GUIDE TO THE RIVER ITCHEN
NAME OF RIVER: Itchen. This guide just describes Woodmill Weir, a popular playspot.
WHERE IS IT?: Just by Woodmill canoe centre, Woodmill lane, Southampton (SU 4389 1527). Near (ish) to Jct 5 M27.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in beside the centre, you need to walk over the muddy bit and paddle right around the corner behind the centre. Park in the wee car park by the centre rather than in the centre car park itself. It's also considered rude to block the big wooden gates.
APPROX LENGTH: It's about 6 metres long (just a weir).
TIME NEEDED: As long as you like, I get knackered after an 2 hours or so.
ACCESS HASSLES: Under water at high tide, other than that use it when you like. Nice idea to speak to the people in the centre if it is your first time down.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Usable all year round. Best at low tide but ok for a couple of hours either side. Bigger in the winter or after big rain.
GRADING: Varies as to height of tide and water flow. Sometimes a nice wave, other times a nice looping spot, high tide is it not there at all.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: It's not too bad but can be grabby with big water. if it all goes pear shaped you can just wait till the water flushes you into the shallows and stand up.
Patrick Collins, Senior Tutor/ Duty Manager, Woodmill Outdoor Centre (Jan 2005)...'I thought that it was time that we updated you with the current situation on the weir at Woodmill in Southampton.
2004 was incredibly frustrating for all of us here as we waited.......and waited for the engineers to move in and sort out the tidal weir at the back of the centre. Having initially intended to make a start early in the Autumn the work finally got done in December. Fortunately the low rainfall in December meant that the work went ahead relatively easily.
We are currently advising paddlers that the Weir is back in use but would advise extreme caution as nobody really knows how the wave will shape up at all the different combinations of river level and tide height. Initial impressions are that at the present river level (January 6) the weir is quite 'boily' at low tide. There appears to be quite a good surf wave early in the tidal cycle and again late in the cycle but right on low water it is more of a hole. At big river levels the hole is very big and scary and we would advise people to stay away. The concrete blocks either side of the weir act as a good gauge, when river flow covers them you probably don't want to be on the weir!
The Woodmill web site will be updated to advise the paddling community of this news. We would remind paddlers that the weir is tidal and works for around two hours either side of Low Water (Southampton). It has public access from downstream. Their is a public car park down the road from Woodmill and a limited amount of car parking space on hard standing next to Riverside Park where there is public access to the tidal River Itchen. Please DO NOT park in front of Woodmill Outdoor Centre's doors as access is required at all times. Also please do not park in Woodmill Outdoor Centre's own car park unless you are actually attending Woodmill Centre or Shop. There is no public access to the weir from upstream. The jetty, slipway and grounds at the back of the centre do not have public access.
It is likely that Rafts or canoes/kayaks from Woodmill will run the weir from upstream at various times, please remember that students from the centre may be in the early stages of learning to paddle on white water so please be patient with them and observe the kind of courtesy that you would hope to find on a river.
Please remember that Woodmill is a busy outdoor centre and that we are not here solely to answer the phone and answer questions about tide times!'
Philip Seaman (May 2004)...'The dangerous hole, which the centre considers an entrapment hazard, is just above the weir itself. Apparently they have tried to fill it in but it keeps reoccurring. the impression I get is that you're OK as long as you don't go over. I have heard all sorts of misinformation and admit that I am a little confused myself as to the precise nature of the problem. untill I hear otherwise from the centre I will not be taking people to play on the weir.'
Patrick Collins, Woodmill Outdoor Centre, Feb 2004...'Something has happened to the river bed below the weir. The old (mostly) friendly wave/playhole has turned into a rather nasty grabby hole. It's become very aerated with no real wave train to speak of. Although a wave can still form on a rising tide we have seen it change back almost instantly. We are hoping the powers that be can sort something out but this is likely to take a while.
We are not allowing anybody using Woodmill facilities or equipment to paddle on the weir. We cannot of course stop anybody having access to the weir but feel we should point out the current problems and advise against its use. I'll advise you as and when I have more information.'
Phil Seaman, Feb 2004...'Just to let you know that the Woodmill weir is currently out of action except for the insane. The centre is waiting for a diver to come and look at it but at the moment something has shifted and even stupid people are avoiding the place.'
It's also polite to be nice to the centre rafts who tend to be very considerate.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: It's just a nice little weir. It's not Hurley but there is plenty to entertain.
Also good as if you arrive before low tide it starts easy and gets bigger, nice for the confidence.
OTHER NOTES: Mark Rainsley (June 2002)...below is the description of Woodmill that I wrote for the book 'English Whitewater'...
Woodmill Weir (GR 439153) on the River Itchen in Hampshire is a purposely developed concrete ledge which works year-round and depending upon water levels, offers a grippy cartwheel stopper or a spinnable surf wave. Affectionately known as the 'Itchen Death Gorge', this tiny weir is tidal and begins to work from about three hours after high water. The weir is beside Woodmill Outdoor Centre in Swaythling, reached from Junction 5 on the M27. Call the Outdoor Centre's Canoe Shop for further info, 023 8055 5993.'