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The artist’s view: Designing the interpretation at Colwick’s fish pass

The artist’s view: Designing the interpretation at Colwick’s fish pass
Huge thanks to Steve Pardue, who has designed the interpretation at the Environment Agency’s Colwick fish pass in Nottingham. Adding context to the now open fish pass, he wrote a guest blog about the thinking that went into the design process.

Over to Steve:

The Environment Agency’s Colwick Fish Pass may look like a massive engineering project – when I was on site and looked at the plant and machinery involved it told me that. But what, perhaps, most people will not know is that all of this is to protect the delicate balance of some of our most precious and largely unseen wildlife. It might look amazing to see salmon leap up great waterfalls, but these are barriers to them reaching their spawning (breeding) grounds up the river, and so, this is why the Colwick Fish Pass has been developed. Knowing this and raising awareness of the plight of our fish and water species is really important.

This is all part of protecting our watercourses and we can all play a part in this. The main illustration on the fish pass displays an interconnectedness of our wildlife, both land and water based. After all many of our flies such as mayflies spend most of their lives underwater and it is only in their brief adult phase that we witness them as they fly their last dance. Many simply drop back into the water and become food for fish.

The fish pass interpretation was funded by the Environment Agency and designed to explain the engineering task, the issues that face some of well-known fish such as salmon and eels, as well as some little know species such as lamprey. The information on the fish pass is designed to be multi-layered so that people of all ages can access some information that is important to this story. Even sitting on the seating provided here can give the viewer a clue as to the purpose of the space.

Leading from the seating are short phrases setting the scene for the story which is explained in more detail on the information panels. We have tried to give the headlines of both the engineering and nature-based stories so that we don’t over load people with information. And the pictorial way we have done this allows people to enjoy the space recreationally, as well as providing an overview of the science and technology of the fish pass.

The paths leading to the space include corten artworks which have some simple images cut through the steel allowing the light to cast shadows through the space onto the paths. These can be enjoyed as simple artworks and patterns but they also contain messages that give clues as to the character of the species involved, too.

The main illustration at the centre includes a nature journal-based image that was created after several site visits during a six-month period and includes actual observations and shows the wildlife that you may see along the Trent Valley. There is some wonderful wildlife on view for anyone exploring the area. And my hope is that this will encourage people to look at the area and appreciate that it is such a special area and worth us all playing our part in helping to keep it a place for wildlife and people.

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