Lockdown antidote transports woodlands to homes

Lockdown antidote transports woodlands to homes

A magical soundwalk through stunning south Cumbrian woodlands, showcasing nature at its best and most fragile, is offering a unique anitdote to the latest lockdown.

Heading the stella line-up in a 30-minute audio classic are corncrake, once a common sight in the Rusland Valley, and now regionally extinct after their ground-nesting habitats fell victim to farm machinery and changes in land management.

Now, thanks to the pioneering Back on Our Map (BOOM) initiative, a four-year reintroduction programme for 10 threatened species across south Cumbria, their raspy voices can be heard again, along with other birdsong and evocative descriptions of a winter wonderland.

Listen to the recording now

With Covid restrictions affecting communal projects, a soundwalk, that takes nature’s glories into people’s homes, was felt to be the perfect replacement for a guided woodland walk

MBP Team Leader Michelle Cooper said:

“We have been able to capture something of the magic of Rusland’s woodlands, the peacefulness, birdsong and trees, along with words and recollections of farmers and coppice workers, past and present.

“Nature has brought such respite during the pandemic, when outdoors spaces have been valued more than ever before. We hope the soundscape will inspire people to take time to look and listen to their local wildlife and precious habitats – and to cherish them.”

Cumbrian sound artist, Dan Fox, and ecologist, Mike Douglas, bring the sounds, memories and images flooding back to life.

Mrs Cooper said there was anecdotal evidence that, despite their extinct status, corncrake had occasionally been heard calling over Rusland’s meadows in early spring.

She added:

“Sadly, they don’t stay because the habitat isn’t yet suitable for rearing young. They suffered high mortality rates through mechanical mowing and inadequate grass cover to protect them from predators. A move away from hay to silage further accelerated their decline.

“We hope we can encourage more research into this beautiful bird and in the meantime share a special lost species with as wide an audience as possible.

“Our ‘BOOMcast’ gives insights into how farming has changed and the effects on wildlife. Farmers, charcoal burners and coppice workers join the conversation, recalling steam and horse power.

“The aim is to share sounds and provoke conversations across the generations. It’s a wonderful escape into tranquillity and will especially appeal to those shielding, self-isolating, or unable to leave home.”

Listen to the recording now

BOOM is rolling out pioneering actions encouraging people to reconnect with nature. Led by University of Cumbria, with Morecambe Bay Partnership (MBP) spearheading community involvement, the project has been made possible through money raised by National Lottery players. Find out more about BOOM here.

Image: producer, sound artist Dan Fox on left with ecologist Mike Douglas in Rusland woodland.