Shingle Street | BBC Radio 4 26th January 2010

NATURE: Shingle Street

BBC Radio 4, Tue 26 January at 11.02 (Rpt : Wed 27 January at 21.02)

An unusual and haunting sound portrait written and narrated by Paul Evans about the watchers and the watched on the shingle spit of Dungeness.

Dungeness is place to listen and to watch. It’s a place to watch new land being made by the sea’s shovelling of shingle; a place to watch the manufacture of power, a place to watch migrating birds and moths find a transitory refuge. But watching is about far more than just looking, as writer and naturalist Paul Evans reveals in this powerful and haunting sound portrait of one of Britain’s most unsettling landscapes; the shingle flats of Dungeness

Sound recordings by Chris Watson and Andrew Dawes
Producer Sarah Blunt

New Radio Programmes on BBC Radio 4 | February 2010

Afternoon Play: The Ditch
BBC Radio 4

Monday 1 February 2010, 14.15-15.00

Tom Saunders, a wildlife sound recordist, goes missing leaving only a collection of recordings and a notebook. These fall into the hands of his radio producer and the drama’s narrator who tries to piece together what has happened. His quest leads him back to the disturbing aural landscape of Slaughton Ditch where an obsession with hidden sounds has terrifying and fatal consequences. Recorded on location, this chilling tale is written and narrated by Paul Evans.

Tom Saunders: Jimmy Yuill
Narrator : Paul Evans
Other parts played by Christine Hall and Richard Angwin


NATURE: A Local Patch (part 1)
BBC Radio 4

Tuesday 2 February 11.02 (rpt Wednesday 3 February, 21.02)

In the first of two programmes exploring our relationship with the landscape and the value of getting to know ‘a local patch’ three wildlife enthusiasts share their experiences of their own ‘local patch’.

For wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, the local patch is his suburban back garden in Newcastle upon Tyne, where the recordings he has made over the years chart not only the changes in the landscape and the wildlife, but also trigger memories of the past. For wildlife cameraman, John Aitchison, it’s the sea loch which lies just beyond his home on the west coast of Scotland which is his local patch; a place which he shares with sea otters, curlew and migrating geese. The local patch of wildlife artist and writer Jessica Holm, is the woodland on the Isle of Wight where she spent four years studying red squirrels.

Recordings from each location are weaved together highlighting the value of getting to know a patch of landscape so well that its ‘like having a second skin’, says Jessica Holm. It’s a revealing and fascinating insight into the power of experience and the relationships between people and place, between Man and Nature.

Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson
Producer: Sarah Blunt

(NATURE: A Local Patch (part 2) is on BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 9 February 11.02, rpt Wed 10 Feb 21.02)

The Garden | BBC Radio 4 November 2009

Monday – Friday, 16- 20 Nov, 2009

The story of an Oxfordshire garden through time and the seasons.

Peter France narrates this fascinating series about an Oxfordshire garden from its earliest beginnings as a field in Mesolithic Britain to the present day. A fictional story based on fact, this is no ordinary story, but a dramatic and evocative acoustic journey, following life in the garden as the seasons change. The wildlife sound recordist is Chris Watson.
Today more than at any other time in history, the vast network of Britain’s gardens plays a vital role in the conservation and survival of our native wildlife. The Garden is a story about the changing dynamics between man, wildlife and landscape across the seasons and over time.

Producer: Sarah Blunt

The Radio Times writes: “A beautiful and evocative portrayal of an Oxfordshire garden, from Roman times through to 2050, using sounds specially recorded by Chris Watson, the David Attenborough of Radio.”

NATURE: Insect Soundings | BBC Radio 4 October 2009

Presenter by Paul Evans

Feet-stomping termites, head-banging beetles, tymbal-clicking cicadas, stridulating crickets, whining mosquitoes, pulsating moths, toe-tapping plant hoppers and a whole choir of tuneful songsters join Paul Evans in this unusual sound safari around an ‘orchestra’ of insects.

