The Artecology BioTotems are brand new sculptural way-markers that have been created as part of a commission for Wild About Wight’s greenspace restoration at the Arc Woodland in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It’s sometimes a bit of a forgotten place this, on the deprivation index and hemmed in between railway, industrial parks and housing estates, but there are great views across a mini-valley, a meandering river, eels and ancient woodland… and now there’s a nature trail too!
These are more than your average nature trail markers though as they’re wildlife habitat, interpretation and art! These new designs are ideal not only for nature trails though, but for public and business parks, back gardens, front gardens, housing developments and car park corners, providing not only public art but wildlife habitat and interpretation too – wooden icons that are beautiful AND pack a punch for biodiversity! And they’re space-savers too of course… vertical and custom-sizeable so you can make a difference to the smallest of life in the smallest of places.
Made from specially sanded larch and oak, every BioTotem has been patterned with 150 hand-drilled holes of different shapes and sizes, each designed to create habitat for a range of invertebrates including the all-important pollinators, solitary mining bees. Many invertebrates look for nesting holes or refuge and like much of Artecology’s designs, the BioTotems make time-saving space for them. This ecological functionality extends below ground too… bringing life to the bits you’ll never see! There are ten BioTotems on the trail in total and each one has been pyrographed with a different species, chosen to represent those that you might find one day for yourself as you explore the Arc. There’s a water scorpion to remind you the muddy banks of Monktonmead is just below you, and a stag beetle whose larvae love vertical wood and will live there for years large but undetected! Look for the moth, the butterfly, the centipede and more…
The collective team behind this project have been working alongside the Oakfield community and the housing association landowners for years, with the Arc Woodland at the heart of a range of nature-related activities and practical conservation. We invented Big Bug Day and Little Bug Day there; there’s been hedge and herb planting, building a tree nursery, Green Army woodland management sessions and most recently this summer’s lovely and absolutely packed art and wildlife safari. There’s more work to be done this month; Artecology will be hand-sculpting pockets of landscaping to continue the wildlife theme into the playground; then there’s a spot of supplementary planting to provide nectar and pollen resource to go with it all. Meanwhile, the knotweed’s being treated, the litter being picked (thanks to getting the Community Payback Team on board) and we’re installing new signs…then, when it’s all done, we’ll all be back in Spring for a Wild About Wight celebration safari!
The idea behind this project was to bring the Arc Woodland and the adjacent community playground together blurring the edges to give local residents and business park employees more of a reason to visit, explore the wilder spaces beyond the tarmac and man-made play equipment…and so encounter nature. This is helped by a special Place Plan by Arc which suggests ways to knit the woodland not only to the playground but to the surrounding green infrastructure, wider community, and future development. And the other important aim of the project is to makes sure this small but vital patch of semi-urban greenspace is recognised for its biodiversity value and to help bring the Arc Woodland itself to good status; once the knotweed is cleared and the whole space reopened, there’s an environmental management plan to inform landowners Sovereign Housing and which we hope will sustain the health of the woodland beyond the life of our programme. All of this has been funded thanks to Down to the Coast, Wild About Wight, Vectis Housing and with support from Sovereign Housing.
Words: Claire Hector