This scuplture of limestone rings, located along the greenway near Moate, forms part of the ‘Turning Circles’ art installation commissioned by Westmeath County Council. PHOTOS: Ashley Cahill.

Stone art installations arrive on greenway in South Westmeath

Some distinctive additions to the Old Rail Trail greenway may have caught the eye of locals cycling or walking on the amenity in recent months.

Five stone artworks - collectively called Turning Circles - were installed between Athlone and Streamstown in June, having been commissioned by Westmeath County Council.

The project was funded under the 'per cent for art' scheme associated with Athlone's new greenway bridge. 'Per cent for art' is a Government initiative which involves 1% of the cost of public infrastructure projects being set aside for an art commission.

Turning Circles was commissioned last autumn and is a collaboration between sculptor Martha Quinn and poet Gabriel Rosenstock.

A Westmeath County Council spokesperson said the local authority was delighted with the installations and had been receiving positive feedback on them.

The locations where they've been installed are: Athlone (Coosan Point Road bridge, near Abbey Road cemetery); Crosswood bog (Tully access point); Moate (between Dún na Sí and the old railway station); Rosemount; and Streamstown.

The council said the overall theme of the work "reflects the notion of movement, through time and location". Each of the hand-carved Irish limestone pieces "focuses on a different aspect of this idea" and is specific to its individual location.

"Starting in Athlone the first sculpture is associated with historic Franciscan Abbey. The raised letters of the carved inscription of the two haiku take inspiration from the stones to be found in the grounds of the abbey," said the local authority.

"Crosswood Bog, a special area of conservation, is celebrated with five standing stones depicting various aspects of the flora and fauna associated with the area. Each stone is furnished with a turning poem stone on either side.

Five standing stones depict various apsects of the flora and fauna associated with Crosswood Bog, outside Athlone.

"Similarly in Moate, the series of eight stone hoops each has its own inscribed haiku. These are formed in pairs, evocative of a family of cycles.

"The site at Rosemount - Kilcumreragh reflects the ancient aspect of the location and overlooks the monastic site. Again, the theme of circles is drawn upon to convey this. The three standing stones in this location are also furnished with turning poem stones with bilingual haiku."

The old railway station at Streamstown, meanwhile, is home to the largest of the sculptures.

The Streamstown installation is described as "a massive stone circle, nearly 3m in diameter," which is made from two single blocks of limestone and serves as "an eye looking along the railway line".

"A single evocative haiku sits at the top of the ring with the separate language versions facing in either direction," explained the council.

Each standing stone at Crosswood Bog is furnished with a turning poem stone on either side.

Martha Quinn, the sculptor who worked on the project, is based in Sligo, while Gabriel Rosenstock, a poet and bilingual haiku specialist, is based in Dublin and is a member of the Aosdána artists' collective.