Their songs announce their presence, define their territory, lure potential mates, and even shock predators.

This programme explores the ways in which insects produce sounds, and hears what this insect ‘music’ is all about. There’s a journey through a termite mound at London’s Southbank Centre during Pestival (see below),where recordings made within a Macrotermes mound were sent to wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson who used them to create a sound track which was played through speakers inside the Termite Pavilion (a scaled-up model of a termite mound), to recreate the sensation of being inside the mound… and the programme ends with an extract from an evening of experimental music curated by Chris Watson at Pestival, featuring recordings of a suzumushi ‘bell’ crickets by Hajime Matsuura (Natural Audio Laboratory, Japan) and voice musician Maria Jardardottir.

Producer: Sarah Blunt for more information and to listen again to the broadcast which is available for a week after broadcast.

A Problem with Noise | BBC Radio 4 20th August 2009

Thursday 20 August

Noise is making itself heard. Man-made noise pollution is becoming increasingly invasive in our lives; in homes, offices, parks, gardens, oceans and wilderness areas, and the effects on both humans and wildlife are causing concern.

Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson presents a personal investigation into this acoustic pollution; exploring what noise is, the effects of man-made noise on both wildlife and man, and the possible long term consequences if we don’t turn the volume down.

Presenter Chris Watson, Producer Sarah Blunt

The Radio Times:


The Times:

This show is now available on the BBC iPlayer.

Podcast for Caught by the River

John Richardson’s workbook for ‘A Collection of Words on Water’.

“We’ve had a bunch of unique podcasts made to compliment the book and they are now available to download (for free) over at iTunes.

Click here to go to the CBTR page where you can hear Bill Drummond, Chris Watson, Hannah Hamilton, Gavin Pretor-Pinney and Chris Yates read extracts from their contributions. There is also the treat of hearing Robert MacFarlane reading Roger Deakins, ‘Jack Frost’ piece. All of these recordings have been produced by Chris Watson.”

A Guide to Water Birds | BBC Radio 4 May – June 2009

Sunday 31 May – 28 June 2009
14.45 – 15.00

Brett Westwood is joined by keen birdwatcher, writer and broadcaster, Stephen Moss in this informative and entertaining series to help you identify many of the birds which are found or near freshwater, whilst wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson provides high quality of recordings of the calls and songs of the birds under discussion.
Recorded on location in Somerset, each week the series focuses on a different group of birds, namely waders of wet meadows, (like Lapwing and Redshank), Ducks (including Mallard and Teal), Warblers (like Grasshopper and Cetti’s warbler), Rails (including Water Rail and Spotted Crake) and the River Birds, (birds like Kingfisher, Dipper and Grey Wagtail). Not only is there advice on how to recognise the birds visually, but also how to identify them from their calls and songs .…. after all, its more likely that you will hear a bird first and than see it.

A Guide to Water Birds follows A Guide to Garden Birds (broadcast in 2007), and A Guide to Woodland Birds (broadcast in 2008)

Series details
1. A Guide to Water Birds : Waders of wet meadows
BBC Radio 4, Sun 31 May, 2009 14.45-15.00
2. A Guide to Water Birds : Ducks
BBC Radio 4, Sun 7 June, 2009 14.45-15.00
3. A Guide to Water Birds : Reed bed warblers
BBC Radio 4, Sun 14 June, 2009 14.45-15.00
4. A Guide to Water Birds : Rails
BBC Radio 4, Sun 21 June, 2009 14.45-15.00
5. A Guide to Water Birds : River Birds
BBC Radio 4, Sun 28 June, 2009 14.45-15.00

Producer Sarah Blunt

The Lake (repeat) | BBC Radio Ulster 5th April 2009

The Lake which was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4, is to be repeated on BBC Radio Ulster…

Sunday 5 April 13.30 -14.00.

