The turn of the Millennium saw major changes in the centre of Newport, with the building of a new Sainsbury’s store.
In 1999 The Viaduct Garden sculptures which sit alongside the Lukely opposite Halfords were commissioned by the Isle of Wight Council, with generous funding from J Sainsbury plc. The works were designed by four island artists and reflected the past history of the site as the industrial heartland of Newport, in particular its former railway history. Another inspiration was the Lukely Brook, which once powered nine mills along its course and now runs through
The next project to be tackled was Towngate Pond. A pond had been located on this spot for hundreds of years, only being filled in during the 1960s after heavy rain caused severe flooding in Newport. The Environment Agency, working in partnership with the Newport Rivers Group, undertook the landscaping initiative on the site to restore the ancient pond. Funding for the project has been provided by Newport Forum, Biffaward, the Environment Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund among others.
Although adjacent to Towngate Mill, the pond was not a mill pond, but a public facility. It was used as a watering hole for cattle coming into market from the North of the Island, and the pond had a slope at each side for access so when the iron tyres of the carts became loose they could be driven through the pond to tighten them up.
Over 2,000 wild flowers were planted on the site during the project. Some initial planting was carried out by pupils from Newport C of E Primary School and Hunnyhill Primary School. And on completion of the construction work, volunteers from the Newport Rivers Group met on a hot summer’s day to finish the job. The plants selected for the site are all native species that are found further upstream, laid out to create a natural looking environment attractive to people and wildlife.
The site was soon popular with local people, particularly on sunny days. Following the successful restoration of Towngate Pond, the Newport Rivers Group moved on to enhance the area immediately downstream from the site. The work on this stretch of the Lukely Brook, known as St Cross Stream, began in September 2006.
The work included the building of a fish pass to allow fish passage through this part of the Brook, and improved trash screens to trap litter so that it could easily be removed from the channel. Improvements were also made to the banks and footpath opposite St Cross Mill, with traditional style paving being laid, and wrought iron railings installed to replace the old and ugly safety rail.
The fish pass structure was designed to include two grey wagtail nesting sites, as there were already wagtails nesting in the area and we were keen to encourage them to stay. Once completed, an in-stream sculpture of rushes replaced a traffic cone that had become a regular perch for a kingfisher.