The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is delighted that the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail Project was the winner in the award’s ‘Natural Environment’
The Itchen Navigation is a 10½ mile long modified river flowing between Winchester and Southampton. It was constructed for barge passage in the 18th century. Since it ceased to be used commercially, the channel has become an important place for wildlife. However, the deterioration of the banks was putting the wildlife in the waterway in jeopardy. Lack of maintenance over the past century caused the worn-down banks to overtop and to breach.
The award’s Assessment Panel commented: “The Itchen Navigation project team has delivered bioengineering techniques on a highly protected waterway, taking into consideration protected species and sensitive habitats whilst delivering sustainable solutions to bank erosion. Getting materials and machinery to site with minimal impact has led to some innovative solutions being implemented. It is rare to have such good public access to a wildlife-rich chalk river as exists on this navigation, with a footpath running the whole length. The public has also been encouraged to enjoy the navigation.”
Ali Morse, Itchen Navigation Project Manager for the Wildlife Trust explained:
“The project partners have been working hard to repair the Navigation’s crumbling banks to ensure the survival of this special site and the wildlife that inhabits it. We’ve also worked to raise the profile of the Navigation to visitors so that there is a better understanding of how important it is for otter, water vole, and a host of other wetland wildlife that makes its home here.”
The project used bioengineering techniques – natural materials and wetland plants - as a wildlife-friendly way to stabilise and repair the banks of the Navigation. This ensures that the channel, banks and surrounding habitats persist and are enhanced for the wildlife that is found there, including water voles, southern damselfly and water birds such as moorhen and coot.
Involvement of volunteers is a key component of the project with 150 volunteers having contributed a total of 1500 days of their time so far, undertaking wildlife surveys, practical conservation, heritage research, photography and helping at events. An Itchen Navigation arts project also proved very successful in engaging local communities, with over 3000 people participating in workshops and events during two years of activities.
The project has improved both physical and intellectual access to the Navigation, improving footpaths, creating easy access routes, and producing interpretation panels, web pages & leaflets to provide visitors with information. Industrial archaeology, in the form of 300-year-old locks and hatches, has been preserved and interpreted for visitors to appreciate.
The project is managed by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Winchester City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, Southampton City Council, Hampshire County Council, and the Inland Waterways Association.
For further information please contact:
Ali Morse, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Itchen Navigation Project Manager, on 01489 774415, email: AliM@hwt.org.uk;