The spring walk is the first of four soundwalks through a year in Winnall Moors Reserve, Winchester, England. During 2013, the full suite of walks will be slow released by Gruenrekorder Digital, each perambulation reflecting the season of composition. Re-composed from recordings made through March, April, May and June, the spring walk begins at dawn with the first isolated notes of birdsong and my own frosted footsteps upon a boardwalk over the reed beds. The birdsong builds in volume and complexity as several dawns combine to reveal a polyphonic chorus, surrounding the listener in territories of song. The company of my own footsteps lead the listener into an emerging landscape, simultaneously reminding them that another was present here and that this dawn is now passed. When composing the walk I did not feel it important that the coordinates of the soundwalk be arranged in strict correspondence to the fixed geography of the moors: that is, I did not attempt to map precisely and chronologically a fixed circumnavigate movement through the landscape.
I preferred to let the sounds organise their own path, although by chance the location of the dawn chorus, with which the walk opens, corresponds almost exactly to location of the creaking pagoda, with which it concludes. This suggestion of circular transit is echoed in the flight path of a bank of swans that are heard arriving and evaporating, before returning only once more to disappear. At the finale of the walk a bouquet of warblers, having returned here from Africa, throw their songs of DNA into the air, whilst a work party sinks a wooden post into the ground and a mobile phone adds a digital phrase to this chorus of territorial voices. The vibrations of human toil are telegraphed down a wire fence, surrounding the moors in one more acoustic circumference as the pagoda adagio closes in.
sound descriptors: a list of sounds as they appear on the spring walk
Crackling hesitant steps, a pause, a bird singing, another song, and another, brittle steps on the wire covering a boardwalk, a dawn chorus, geese fly past, another dawn, a green woodpecker, dismantling the ringing nets, a bird hanging in a cotton bag, ringing, a call of distress, release, feathers against cotton, dismantling the ringing nets, a stream, a kick sample, rolling the river bed, trickle of water, foot steps on gravel, river hatch, a girl screams, preening swans, pond dipping, nets dripping, pagoda bending, pond effervescing, a herd of tadpoles, a cuckoo, post hole pincers, shovel of earth, sinking post, swans circling, sedge warbling, swans returning, reed warbling, a creaking pagoda adagio.
Four walks around a year: spring | sebastiane hegarty
The first instalment of the winnall moors soundwalks
The Winnall Moors soundwalk project was made in collaboration with Hampshire Wildlife Trust (HWT). The project began in the winter of 2010, with the aim of creating a soundwalk based on recordings made in the Winnall Moors conservation reserve over the period of one year. Extending the recording process over this timescale, allowed the discrete temporal patterns of the landscape to become apparent. The inclusive nature of the sounds collected, reflect both the complicated topography of the reserve, which is at once a shared public space, a historic and natural landscape and an area of encircled wilderness.
As the project progressed, it became apparent that composing one soundwalk for the whole year would be restrictive. It seemed more appropriate for there to be four walks, responding to individual acoustic character of the years celestial quarters: winter, spring, summer, autumn. The temporality of the sonic environment is reflected not only in the migratory, seasonal wildlife sounds, but also in the calendars of local, human and conservation activity.
The duration of each soundwalk is set at twenty-five minutes, which roughly corresponds to the time it takes to walk a full circuit of the moors reserve. For the purposes of the HWT, the soundwalks provide a form of poetic audio guide; a sort of headphone transit, that may allow the previous and present sonic landscape to intertwine.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the employees, wardens, scientist and volunteers at the Trust and in particular, Martin De Retuerto, Rachel Remnant and David Eades for their help, inspiration and support.
For sound extracts and other releases: Gruenrekorder