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  • Matthew Shenton

Listening to the landscape 6 - Mr Whippy and water

Updated: 19 hours ago

A project to explore the sounds of my village had been bubbling away in the back of my mind for many years, but I had never discussed it with anyone else in the community. To get the ball rolling, I posted some information and questions in a local Facebook group and was stunned to discover what sounds the community associate with their village.

I asked three questions:

  • Do you have any information about the working sounds of the village between 1900 and 1950 (such as the blacksmith, wheelwright and the couriers)?

  • Do you have a favourite Holbrook sound?! (I love the rooks and the distant sound of the RHS bells drifting across the fields!).

  • Have you maybe moved away from the village but can still remember a vivid sound from your childhood?

People responded (!) and were so generous and positive when talking about their favourite sounds. I was introduced to these new historical sounds:

  • "We used to have an air raid siren to call the firemen down to the station or at the side of the village hall before the station was built I believe, I think it was a green goddess as well, you could hear it for miles around."

  • "I remember the sound of the ice cream van that used to visit Clench Road playing Greensleaves."

  • "On New Year's Eve, at midnight, the ships would sound their sirens and they could be easily heard in Holbrook."

I started to research these sounds and discovered a parliamentary question raised by a Norfolk MP who complained about air raid sirens being used for this purpose (I can image PTSD being a real issue with this) and a fact unknown to me that all Mr Whippy vans played Greensleeves as standard.

Childhood sounds were well explored, with recollections of specific sounds such as a squeaky roundabout, rounders bats, the sound of children paddling and splashing on a road that regularly floods and the rustle of paper sweet bags at a long closed sweetshop. How amazing!

New 'working' sounds I had not considered were introduced such as the specific sounds of a coal delivery, battery powered milk floats and Staggy the "Man with a Van" selling every grocery item you could possibly want (and maybe some you didn't).

Natural sounds were abundant with tawny owls, rooks and seagulls forced in-land to escape rough coastal weather. The hullabaloo of the local hunt was also recalled.

I am now updating the relevant sounds webpage with all the new suggestions and looking at ways to engage with non-Facebook users.

Field Recording

The latest of my modern day field recordings was made and uploaded on Wednesday 7th February. It explores the sounds of water within the parish.

The Merlin app identified: robin, skylark, blue tit, great tit, grey wagtail, blackbird, mistle thrush, chaffinch, rook, goldfinch, wren, coal tit, siskin and song thrush. A deer stood stock still and watched me from a distance of 300m. A buzzard flew out from the trees above my head and out to perch and wait and watch. Watch and wait.

You can listen to the modern sounds of the village I have recorded either on my podcast, or through the media player below.

[This field recording was recorded to showcase the natural sounds heard in a rural setting. It features no human voices. No monies will be made from the recording. Please contact me  if you have any concerns]


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