NATURE: Sounds of Britian - Islay
In the second of three special editions of NATURE capturing the sounds of WILD BRITAIN, writer and naturalist Paul Evans, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson capture the spirit and sounds of Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides.
Set against a backdrop of sounds, Paul Evans presents an evocative and entertaining narrative recalling a visit to Islay he made in the spring. “You know you’ve arrived somewhere interesting when a sign at the airport reads:“Due to warm weather there are adders in the terminal car-park, please don’t pick them up.” Who does pick up venomous snakes in car-parks, I wonder?”
During the day, Paul explored the harbours and sand dunes, rocky coves, cliffs and white sand beaches. But at night he sat quietly, exposed to the sky and the stars on Gruniart Flats, a vast expanse of wet meadows, where the nocturnal life becomes “ metaphysically different from daytime. Wildlife that was furtive and muted by day takes on a confidence of spirit as if evolving into other species. The darker it gets, the more alive, the more wild it becomes”. Here, he’s treated to a magical night chorus of drumming snipe, the crex crex call of the Corncrake, the haunting cries of curlew, wheeling lapwing, piping redshank, and the chilling shriek of a barn owl.
And there are other sounds on this island; sounds founded on “Uisgue beatha” the water of life; the whisky for which Islay, along with its ale and 70,000 over-wintering geese is richly famous. Bruichalddich distillery built in 1881 still uses the same Victorian machinery: “an alchemist’s laboratory of belts, pulleys, chains, chutes, cast iron, wood and polished brass”. These produce a magic of their own; and as Paul becomes mesmerised by the sounds of the working distillery, he hears in them "the sounds of wild Nature … birds, lakes, streams, bogs and waves. I hear the song that lures geese from the Arctic and crakes from Africa..".
It’s a powerful and heady brew; the sounds of Islay, its whisky and wildlife. It’s a magical mix of words and sounds captured and evoked in NATURE: The Sounds of Britain - Islay.