Local Community News

SUNSHINE AND SPONGES MAKE FOR A GREAT DAY UNDER THE PIER

Photo: Dan Roberts

The sun shone on Ryde Pier for the Isle of Wight’s longest coastal explorer event, Under the Pier, last Sunday (9th September).

Around 500 people headed to the sea to explore this Island gateway’s amazingly diverse marine life with the help of local experts. Over 50 fascinating species were discovered in and around Ryde Pier, from armies of sea squirts to the event’s first ever starfish find.

This year’s top finds were the common starfish, a hat-trick of Scorpion Spider crabs and a sea urchin. But it was definitely the fish that played a starring role – some wonderful spots included broad-nosed pipefishes, a 2-spot goby, corkwing wrasse, a baby plaice and some sea sticklebacks.

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Hundreds of people made it to the very end of the Pier too to see the sponge gardens, where the Pier’s 200+ year old self comes into its own. Strange and other-worldly pillars of multi-coloured globules of many different sponges including the… goosebump sponge!

Nigel George, from organisers Arc and Artecology said:

“Under The Pier is now in its fifth year and this is the first sunny one! It’s one of a calendar of free nature and art-related events we run to help people to explore doorstep biodiversity and to celebrate and reinvigorate locality. It grows every year and it now has its own website, (http://underthepier.space).

“Artecology are particularly interested in how wildlife can find ways to colonise the built and urban environment and how we can use art, nature and science both to support it and encourage that all-essential wildlife encounter. Ryde Pier’s a very special example of where these worlds can combine as its iron struts act as toeholds for a huge diversity of marine species. The Under the Pier event is also a celebration of the architecture and atmosphere beneath the Pier… it’s a very curious and beautiful environment complete with soundscape to match”.

Along the whole length of the Pier, ecologist Ian Boyd with marine biologist Dr Alice Hall from Bournemouth University helped visitors identify their finds and understand a bit more about them, with back up from visiting wildlife recorders and enthusiasts. At the pop-up Wildlife Discovery Area and Species recording basecamp visitors could take a look at Arc’s museum of marine pickled species or live trays curated by iWatchWildlife. Special guests Bird Aware Solent attended to talk about the importance of the Solent and Ryde Sands, especially to migratory birds.

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Nigel adds:

“Many who joined us commented that they dash up and down the pier all the time, Island gateway as it is, but that it’s a fantastic revelation to discover there’s a whole world underneath that you can return to learn about and marvel over at any low tide – like so many places, a hidden treasure of wildlife where you live once you know where to look.

“Our next event is Discovery Bay’s celebration of National Biology Week in Sandown Bay on 14th October – all free and all welcome!”

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