Sounds of the Shore: The British Library and the National Trust are creating a coastal soundmap of the UK

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The British Library, in collaboration with the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland and audioBoom Ltd, need your help to create the first ever coastal soundmap of the UK. Mike Collins of the National Trust explains how you can get involved.

Close your eyes for a minute. Think of a favourite place on the coast. Tune into your memory sound bank and start to imagine the sounds that fill the airwaves. It could be the sounds from the days spent at the coast as a kid when the day felt like it would never end. Or it might be a trip to a seabird colony clinging to the cliffs and creating an intense wall of sound.

A few weeks back we stayed on Gower in south Wales. We were surrounded by sand dunes, a newly forming salt marsh and pine woodland. Throughout our short stay in a bunkhouse the sea shaped the soundscape. In the distance you could hear the constant roar of the waves on the beach and plenty of wading birds had taken up local residence.

One morning I spent a bit of time sat in a bird hide just listening. It was so refreshing. All that I could hear were the swallows ducking and diving, the cackle of a crow and the noise of a lapwing near its nest. And the constant bees buzzing pass the hide and the creaking of the wood in the early morning sun.

Then there was the day at the beach basking in the sun. The sound of poles being hammered into the ground as people put up wind breaks. Great excitement as people ran into the sea for some body boarding. And the re-assuring sounds of beach cricket.

There is something really powerful about the sounds of our shores. Our sensory experience of being by the sea can fill our life with powerful memories and transport us to a place or time. For me it was the days spent at Dawlish Warren building sandcastles and the sounds of the little windmills spinning round.

The coastline around the UK is such a vibrant place. It’s somewhere that we’re drawn to time and time again. With 10,800 miles of coastline and around one thousand islands the coast has played a really important role in shaping our national identity and has become deeply embedded in our DNA.

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about the coast – perhaps daydreaming about living by the sea with its seemingly eternal sunsets or the gentle and very re-assuring repetitiveness of the waves lapping the seashore. And at this time of year families will be flocking to the coast for those classic seaside holidays.

This summer the National Trust, British Library and the National Trust for Scotland have come together to ask people to record sounds from the whole coastline of the UK – helping to crowd source a Sounds of our Shores Coastal Sound Map.

And it’s not just the wild stretches of coast but the coastline that is developed too – villages, towns and cities; ports, urban beaches or classic seaside towns. There is so much to hear if we take the time to listen.

It’s a project – linked to the 50th anniversary of the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign - that aims to capture a snapshot of how our coast sounds and also a chance to reflect on the changing relationship that we have with the coastline.

You could record a wonderful five minute soundscape from a stretch of coast rich in sounds, helping to create a chill out track inspired by nature. Or it could be the classic sounds from a busy beach; whether it is someone wrestling with putting up a deck-chair, the familiar sound of fruit machines on a seafront or the gentle background noise of people having a good time.

In the last century the relationship that we have with the coast has been transformed. It has shifted from a place of work to a place that we go to play. Yes there is a vibrancy still to the working coast – with the busy fishing harbours and the industrial sounds from the mega sized container terminals – but for most of us it about those special places that we like to visit time and time again.

Recording sounds couldn’t be easier – on a smartphone or tablet computer - and it’s a great way of creating a sonic equivalent of a postcard or photo; something that can be shared with friends and family. And best of all the sounds that make it up on the coastal sound map will end up in the British Library Sound Archive (one of the biggest in the world no less).

The sounds that appear on the map will be used by musician and producer Martyn Ware (better known as one of the founder members of Human League and Heaven 17) to create a twenty-minute soundscape that will be released in February 2016.

So this summer use some of your screen time to record the sounds of our shores. You’ll be helping to crowd source for a project that will capture the sounds from the UK coast for future generations to hear. It will also be a great way of seeing and hearing the places on the coast that you love in a new light.

More info
Visit the Sounds of our Shores Coastal Sound Map.

Top tips for recording coastal sounds

On Twitter, use the hashtag #shoresounds

Visit The National Trust

Mike Collins works for the National Trust and has a particular love of the coast. His favourite coastal places are Lyme Regis, St Ives and the Farne Islands; and he spent many happy an hour on the Devon coast.

Follow Mike on Twitter

The UK's Favourite Coastal Sound
On Thursday 6 August a new poll opens to find the UK’s favourite coastal sound. Chosen from the hundreds of fantastic coastal sounds submitted by people already this summer, the sounds of the shores team want to find the top of the sound pops.

Which sound transports people to the coast (millions of us daydream about being on the coast) and captures that special relationship that we have with the coastline around these beautiful islands?

The voting will close on the 27 August and people can cast their vote by visiting

Listen to the Top ten sounds:
1. Children playing on Brean Sands, Somerset
2. Dredging for oysters at Brightlingsea Essex
3. Ferries in the Fog – River Mersey
4. Ghost Train Ride – Palace Pier, Brighton
5. Kittiwakes at the nest, Northumberland
6. Raft Race, Mumbles (Wales)
7. Seagulls and Waves at Back Bay, near Monreith (Scotland)
8. Seals calling and snorting on Raithlin Island (Northern Island)
9.‘Singing’ Sands, Eigg, Scottish Hebrides (Scotland)
10. Waves breaking on the beach at Trwyn Llanbedrog (Wales)

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