The Artecology BioTotems are the latest in our line of sculptural way-markers. The designs were created as part of a commission for a greenspace restoration we’re working on at the Arc in Ryde. It's a bit of a forgotten place this, listed 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 willows... and now there’s an Artecology nature trail too!
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.
Dot to dot designs…
Made from specially sanded larch and oak, every BioTotem has been patterned with 150 holes of different shapes and sizes, each designed to create habitat for a range of invertebrates including the all-important unsung pollinators, solitary mining bees. Many invertebrates scout and create own nest sites or refuge but like many of Artecology’s designs, the BioTotems save them time and energy by making space for them. This ecological functionality extends below ground too… bringing life to the bits you’ll never see! There are ten BioTotems on this 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 are just below you, and a stag beetle whose larvae love vertical wood and will live there for years large but undetected! Then you can look for the moth, the butterfly, the centipede and more…
Looks like the BioTotems are self-seeding too… before they'd even left the pop-up studio at Branstone Farm, the team were asked to create a new iteration for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust's Sandown Meadows reserve. As the pyrograph will tell you, this BioTotem is designed to form a kingfisher perch over the river Yar!
The collective team behind this project have been working alongside the Oakfield community and the housing association landowners for a number of years, with the Arc at the heart of a range of nature-related activities and practical conservation. Between us all, 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 with community project Wild About Wight. There’s more work to be done this month; Artecology will be hand-sculpting pockets of landscaping to continue the wildlife theme into a playground; then we will add the essential ingredient that often gets overlooked - 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 with Wild About Wight in Spring for a celebration safari!
Shaping Better Places
The idea behind this project was to bring the Arc 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 our special Place Plan 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, our sister wildlife consultancy Arc has provided an environmental management plan to help inform landowners Sovereign Housing, which we hope will sustain the health of the woodland beyond the life of our intervention. Funding for this project is thanks to the excellent Heritage Lottery’s Down to the Coast, Wild About Wight, Vectis Housing and with support from Sovereign Housing.