Projects: The Lost Duver Garden

Arc is based by the sea, on the edge of the beautiful Brown’s Golf Course. It’s a fantastic location for lots of reasons, not least the opportunities it gives us for bug-hunting, birding and botanising! A while ago, we began to notice hints in the Yaverland flora of a coastal landscape long gone, interesting relics of a dune habitat that would have once shaped this part of The Bay.  Historic art and photographs which we tracked down offered evocative confirmation too, rolling dunes and pools between the river and the sea. We believe that public places and community spaces can deliver fantastic opportunities for wildlife encounter and exploration with sometimes just a tweak. This idea is pretty much central to everything we do, and nowhere more than here in The Bay working for the Coastal Community Team. And so, with all of this in mind, The Lost Duver project sprouted in our minds from the cracks in the Yaverland pavement!

So, we started homing in on those botanical clues and making space for The Lost Duver around the Bay, with the hope to eventually bring them together, in public places, street planting, parks and coastal walks, to create a 5-mile coastal garden. The project involves plant rescue, propagation, seed collection, a bit of guerrilla gardening and also all-important, tweaks to maintenance regimes. It involves finding close relatives of our coastal plants too – a proper garden mix inspired by ecology so that it’s as rich a resource for biodiversity as possible, something that’s as appealing to wildlife as it will be to tourists and residents!  The new not-for-profit organisation, The Common Space has been set up to search out funds and support public realm projects in the Bay, and with the help of Dinosaur Isle, the Isle of Wight Council, the Bay CCT, Shanklin and Sandown Town Councils, the East Wight Landscape Partnership, Green Army volunteers, Artecology, Eccleston George, Tesco’s Bags of Help, the Coastal Gardener and many more, it’s been starting to take shape.

One of our favourite spots is the little lawn by the canoe lake where sand blown in from the beach has tumbled over the roadside verge and very gradually begun to form its own small dune. With the permission of our excellent IWC Parks team, we are letting the sea couch to grow little longer here so that more sand will be trapped, growing the dune faster. We have planted a mix of native coastal plants to complement the species already appearing and we’re now seeing a full spread of pink thrifts and sea spurrey, with the increasing white sea carrot and sea mayweed, purple sea rocket and green sea beet.

Beyond the Pluto Pavilion, at the back of Browns Golf Course, we dug a number of shallow ponds with the help of the Green Army and Down to the Coast. These are re-creations of dune slacks, the brackish and freshwater pools that would once have been a wetland haven for Bay wildlife. We have planted turfs of marsh orchids and ragged robin rescued from a nearby site and watched as these have seamlessly knit together with the marsh bedstraw and spearwort naturally reappearing. Wildlife’s moved in, from snipe to dragonflies, newts and toads and the ponds are now a great resource for visitors as well as our community nature events and students’ research projects.

There’s been a bit of guerrilla gardening… thrift and sea campion are now popping up along the Yaverland verges and roadsides, (with the occasional cornfield annual mixes dotted about) to colour your drive-through!  Getting maintenance changes to Culver Parade means that our sea wall is now able to rewild, more thrift, splashes of birds foot trefoil and the wonderful strawberry clover are establishing densel, bright, bee-heavy patches on the concrete.

Thanks to the Isle of Wight AONB’s East Wight Landscape Partnership ‘Down To The Coast’ supporting the project with funding a couple of years back, we were able to plant a new beach garden, called ‘The Seed Bank’ with the help of the Coastal Gardener and volunteers from Sandown Green Towns and Business Association. Sandown’s Brownies sowed their own seeds to grow on, along with visitors to our Discovery Bay weekends.

The Common Space won the public vote in the Tesco’s #BagsofHelp programme for the Lost Duver project fantastic funding of £12,000 for plants and seeds, tools and storage!  That allowed us to plant out hundreds of plants, with the help of Shanklin and Sandown Green Towns volunteers.

In 2016, we discussed some of these ideas with the ‘Britain In Bloom’ team when they visited Shanklin. They were especially interested in the concept of wildlife foodplants in public planting projects. This approach creates combinations of flowers that not only look beautiful but provide pollen, nectar, foliage, fruit and seeds that can support the wildlife special to an area. Thanks to the support of Sandown Green Towns, this is becoming a distinctive part of The Bay’s ‘In Bloom’ and is becoming inclusive of our wildlife habitats too… it’s all part of the Artecology movement that has its roots here in The Bay, but that’s another story!

In the meantime, watch this space and keep an eye on The Common Space Facebook page for Lost Duver news and work party dates and come and join in; we need your help and so do our Green Towns… and we’d love to hear your ideas for continuing a plants-and-planting biodiversity-packed revolution in The Bay!

See our gallery for more images of the Lost Duver project.