The sounds of our shores

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Imogen Tinkler, communications intern for the National Trust, looks back at some of the highlights from the ‘Sounds of our shores’ project

After three months, over 680 uploads and around 67,000 listens, the ‘Sounds of Our Shores’ project in collaboration with the British Library and the National Trust for Scotland has come to a close.

As well as encouraging people to get out and explore the seaside, the aim of this coastal sound map was to create a ‘snapshot’ of the UK coastline that could be preserved for future generations. Yet the sounds that we have received not only create a sense of what our shores sound like in 2015, but also reveal much about our relationship with the coast.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon's Mouth, North Devon.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon’s Mouth, North Devon. Credit National Trust.

One discovery we’ve made through this project is the sheer diversity of sounds that can be heard near the sea. On the soundmap, the classic noises of seagulls and waves breaking on the shore sit alongside some more unusual contributions, such as the roar of ‘The Deluge’ chain flush inside the (now disused) ornate Victorian toilets on Rothesay seafront in Glasgow.  We’ve also learned just how much the scale of coastal sounds can vary once you start to listen: from the cacophony of a raft race soundscape to the minute detail of a sea snail feeding in a rock pool.

The Sounds of Our Shores project has also provided an opportunity to preserve elements of our coastal heritage which could otherwise be lost.

Catherine Lee, National Trust Community and Volunteering Officer on the Lizard in Cornwall gave the example of the old Lizard Lighthouse foghorn: “When I first visited the Lizard over 10 years ago, the foghorn was a fantastic deep low rumbling sound that you could feel through the base of your feet.

“Today the foghorn is almost twice as high. Had the old foghorn not been recorded, that sound would have been lost – and I would have missed it.”

Other examples of historic sounds that have been preserved include the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer on the River Clyde, and the metallic clink as visitors to Levant Mine in Cornwall hammer out the tin – just as local women would once have done. There is also evidence of traditions being kept alive, as in the case of the old sea shanties sung by the Cadgwith Singers.

Coastal wildlife was another popular theme thanks to the wide range of vital habitats that can be found on our shores: from cliffs and rocky coves to sandy beaches and dunes, saltmarshes and estuaries. The sounds uploaded reflected this variety, with various species of bird like skylarks and oystercatchers joined by snorting seals, thistle-eating sheep and even a sneezing hare.

Children playing in the sea.  Credit

Children playing in the sea. Credit National Trust.

Altogether these sounds paint a detailed picture of both how our relationship with the coast has evolved over time, and how vital it still is to our lives today. Every new contribution to the soundmap has shown just how much we all love the coast: from families with young children playing on the beach, to individuals enjoying the peace and quiet that can be found all along our shores. Some people also shared stories about their memories of the seaside, and how it has shaped their lives and work.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters the National Trust is able to care for many beautiful places all along the coastline, and make them accessible for everyone to enjoy.

The soundmap will remain available online, head to the website to explore the clips from your favourite stretch of coast: http://www.bl.uk/sounds-of-our-shores

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