Thursday, 27 August 2015

Capturing the Sounds of our Shores with the National Trust

Our friends at the National Trust have launched a fantastic new initiative this summer asking the public to record "the sounds of our shores". Whilst out and about at our coast in a couple of weekends time for the Great British Beach Clean, Sea Champions are hoping to capture some of their favourite seashore sounds to contribute to the project. Here Mike Collins from the National Trust shares a little about the project and how to get involved.

Walking along Studland beach in Dorset recently I recorded my own mini seaside soundscape. The waves of the English Channel gently lapped this low-lying beach and I picked up the background chatter of families – building sandcastles and jumping about in the sea. And on a visit to the wonderful Exe estuary in Devon I caught the sounds of waders on the mud flats, a flag flapping gently in the breeze and the reeds blowing in the wind. 

Recording sounds at these familiar places made me see them in a new light. I would stop and just listen, trying to pick out sounds.  There is a danger of taking sound for granted and many of the sounds from the working coastline are slowly disappearing.

There is something very powerful about the sounds of our shores. We have a deeply sensory connection with the stunning UK coastline and it’s something that is embedded in our DNA.  The seas around the 10,800 miles of coast and more than a thousand islands are rich in natural sounds and the sound of people at work and at play.

Thinking back to my trips to places such as the Farne Islands in Northumberland or Formby in Lancashire the sounds add a real richness and tone to the experience. Yes I can visualise the seabirds on the Farne Islands or the amazing sand dunes at Formby but the sound takes the memories to another level.

Sounds of our Shores is a community-led, interactive soundmap which asks members of the public to upload their favourite seaside sounds and help build a permanent digital resource of UK coastal recordings This summer the National Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland want people to capture the sounds of the coastline. It could be the intensity of a seabird colony, the power of waves on a stormy day or the crunch of people walking along a pebbly beach.

Sounds can be recorded on smartphones and tablet computers and then uploaded on to a sound map. The first of its kind, of all of the sounds of our shores from this digital sonic postcard will be added to the British Library Sound Archive; allowing future generations to tune into the sounds of summer 2015.

So this summer if you’re heading for a walk along the coast or a day at the seaside spend a little bit of time recording some sounds and help to make sonic history by contributing to the first ever coastal sound map.

Mike Collins works for the National Trust. More information about how to get involved can be found at and you can share sounds of our shores via #shoresounds.

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