5 Magical Sounds that Capture the Coast

As a kid I spent a lot of time on the beaches of south Devon. Dawlish Warren was a particular favourite with its sand dunes, the amazing Exe estuary and the walk to Dawlish where the footpath was pinned between the sea and the railway. Our earliest memory of days at the seaside set in stone an affinity with the coast that can last a lifetime. 

Sound naturally plays an important part in that relationship. I can remember the little windmills whizzing round on a windy day, the intense noise of the birds on the estuary or the trains speeding along this beautiful stretch of coastline.

The sounds that we hear and remember shape the memories that we have of days at the seaside. This summer a major new project called sounds of our shores wants to capture those sounds and create a unique sound map, which will be added to the British Library Sound Archive.  Musician and producer, Martyn Ware, better known as a member of Human League and Heaven 17, will then use them to create a new piece of music to be released in February 2016.

100s of sounds have already been uploaded and – if you haven’t yet escaped work this summer – here are some of my favourite to magically transport you away from the doldrums of your desk. Please note sound files need flash to work and therefore may not load on some smartphones:

1. Boscombe Chimes

This recording takes a simple idea on the coast at Bournemouth and captures how music has shaped our love affair with the coast and that slightly cheeky kiss-me-quick daytrip to the seaside.

2. Sea Snail

This is an intimate sonic window on a micro world. It’s a journey into the feeding habitats of a sea snail in its watery rock pool environment.

3. Tide and Time Bell

Bells are so evocative and this tidal bell on the north Devon coast is no exception. The chiming in sync with the waves is magical and listening helps to relax you.

4. Dredging Oysters

This recording is all about our food based relationship with the coast and that sense of a busy working shoreline.  Eating oysters creates a really rich sensory connection with the sea.

5. Curlews

There is something haunting and so distinct about this sound. Our coast is filled with the sound of nature and this recording is sonically so rich.

The English coastline is a busy place. It is still a place of work with the huge container terminals and busy ports. It’s a place of play and relaxation. And it’s a place of wild beauty where we go to get our fix of the natural world. The sounds of our shores project explores the coastline through a series of sonic postcards that will be there for future generations to enjoy.

Mike Collins is from the National Trust


The sounds of our shores project is about capturing a a sonic snapshot of how we see the coast and connect with it. This collaboration between the National Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland wants people to record sounds from the whole coastline. It could be the regal seaside elegance of Scarborough or the windswept Cornish cliffs in Poldark country.

  • You can upload your recordings of the coast via sounds of our shores on audioboom and share sounds using the hashtag #shoresounds. Sounds need to be recorded and uploaded by 21 September.

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