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Science
THE CASTLE: A portrait in sound
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Friday 7 December 2007 11.02-11.30am

A powerful evocative sound portrait of a castle and its wild inhabitants and ancient ruins.

Gatehouse and towers where swallows and rock doves nest. © Copyright Chris Watson.
Gatehouse and towers where swallows and rock doves nest. © Copyright Chris Watson.
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THE CASTLE: A portrait in sound

The magnificent ruins of Dunstanburgh castle are a dramatic sight on the Northumberland coastline, looking like a huge set of broken teeth or giant fingers stretching towards the sky out of a vast grey shelf of whin sill rock.

Built in the 14th century as a piece of political theatre by the Earl of Lancaster and witness to a history of war and turmoil, today the vast skeletal remains of the castle have been reclaimed and redeemed by Nature. In place of battle cries, there are the cries of birds, the roar of the wind, and the thunder of the sea.

Weaving the voices of naturalists, archaeologists and historians with sounds specially recorded by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, this evocative and powerful sound portrait of the castle, explores the history of the castle and its relationship with the wildlife and the elements; the wind and the waves.

Where once there was a garrison, today there are swallows that act as sentinels nesting in the gatehouse. Kittiwakes, shags and fulmars stand watch over the sheer sea wall, while house martins, warblers, reed buntings and yellowhammers patrol up and down the moat.

Seals patrol the beaches and peregrines swoop out of the skies, from high overhead. And all the while, in mild conditions or stormy weather there’s the voice of the sea … and the churning, groaning sounds of rocks as they’re carried back and forth along the beach by the turn of the tide.

For more than 6 centuries, the voices of Dunstanburgh have resounded across the exposed Northumberland landscape. Carried on the waves and the wind, they’re as powerful today as when the castle was built.

Key contributors in the series are Wildlife Sound Recordist, Chris Watson; and archaeologists: Harry Beamish (National Trust), Al Oswald (English Heritage), Poet and Historian, Katrina Porteous and Wildlife Warden, Kevin Redgrave (National Trust).
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