Under The Pier… in a Biosphere… 2019!
Under the Pier is the Isle of Wight’s end of summer celebration of the curious world and incredible marine life under Ryde Pier. Each year, on a low, low tide, hundreds of people and dozens of marine species come together, with the help of a raft of experts, for this mad, magic, narrowest and often wettest of outdoor adventures!
Run by a volunteer team of ecologists and community artists from environmental organisations Arc, Artecology and The Common Space, the event is always free for everyone and all you need to join in are nets, buckets and wellies. Checking the pier for anemones, the eel grass for stalked jellyfish and making it all the way to the end to explore the mythical ‘sponge gardens’ have become a key ingredient to summer and the Island’s wildlife calendar. The event was featured in the Guardian’s best citizen science nature events for Summer 2019 too!
One of the Under the Pier organisers, Claire Hector, director at Arc and Artecology explains, ‘We started Under the Pier 6 years ago to help people celebrate the place, character and the remarkable natural world at Ryde Pier. There’s been a huge, global increase in awareness of marine biodiversity since then and Under the Pier is a great reminder that you don’t have to travel far to learn more. At an Island gateway, alongside Ryde’s shops and arcades, there’s this extraordinary example of the UK’s intertidal zone, unique in its long sandflats and in the way the 200+ year old Pier provides toe holds and habitat for such a range of marine wildlife. It’s architecturally fascinating under the Pier too and all proof that we can build in ways that make space for nature. And this is all there for anyone to re-discover for inspiration, learning or wellbeing, time and again.
Ian Boyd, Arc and Artecology’s lead ecologist (or the one with the biggest net!) explains, ‘Our work is in integrating wildlife, landscape and communities to shape better places - we have our own place standard across the Arc Group, Shaping Better Places (get in touch if you’d like to know more about it!). Under the Pier is a simple, happy example of all that, and of the principles that help make the Isle of Wight a fantastic UNESCO Biosphere Reserve… a creative, resourceful coastal community protecting and celebrating its unique environment and biodiversity! Hopefully these events are also bringing the benefits of working for biodiversity to the attention of local businesses and corporations; while our business is wildlife-related, anyone can put measures for biodiversity, everyday wildlife, at the heart of their business in a whole host of ways.’
This year brought around 600 visitors on board with dozens of species discovered; friends and anemones made and found while trains, hovers, fastcats and cars buzzed past above and beyond! With so many eyes exploring, we had some astonishing finds, all identified with the help of our ecologists and volunteers. Favourite discoveries include the striking Sea Scorpions (a first for Under The Pier), tiny juvenile cuttlefish and arrays of anemones.
Thanks to the volunteer support from experts at iWatchWildlife and the Isle of Wight Natural History Society, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Secrets of the Solent, Bournemouth University’s MARINEFF project and Bird Aware Solent too all of whom help make this an extremely effective citizen science project! Tina Whitmore at iWatchWildlife is still working on the scores but reports we’re up to 75 species already which will contribute to local wildlife data. Big thanks also to Julian Winslow, ace Island photographer who supports us whenever he can - you can see his work in all the best photos in this year’s album!
Remember, you don’t have to wait ‘til Under The Pier 2020 to head out under the Pier or to explore and celebrate our fantastic UNESCO Biosphere Reserve... any autumn low tide is good for Ryde Pier and every day can be an opportunity to celebrate the unique mix of people, place and nature on the Isle of Wight!