ONE of Hampshire's most picturesque towpaths has picked up a £48,000 lottery grant for vital restoration work.

The Itchen Navigation, which runs for 10km between Winchester and Southampton, provides rare public access to a chalk stream of outstanding heritage value - but it has fallen into disrepair.

It meanders past St Catherine's Hill, just outside Winchester, and provides stunning views along its length.

Now the lottery cash boost, along with a further £20,000 from the Environment Agency, will pay for 12 months of studies to develop a management plan for the path's future.

It is hoped the Heritage Lottery Fund will come up with more money once the planning phase is over to allow work to start.

The navigation, which was established in the 17th century as a crucial trading link between Winchester and the sea, stopped being used in 1869.

Since then, the wildlife habitats - some are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest - have become overgrown and out of condition.