A haunting and evocative sound portrait of Britain’s largest lake, Lough Neagh. With a shoreline measuring over 70 miles long, this vast stretch of water in Northern Ireland is more like a sea than a lake. Recordings made above and below the waves reveal a moody, stormy, wild and even dangerous place where legends of a buried town, a horse god and three sisters emerge from the shallows, whilst smoke-like plumes and huge flocks of birds rise from the surface as the seasons unfold.

Sound recordists: Chris Watson and Tom Lawrence
Producer: Sarah Blunt

SOUNDSCAPE: The Lion Pride | BBC Radio 4 March 2009

Monday- Friday, 23 – 27 March, 2009
Narrator: Hugh Quarshie
Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson
Producer: Sarah Blunt

SOUNDSCAPE: The Lion Pride is an intimate and revealing story of one of the greatest predators on earth; the story of a male lion, from birth to adulthood, and life amongst his pride in the Masai Mara in south west Kenya.

Narrated by HUGH QUARSHIE, this fictional series combines a powerful narrative with location recordings by wildlife sound recordist CHRIS WATSON to take listeners into the very heart of a lion pride in Africa.

Life for our pride is not easy. They have to face the harsh realities of life when two nomadic lions, chase our pride male out of his territory, before killing his cubs and mating with the females to sire their own young. Amongst these newborn cubs is Kidogu (which means ‘little one‘ in Swahili), whose life we follow. New born cubs are helpless, born with their eyes shut, and weighing less than a bag of sugar, they are highly vulnerable to attacks from hyenas, pythons, eagles and leopards. Half of all cubs fail to survive their first year, and whilst only a few weeks old, Kidogu, witnesses two of his siblings being killed by hyenas, before being separated from his mother during a terrifying ordeal when a herd of buffalo attack the pride. But Zuri, his mother, does not abandon her cub, and after finding and being reunited with him, she provides the security and protection Kidogu needs, until he is old enough to leave his family and find a territory of his own.

Over the course of several years, wildlife sound recordist CHRIS WATSON has been recording the most intimate details of the lives of African lions. We hear the unique calls between a lioness and her cubs as they suckle, feed and play; we’re with the pride when they are attacked by a herd of buffalo, when they go hunting at night. We’re with Kidogu when he’s chased by a herd of elephants, pursues a warthog, attacks a herd of wildebeest and eventually leaves his pride to find a territory of his own. There are the sounds of the landscape and its wildlife; lions, hyenas, buffalo, elephants, vultures, wildebeest, zebra and crocodiles; there are the sounds of dawn, dusk and night, the sounds of the Mara River, where hippo bathe and crocodiles target vast herds of wildebeest; the sounds of the riverine forest, grassy plains and marsh.

Together, the evocative and thrilling soundtrack and powerful narration make for a very exciting and dramatic story of life in the Masai Mara as experienced by a young lion cub and his pride.

Chris’s recording of Hippos was aired on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. This recording is one of many available on his CD ‘Outside the Circle of Fire’, which is avaiable from the TouchShop here…

The Island of Secrets | BBC Radio 4 25th March 2009

Wednesday 25 March, 2009
Writer and Narrator: Paul Evans
Sound recordist: Chris Watson
Producer: Sarah Blunt

On a warm May evening, the boat trip across the river from Orford Quay to Orford Ness takes only a few minutes but the distance is enormous, as narrator PAUL EVANS discovers in this sound portrait of Orford Ness. And so begins ‘a journey in sound’ around one of Britain’s most haunting, unsettling and seductive landscapes.

Orford Ness is the longest vegetated shingle spit in Europe. It runs for over 10 miles along the Suffolk coast from Aldeburgh to Shingle Street, north of the port of Felixstowe. It’s not quite a proper island because its nose is attached to its Suffolk face at the northern end, but access is restricted and the only way to get to the area that’s now a nature reserve owned by the National Trust is by water.

“Its distinctive elements seem a simple trinity: stone, water and sky” explains the narrator “but there’s something in the way these elements sound to me – the way the sea smacks against the shingle; the way the light reflects on the stones and pools; the way the wind cries over the flat ground. This is far from simple. There is something else in the aural landscape of Orford Ness, some feral power, disturbing yet seductive. “

Written and narrated by PAUL EVANS and with sound recordings by CHRIS WATSON, the programme explores this feral, disturbing yet seductive power of “one of the UK’s most important and most secretive military establishments”.

