Whilst visiting Cold Spring School in New Haven, I spotted a rather fetching item in the outdoor space – a rain chain. The purpose of a rain chain is to allow water to run off a length of guttering and to trickle into a specific place below but to do so in a decorative way. It can be used to replace a down pipe. In this instance it was a water butt – however this could be a drain in the ground or a soakaway such as gravel.
The children and their teacher, Laura Sheinkopf, had created this functional sculpture using collected sea glass and wire. A quick search on Pinterest brought up many other possibilities including:
- Chain links
- Pine cones
- Metal buckets
- Plastic cable ties
- Unwanted cookie cutters – plastic or metal
- Copper items
- Old cutlery
- Spare keys
- Shower hooks
- Soda bottles
Common sense says the plastic versions are more likely to fade and disintegrate sooner than other varieties. There’s lots of instructions about how to make them if you do a quick online search. This is where the re-use of common items makes this an environmentally sustainable approach to water collection and use.
In my own back garden, we’ve installed a couple of rain chains – more functional than arty but they are a useful addition to our water collection of three water butts as we don’t have an outdoor tap and have found, for gardening purposes, that we don’t need one.
The rain chains feed water into two collection pots which are used for dunking plants prior to planting out, cardboard prior to going on our compost and watering cans for a quick water. However I wouldn’t recommend such open sources for schools and early learning and childcare establishments. Nevertheless the video below demonstrates how they work.
I’m rather fascinated by the potential of rain chains to add interest and variety to water walls that children make. I feel a little summer project coming on…
This blog post is an updated version of one that appeared in one 2017.