The Estuary | BBC Radio 4 December 2007 – January 2008


Mon – Fri, 31.12.07 to 4.01.08 – 15:45
Producer: Sarah Blunt

Peter France narrates the extraordinary story of the life and times of one of Britain’s wildest landscapes, the tidal estuary of The Wash in eastern England. This is no ordinary story, but a dramatic and evocative ACOUSTIC journey, with sounds specially recorded by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, following life on the estuary as the tides advance and retreat.

The Estuary traces the history of The Wash and its surroundings from its creation through a series of successive draining and land reclamations to the threats it faces in the 21st Century. The series also follows the changing moods, landscape and wildlife of the Wash, (a site of international importance for wildlife) as the season progress and the tides ebb and flow.

The Wash is a square-mouthed bay on the northwest margin of East Anglia, ‘where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire’. It’s fed by 4 major rivers and is amongst the largest estuaries in the United Kingdom. In this wild, remote and dynamic landscape, life is determined by the tides. At low tide, the vast expanses of mud are a treacherous no-man’s land; quick-sinking sands and changing weather patterns create an unstable environment largely avoided by man. But for the hundreds of thousands of birds which visit here, the exposed inter-tidal mud is a giant fast-food restaurant, and birds like knot, dunlin, grey plover, pink-footed geese and godwits stop off here to rest and refuel on their long migrations. As the tide advances across the mud, the birds are pushed towards the shore, until they run out of space and are forced into the air. The sight and sounds created by hundreds of thousands of knot rising into the air like swirling smoke and heading inland, is one of Nature’s most stunning winter spectacles.

The Wash also has a fascinating history of land reclamation and drainage; reflected in its landscape, settlement patterns and local communities, which over the centuries have helped shape the land to create its appearance today.

This series offers listeners not only a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the magic of the acoustic world of The Wash, from the tiny sounds of the incoming tide trickling across the mud flats, to the vast spectacle of birds being pushed off the mud at high tide, but also highlights the importance of the Wash to wildlife and the potential threats it faces in the 21st century.

Set against an evocative soundscape, listeners will hear the voices of Peter France (series narrator) landscape historian, Stephen Head, Ciaran Nelson of the RSPB Eastern England and naturalist, Mike Dilger. The wildlife sound recordist is Chris Watson.

The Estuary was repeated on Saturday mornings 4 April 2009, 18 April 2009, then weekly 15 April, 2 May, 9 May 2009
05.45 – 06.00am