On the Margins

The Fen Raft Spiders of Redgrave and Lopham Fen

By Illustrations by Foreword by
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    • conservation
    • ecology
    • entomology
    • invertebrates
    • natural history
    • spiders


    A scientist and an artist combine their perspectives in a tribute to one of Britain's rarest and most beautiful animals - the Fen Raft Spider.

    From the preface:
    "On the Margins is our tribute to one of Britain's most beautiful and least common animals – which also happens to be a spider. It is not intended to be a monograph but rather a unique view of the species, bringing together our differing perspectives as artist and scientist.

    We have told the spider's story largely in the context of Redgrave & Lopham Fen National Nature Reserve on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, where the first British record was reported in 1956. With only two more sites discovered in subsequent decades, Redgrave & Lopham Fen remains the most studied and also the most threatened of the British populations.

    Helen – the scientist – over many years working on the conservation and ecology of fen raft spiders found that their elegance, maternal care, and struggle for survival against the odds, attracted consistent public fascination and media interest. This provided invaluable opportunities to use this species as a vehicle for telling wider stories about the plight of wetlands and their many unique and wonderful species. It also helped to promote interest in other spiders – perhaps our most misunderstood and misrepresented group of animals.

    Sheila – the artist – first discovered the spiders and their story while surfing the internet. Immediately inspired by the potential for extending her artwork beyond the visual skin of representation, to encompass the cultural knowledge and scientific understanding of the subject, she contacted Helen with the proposal of an artist residency. It offered exciting possibilities for taking the spiders' stories to new audiences.

    Five years on, On the Margins is the outcome of our collaboration. Sheila has developed an interpretive way of recording this spider's world. The twenty images that she created form the backbone of On the Margins and are supported both by her photographs and commentary, and by Helen's text. Both art and science have the ability to transform our perceptions and the way we think. We wanted to bring the separateness of their focus together, to learn from and be inspired by these complementary views of the spider's world. Most of all, we wanted to share our privileged view of this rare and beautiful animal and to inspire others, not just to value it, but also to understand the importance of the complex network that binds a species into a wider ecosystem of plants, animals and the landscape on which they depend."

    With a foreword by Mark Cocker.

    Table of Contents

    1 - A Short History
    2 - Life at the Interface
    3 - A Life in Stages
    4 - On the Move
    Further Reading

    Bibliographic Information

    • 183 pages
    • 136 photographs, 32 illustrations
    • BISAC NAT017000, SCI070020