The Wildlife Trust is delivering a five year lottery funded project on the Itchen Navigation between Winchester and Southampton. The Navigation is an old barge transport route, which has not been used commercially for 150 years. Today it is a fantastic place to go and see wildlife, including water voles, kingfishers, dragonflies and fish. Unfortunately the state of the river banks has been deteriorating over recent decades. Bank erosion has caused problems for the wildlife and problems for people who like to walk the Itchen Way footpath alongside the river. The Wildlife Trust successfully applied for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver a scheme of works to repair the river bank and the footpath. Work began in 2008, and over the next 12 months, the final elements of the project will be delivered.
In the Bishopstoke area, a variety of engineering solutions have been used. North of Bishopstoke Road the footpath has been raised and re-surfaced to prevent it getting muddy and impassable in winter. In problem areas, the bank edge has been stabilised to prevent it eroding. South of Bishopstoke Road, the footpath has been widened and flattened to make it easier for more people to negotiate.
Ali Morse, Itchen Navigation Project Manager said, “The bank erosion on the Itchen Navigation had become so bad in places that the whole footpath had eroded away. The repair works have solved these problems and made access easier for walkers.” When banks collapse into the river, the material chokes the gravel bed where salmon and other fish lay their eggs, so the erosion is detrimental to wildlife too.
Two ‘dog dips’ are being installed to provide safe river access points for dogs who like to swim in the river. Dogs scrambling up and down the river banks contributes to bank erosion problems, so it is hoped that the dog dips will relieve pressure on other parts of the river bank. The dog dips are sets of timber steps which have been constructed at key locations where dogs go in the water.
“We are asking people who have dogs that swim in the river to encourage them to enter the water at the dog dips to prevent disturbance to the banks and wildlife along the rest of the river. The riverbanks are an important place for wildlife such as nesting birds, water voles and dragonflies.”
To find out more about the Itchen Navigation, visit www.itchennavigation.org.uk.
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The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is a charity that works to protect wildlife and wild places. We manage over 50 wildlife reserves which are some of the most important wildlife sites in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.