhanced access opportunities where work has taken place, and plans to provide disabled access / access for all at appropriate locations in the future (seating is also planned)
- provided new habitat for wildlife along the river banks by using locally sourced plants and joining them with existing habitat
- cleared vegetation in problem areas
- removed trees where they were causing damage to banks and preventing light from reaching the river
- installed bat boxes where trees have been removed or managed
- used volunteers to carry out wildlife surveys and bird monitoring (this will continue throughout the project)
- distributed a leaflet to the local community and at events
Local schools also took part in a competition to design the project logo. The project has received local press coverage and local MP, Chris Huhne visited the area in the spring and was impressed by the work that has taken place.
Visit the project website to find out how you can get involved and for information about footpath closures.
The project includes an arts project which has raised its profile in the local community. Over 400 people took part in two land drawing events in Southampton. They created a large dragonfly and two giant salmon with eels. These were brought to life by dancers, moving to characteristic sounds from the navigation. The arts project will provide interpretation along the heritage trail. This will include both the wildlife and history of the river.
There will be two arts events at Eastleigh and Winchester this summer. Screen printing workshops for families will also take place over the Easter holidays. Visit the website for more information.
Who else is involved?
We are part of the Itchen Navigation partnership which also includes:
Find out more and the Kingfisher Appeal
Kingfishers are one of this country's most iconic birds associated with our rivers. Nationally, kingfishers are a cause of concern and are coded as ‘amber' on the national list of Birds of Conservation Concern. The Itchen Navigation has the potential to be a stronghold for these birds, but major efforts are needed to create more potential breeding sites and territories.