Marking time on the Hockley Viaduct

Hockley Viaduct dandelions

Admirers of Hockley Viaduct will know that it had to be stripped of a mass of tangled wildflowers during its recent restoration. The roots were causing damage to the structure, and enabling water to flood inside the cement core. But those who have walked or cycled across in recent days will have noticed that the flowers are making a return…

Hampshire artist Nicola Henshaw has just decorated the track-bed with drifting dandelion clocks. This is the first step in a project commissioned by Winchester City Council, designed to share the stories of the Viaduct with a wider audience.

The dandelion clocks were inspired by schoolgirl Becky Witheman from Compton All Saints Primary School. Taking part in an open-air workshop with three other Year 6 students at the end of last term, Becky was recording her impressions of the sights, sounds and smells of the natural landscape around the Viaduct. She wrote: “Dandelions are gliding across the Viaduct, I reach for them but miss every time.”

Nicola Henshaw said: “Dandelion clocks are very much associated with time passing, and they seemed to fit well with the Viaduct which conjures up memories of an older time in Winchester. I decided to paint some on the track-bed with road-marking paint to give it a softer look, and to amuse walkers and cyclists. Around 100 people passed me on my first day of painting, and I had a very positive response.”

Meanwhile, at a public meeting in Compton and Shawford Village Hall last week, Nicola outlined the rest of her ideas for a series of waymarkers, benches and information panels extending from the South Park and Ride Car Park up to City Bridge in the centre of Winchester.

This stretch of National Cycle Network Route 23 will be known as Viaduct Way, and will be clearly delineated with carved wooden features reflecting the setting, the history and the character of the structure. Hand-made in Hampshire oak and forged steel, the features will appear gradually over the coming months.

The designs are based on shadow puppets made by the children of All Saints Highcliffe Primary School in July, when Nicola worked with them to create short performances of a series of stories about the Viaduct. The stories themselves had been recorded by Nicola during a local Age UK lunch club, working with bags of objects, pictures and writings gathered at the open-air workshop that dandelion poet Becky attended.

Cllr Victoria Weston, Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for the Built Environment, said:
“This is a lovely project and I feel very privileged to have been involved right from the start with the refurbishment of the Viaduct which is already much-loved and well-used. These enhancements will add interest and fun for anyone walking and cycling along the Viaduct. Nicola has harnessed the imagination and knowledge of local people in conjuring up her designs, and they were very well-received at our public meeting. I am grateful to Hampshire County Council, the Environment Agency and the Friends of Hockley Viaduct for providing the funding for this work.”