Are you ever truly alone on a grouse moor? Gareth Dockerty talks about feeling connected by a Moorland Chorus.
I have often felt that the sound of a Spring moorland dawn chorus is one of the best parts of our uplands. However, it is something that those of us who live and work in the uplands can at times take for granted.
The rhetoric that a grouse moor is devoid of life can be squashed in seconds as the iconic calls of the curlew, lapwing and golden plover ring out as the sun rises each morning. It is well worth an early start, and I recommend that that all those who can, take the time to listen to a moorland chorus.
There are millions of people who don’t get this opportunity, living hundreds of miles from the uplands or due to the pressures of modern life, or perhaps care home and hospice residents who would find access to these remote landscapes difficult.
There are few things that are worth getting up at 4.10 in the morning, and that’s coming from someone who is perfectly at home with an early start.
However, as myself and my colleague ventured up on to the top of a Calderdale moor to meet host of the BASC podcast, Tom Evans, sub-5am, I remembered why I love this part of the world so much.
There is something deeply humbling about a vast landscape, upon which you leave no further impression than a brief dent in the heather where you take a moment to sit and take it all in. And even this tiny mark of your presence is transient and soon reverted to as if you were never there.
There is something about the uplands that grounds you, I love that feeling of space.
But do big spaces like this Calderdale moorland make you feel alone, lonely even? This is certainly not my experience as a result of our morning on the moor. Granted I was out and about with two others, but despite this, I certainly wouldn’t have been lonely had I been on my own.
The grouse moor we visited that day was teeming with life, as the Moorland Chorus illustrates so beautifully. Even the sun tipped the horizon to the east, the local wild residents were already in full call, babble and chatter.
There have been countless scientific studies into the benefits of listening to nature, and in particular birdsong. The Moorland Chorus not only offers this, but also captures the sounds of some of the UK’s most threatened species. The sad reality is that without conservation efforts future generations may not be able listen to this spectacle of nature.
The Moorland Chorus works on two fronts, it relaxes people and improves their mental health and wellbeing providing rest bite from our busy and stressful lives, it can also evoke and stimulate memories for people struggling with dementia.
Secondly it connects people with moorland habitats as valuable ecological resources providing homes for declining species. So whether you’re alone intentionally or have no choice but to be, anyone can immerse themselves in the sounds of a habitat where you’re surrounded by life.
The Moorland Chorus project will see the sounds of these upland birds being played across care homes in West Yorkshire and Lancashire, providing residents to connect with nature.
A short educational version will also be sent to more than 3,000 school children who are due to take part in Let’s Learn Moor this summer, enabling them to hear the birds they will soon be lucky enough to see as part of the UK’s largest upland education project.
Thanks to Tom Evans our tame sound engineer (and producer of the BASC podcast) plus the support of the local gamekeepers and the Calderdale Moorland Group for their help in making the Moorland Chorus happen.