Creative homes for creatures

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Bird house made from an old teapot?
Bug hotel from wooden pallets?

The Rye Community Food and Wildlife Garden is expanding our wildlife area and we’d like to adorn it with creative and artistic habitats for all the little critters that make a home there: bees, birds, bats, owls, butterflies, etc.

We’re holding a community-wide contest to find the most original and artistic creature homes to become permanent fixtures in our garden. Could your creation be a winner? Read on to find out how, when, and where to enter!

On Saturday, August 12, we held a free informational crafting workshop at the garden to kickstart the contest and, despite a sudden downpour, we had great weather. Over 20 people gathered to listen to guest speakers Lucy Bowyer, senior communities and wildlife officer at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve; Louisa Crispin, wildlife artist; and Barry Parsons, local craftsman and hobbyist as they shared their collective wisdom about the critters and creatures that call Rye Community Food & Wildlife Garden their home and what us humans can do to support them.

A collection of bird boxes made by attendees

Among other things, we learned that hedgehogs are a welcomed addition to our garden as natural pest control. Their favourite food is slugs, along with beetles, snails, and worms (although we’d like to keep the worms around as they work with us, not against us!). Unfortunately, foxes and badgers are predators of hedgehogs, so gratefully Barry donated us the special fox-proof hedgehog home that he designed and built.

We also learned that there are 17 species of bats in the UK, all of which are found in Sussex. These flying mammals need to eat a lot of insects for the energy to fly. We were instructed to plant a variety of flowers to attract as many pollinating insects as possible. Night-scented flowers are good for attracting moths and other inverts in the evening. Water, such as ponds and marshy areas, are great for larval stages of small flies, which are the pipistrelle’s favourites. Bat boxes are similar to bird boxes but have narrow slots for the bats to roost in.

After the talks, attendees of the workshop geared up with hammers, saws, and power tools and the garden was transformed into a busy workshop creating new abodes for creatures big and small.

With that said, not everyone who attended the workshop was making a creature home for the contest and contestants in the contest were not required to attend the workshop in order to enter. The “Creative Homes for Creatures Community Contest” runs from August 1 to September 9 2023. All entries must be brought to the Rye Community Food & Wildlife Garden at the end of Love Lane in Rye any Saturday between 10am-noon within this contest timeframe.

Winning entries in each category can become permanent installations at the garden and will be selected by local celebrity judge, Neil Buchanan from Art Attack, during the Rye Arts Festival kick-off on Saturday, September 16 from 10am – noon.
Judging categories are as follows:

  • Most original
  • Most artistic
  • Most sustainable
  • Best for birds
  • Best for bees
  • Best for bats
  • Best for butterflies
  • Best for other creatures
  • Best youth creation (under 16)
  • People’s choice award

It is possible for a single entry to win multiple categories. Winners and winning entries will be posted on the Rye Community Garden (RCG) Facebook page on September 16. Prizes donated by local businesses will be awarded to winners of each category at noon on September 16 at the RCG. Entrants do not need to be present to win, although we’d love to celebrate with all the prize winners. Please visit our Facebook page for more information and any updates: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ryecommunityfoodandwildlifegarden/

This workshop, contest, and judging are in collaboration with the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Rye Arts Festival. These events would not be possible without the dedication and efforts of our amazing community of volunteers and supporters, for which we are eternally grateful!

Questions or enquiries about the contest, volunteering at the Rye Community Garden, or possible collaborations, please email ryecommunitygarden@gmail.com or call / text committee chair Dena Smith Ellis at 07391 775807.

Image Credits: Graham Ellis , Dena Smith Ellis .

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