Donnington public art background information
The Commissioning Body
Donnington Parish Council is the commissioning body for this project. It was awarded funds from Chichester District Council following the development of the Canal Walk estate which is located opposite the Sculpture Garden site. As a result, the Parish Council set up a working party to identify a lead artist to assist the Council with the project. The Council appointed Kate Viner to this role. She sits on the working party along with Councillors Heather McDougall and William Fleming, the Council’s Clerk Nicola Swann and a representative from the Canal Walk estate.
The sculpture garden
Location: Southfields Close, Donnington PO19 8SD
The site is on the edge of the village situated at the main entrance to the Canal Walk housing estate. It is opposite a children’s playground and a green leading to the canal and wild meadow.
The main, existing, feature on the proposed site is an Oak tree planted by the Parish to mark the Millennium.
The semi circular steel pergola, designed as a virtual outside gallery space by sculptor Kate Viner, takes its inspiration from the old light railway tracks that ran from Chichester to Selsey via Donnington, crossing the canal in Donnington via a lifting bridge. All the streets in Canal Walk, the estate opposite our Sculpture garden, are named after the tram stops.
The Pergola’s curved steels beams are intermittently offset creating a repeated pattern, illustrating rhythm, motion and movement. The piece is constructed using steel ibeam (universal beam) in order to reflect the shape of tram lines.
The five sections of the structure create five distinct spaces or “rooms” in which the artworks and seating will be placed. The rooms give each art piece its own space and sense of stand alone significance, in addition to drawing the viewer up to the art.
The semi circular pergola frames the oak tree which is at the centre of the Sculpture garden. This tree was planted by the Parish Council to mark the Millennium.
History of the Selsey tram
The Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway, its full title, opened in August 1897, running from Chichester to Selsey. In fact it was a very lightly-built railway which was completed in only four months. Because it was a tramway it did not have to comply with railway regulations. This meant it had no signals or level crossing gates as a result of which there were many collisions. The first of these road crossings was in Stockbridge, after the line entered the parish of Donnington and crossed the Birdham road near to where the local shops now stand.
From there the line went on to the Chichester Canal where it ran alongside on an embankment before turning away to the south, crossing the canal by lifting bridge and entering the parish of Hunston. Some remains of the bridge can still be seen today. Other reminders of the line include the Selsey Tram public house which used to stand on the corner of Selsey Road and the names of some of the local estate roads such as Pecketts Gate, Tramway Close and Hesperus Mews. Peckett was the manufacturer of the line’s only new locomotive and Hesperus was the name of another.
Although successful to begin with, the line never truly recovered after the Great War. It gained an unwelcome reputation for its poor reliability and uncomfortable ride in aged rolling stock and closed for good in 1935.
“The Selsey Tram Way” walking trail traces the route of the line. Please visit: www.mwhg.org.uk/tramway.
David Pearce, January 2022.
History of the Chichester Ship Canal
The industrial working canal was built by Engineer John Rennie and James Hollinsworth and finished in 1823 as part of the inland link between Portsmouth and London, enabling barges to travel safely without going out to sea thus avoiding Napoleon from targeting them. The canal failed to generate much traffic as a truce with France, in the same year, made the sea route safe again it was also cheaper as the canal was tolled. Its last cargo was is in 1906 and it was declared closed for navigation 1928.
Although a financially disastrous venture at the time it is a lovely legacy for our enjoyment. Mahatma Gandhi walked along here on his visits to Chichester and commented on its tranquil setting. In October 1931 he was quoted as saying “a pleasant morning walk”. Turner painted a barge under sail on the canal in 1829. There was also a swing bridge at Donnington called Crosby Bridge. The Canal is now a haven for wildlife and a safe rout to walk into Chichester avoiding the busy roads.
Flora & fauna
Donnington is surrounded by farmland. Our trees and hedges are a haven for birds, invertebrates and small mammals as they offer food (including fruit, nuts, nectar and pollen), cover from predators, roosting/nesting sites and shelter from the elements.
Connectivity is important for wildlife and our network of hedgerows serve as wildlife corridors to facilitate safe wildlife movement,
The pond and ditch network performs a similar function (along the banks) in addition to aquatic life. Uncultivated areas of scrub, long grass and wild flowers offer valuable additional resources and alternative habitat for a wide range of species. Birds of prey, such as buzzards may be seen circling overhead, kestrels hovering or a barn owl quartering for voles in the long grass. Our resident species are swelled by migrating winter birds and summer visitors such as swifts and swallows that swoop overhead. Bats take over from dusk in search of juicy moths. Woodpecker, pheasant, skylark, yellowhammer and other song birds may be heard and sometimes seen along with mammals including roe deer, hare, fox, rabbit and grey squirrel, to name but a few.
The stretch of Canal that runs through the parish is easily accessible and is perhaps our richest setting for watching and listening for wildlife. It offers a range of habitats at close quarters. The water is home to aquatic and emergent flora (e.g. waterweed, water lilies, flag iris, reeds, sedges) and fauna (piscine and invertebrate species). Fish fry can be seen in the shallow margins. Water fowl and waders, gulls, terns, other birds and insects patrol up and down or across in search of food. The bankside vegetation and scrub (e.g. bramble, buddleia, ivy, wild flowers) provide food, dense cover and nesting sites, as do the trees and hedgerows of this linear landscape A highlight might be the jewelled flash of a kingfisher or the plop of a water vole (an endangered species but we are fortunate to still have a native population.
An extract from Donnington Wildlife written by Felicity McStea 25.01.22.
West Sussex has 16 species of the UK’s 17 vulnerable native breeding Bat. Donnington has populations of Soprano Pipistrelle’s, Common Pipistrelle’s, Nathusius’ Pipistrelle’s Daubenton’s, Noctule’s, and Serotine’s. It is highly likely that we also have the brown long-eared bat in the area, but we have not observed them flying along the canal.
Bats are endangered and highly vulnerable to light, pesticides and insecticides. Daubenton’s are one of the species that need to avoid light. Light pollution also disturbs the nocturnal insects on which the bats depend. We don’t know where the Daubenton’s bats roost, which makes it difficult to protect them. Some of the soprano pipistrelles roost under hanging tiles of houses in Donnington. The very rare Brandt’s bat has never been seen but has been identified by its droppings on the penninsula.
It is the ultimate challenge to study bats because of their speed, flying at night. The Pipistrelles, for example, travels at 30 Kph. They are logged using bat sonic detectors and thermal imaging videos. Bats send out ultrasound frequencies above human hearing and analyse the echo to navigate and hunt.
Each species flies at different hights, producing distinct sonic waves. Daubentum water bats fly close to the surface of the canal almost skimming the water. Swooping higher up are the more abundant Soprano Pipistrelles. At an Even higher level fly the small Serotine bats and higher again fly our Noctule’s.
Thankyou to Nik Knight a member of the Sussex Bat Group for all his information and sharing his photos with us.