Scottish woodlands among favourites in global soundmap offering solace during lockdown

The gentle pattering of rain splashing off leaves, a chorus of wild birds chirruping and the ambient murmur of clean, fresh air.

This is the essence of a wet day in a much-loved forest in the northern Highlands of Scotland, immortalised in a sound recording made earlier this year.

The audio snapshot is among more than 750 uploaded as part of a novel soundmap project celebrating woodlands around the world.

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Sounds of the Forest is a new addition to the annual Timber Festival, which has this year gone digital due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

People have been finding solace by listening in to recordings made in forests around the world during lockdown

At least 1.5 million people have already tuned in to hear the soundtracks, with Scottish locations in the top ten most popular in the UK.

The minute-long soundtracks have been providing music for the soul for people from all parts of the planet during lockdown.

Many have used the recordings to transport them to places with special meaning or locations they are not able to visit in person due to coronavirus restrictions.

Others listen in to get a flavour of exotic sites they may never get the chance to experience at first hand – think howls of lemurs in Madagascar, evening nightingale songs in Slovakia or melodious calls from the Micronesian starling.

Rowan Cannon and Sarah Bird, directors of outdoor arts events firm Wild Rumpus, have helped organise the Timber Festival and its Sounds of the Forest project

The map also serves as an archive of ecosystems under threat from climate change, recording areas in stress and others being transformed.

Scots have so far sent in 19 recordings from across the country, with project organisers inviting more people to contribute.

They say they have been “overwhelmed” by people’s stories.

“One lady uploaded a local forest sound she found on her father’s phone after he died, while a man from Glasgow told us that listening to sounds of forests he grew up in, in Poland, offered him sanctuary whilst shielding,” said Sarah Bird, co-director of outdoor arts events firm Wild Rumpus, one of the groups behind the Timber Festival.

“We’re beyond thrilled with how many recordings have been contributed from forests and woodlands all over the world and the extraordinary level of global engagement,.” she said.

“The sounds form an open-source library, to be used by anyone to listen to and create from.

“They have provided a source of meditation for many and been used as an inspiration for art and music for others.

“We are living in a world filled with uncertainty and we believe the natural world offers much reassurance and constancy.

“Sounds of the Forest has encouraged people to go to their local woodlands and forests and take time to stop, listen and record the harmonies of nature then upload these online.

“Hopefully it has shown the unifying power of nature – it has transported thousands of us to forests around the world.

“In a time where we are physically isolated the project has provided hope and connection.

“Forests are resilient, adaptive, multifaceted, and offered us real hope that we could find a way through the crisis.

“We would never have anticipated how compelling and inspiring it would be to sit in our homes, during these strange and uncertain times, and to be transported to a forest in say Panama, Montreal or Hong Kong. It has been the most amazing thing, feeling so connected whilst so distanced.”

Check out the soundmap on the Timber Festival website.

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