What is Under The Pier?
IT ALL STARTED With the sponge gardens...
Under The Pier is an Arc and Artecology event. It began in Ryde, where each year it focuses on the town’s best-known landmark, the iconic Ryde Pier, easy to find, easy to enjoy, for all ages, and above all a celebration of something unique.
Arc and Artecology are environmental companies, based in the Bay not far from Sandown Pier on the Isle of Wight. Arc works to bring ecology to the heart of development, shaping better places for people and wildlife, while Artecology is all about bringing biodiversity to the built environment from sea walls to cities through bioactive sculpture and ornament. It combines design and manufacture, with an industry and university research network and always with public outreach and community regeneration.
At the heart of all we do is helping the people to see things in new, interesting and useful ways, equally important in a successful masterplan or a truly engaging public project. Reinterpreting the things or places we take for granted, revealing the lifelong inspiration and science of nature and giving people new ways to connect with it is what Under The Pier is all about.
The marine wildlife of the low-tide Ryde pier is found nowhere else on the Island and is sufficiently special to bring visiting biologists throughout the year. But UTP is not dependent upon specialist knowledge for its appeal – it is a celebration of place and character. It is an undiscovered natural world just yards from one of the Island’s busiest entry points and Ryde’s main streets and arcades! Being Under The Pier, the sounds, light and shade, make for a magical experience. There are very few piers in the UK that have the advantage of Ryde’s long sandflats, making exploration possible. Combine this with spectacular sponge gardens and rich anemone fields that have sprung up under a 202-year old built wonder and you have a very memorable event. People come back year after year and are still talking about the thrill of discovery, a familiar sight that became so new!
On the day, the Pier comes to life in a new and wilder way… with ecology, art and heritage to play with, we follow the tide out, sandpooling and hydrophoning as we go, returning to base-camp to record our finds… meanwhile back on the sand, there’s sandcasting and experiments with the Artecology makers and artists.
In the run-up to the event, we and our project partners often commission Island artists to run a series of art workshops that help us decorate the Pier for a day. The marine wildlife images the children produced bring a splash of colour to the Pier above us, introduce everyone to the array of species they’re likely to encounter and encourage people to come along to the event. Every year, despite drizzle, hurricanes and one year, the fog of 2-stroke from Ryde’s annual Scooter rally, more and more people join us Under The Pier to explore!
After each Under The Pier, a team of expert ecologists and marine biologists compile a final species list from the event and send this off to support local records, collective citizen science that makes a genuine contribution to the Island’s biodiversity records. A record 75 species were logged at UTP 2016, from 6 different anemones to eel grasses, to echinoderms, brittlestars and a single Green sea urchin. Images of the day, the children’s artwork and the species tally are then displayed in the local library in celebration.
Under the Pier has been a great success each year, for biological recording, for community participation, for public enjoyment and understanding, and for the Island’s reputation. Each pier has its own world to explore and we are taking UTP to other piers and other places! Contact us here if you'd like to talk to the team about what's Under Your Pier!
You don't have to wait til next year to explore the world Under the Pier... there are all sorts of ways to find out more about our coasts and marine wildlife; look out for the Secrets of the Solent Shoresearches with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and also the Capturing Our Coast project too. Or simply take a walk out Under The Pier on a low tide when the sea rolls back and prepare to be amazed!
Thanks to all our sponsors, from funders, helpers and spreaders of the word and also to everyone who comes along and who shares the thrill of discovery with us each year!