Friday, 21 September 2012
Sound and vision: Hythe's acoustic mirror
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, a passenger train which was itself later put to military use during the second world war.
These orders were never carried out. Today, the Hythe sound mirror has faded into the Kent hills, camouflaged into the landscape and rendered nearly inaccessible by a thicket of head-high thorns and nettles, overrun with rabbits. The mirror is slowly crumbling into the hillside and now resembles a part-eaten biscuit, with a chunk taken out of the side. The structure might have been abandoned and the technology made obsolescent, but the most striking thing about the site today is its extraordinarily rich sonic landscape. The entire hillside hums as breeze sweeps through the trees and long grass, the thistles creak in the wind and grasshoppers rub their legs together. Birds take turns to fill the air with their coded langauge: from high peep-peeps and chchchs to the woo-woo-wooing of the wood pigeon. Sheep intermittently baa in call and response. This natural background noise is occasionally punctuated by the rumbling of a distant, out of sight plane, the distant bark of a dog or the brief revving of a boy racer and sirens on the coast road below.
1. Quoted in Echoes from the Sky: A Story of Acoustic Defence, Richard N Scarth (Hythe Civic Society, Hythe, 1999), accessed in the Local Studies Unit at Hythe Libary
This recording has been submitted to the Field Recording Archive, a new initiative based in Manchester.
For more information on sound mirrors, including sound mirrors at other locations around the country (particularly on the North East coast) visit the website of Andrew Grantham.