It’s an unsettling landscape. Deep, low mournful vibrations chase shadows across the shingle. Railings whistle and whine, twisted arms of metal clank against one another in skeletal remnants of buildings where the crash of heavy laboratory doors are part of an orchestra of sounds which also feature the hiss and sigh of waves of shingle furrows, the ever-present gasp and roar of the wind, cries of curlew and gulls, dot-dot-dot alarm calls of redshank and the rattle and scratch of sedge warblers.

Here Paul encounters shadows from the past; Cobra Mist, Blue Danube, nuclear bomb testing sites, a wall built by the Chinese Labour Corps, the skeletal remains of vast laboratories called Pagodas and the sea “polishing and resetting each pebble”.
This is a journey into a disturbing landscape; a fusion of creation and destruction, of man and nature, a poem of words and sounds, a trinity of stones, water and sky.

I can hear the grass grow | resonancefm 28th January 2009

There are waves of sound made by giant beasts, filtered by the gardens of
the oceans and seldom heard by land locked animals. This week features part
three of the roots of sound with Chris Watson.

Sonic horticulture on Resonance FM presented by Mark Aitken.

Wednesday 28th Jan 5pm
Saturday 31st Jan 4pm (repeat)
Resonance FM 104.4
(available in gardens all over the world)

A View Through a Lens Series | BBC Radio 4 January – February 2009

Sundays 11 Jan – 8 Feb, 2009

11 Jan Grey Seals on the Farnes (for Autumnwatch)
18 Jan Shadows – Tiger sharks and albatrosses (for South Pacific)
25 Jan Poyang Lake – Godwits (for Wild China)
1 Feb Flying Elk – (for TNW the Real Monarch of the Glen)
8 Feb Wolves – (for Yellowstone)

More information can be found here

The Lake | BBC Radio 4 23rd January 2009

Friday 23 January, 2009
11.02 – 11.30


The Lake is a hauntingly evocative and unusual soundscape of Britain’s largest lake, and the voices which can be heard above and below its waves.

Lough Neagh in east-central Northern Ireland is not only the largest lough in Ireland but the largest freshwater body in the British Isles. The name “Lough Neagh” means “the lake of the horse-god, Eochu”. He was the lord of the underworld and according to legend is supposed to exist beneath its waters; some say in a village drowned beneath the waves.
Eighteen miles long and eleven miles wide, fed by several rivers and drained to the north by the Lower Bann, the lough is hugely important for wildlife attracting up to 10,000 waterfowl in winter. It has the largest concentration of diving duck in Britain and Ireland, and 6% of the world’s total population of whooper swans visit here in the winter. The Lough Neagh fly (or midge) may be harmless and non-biting, but when the midges swarm together to mate they produce such huge plumes that they have been mistaken for smoke from a burning forest.

Lough Neagh is so vast that it’s more like an inner sea than a lake; its undercurrents can be treacherous and fatal. It’s a wild untamed place with a unique unsettling allure. “At night, Lough Neagh is a broken necklace of lights; and if the necklace was ever made whole, then there would be no wild places left around its shores”.

Drawing on recordings by Tom Lawrence and Chris Watson, The Lake is a powerful sound portrait of the lesser known world of Lough Neagh, with stories about a drowned village, a horse-god, the three sisters, “waterguns”, wildfowl, waders and voices from the deep. Through these stoires and the sounds of the wildlife, wind, waves and water, the Voice of the Lough is revealed.

OWLS | BBC Radio 4 17th October 2008

BBC Radio 4
Friday 17 October, 2008 14.15
Afternoon Play: OWLS

A fictional story written and narrated by Paul Evans and based on an island legend about a brother and sister who were bound by a wish sworn on a barn owl feather, which in turn became a curse that proved fatal. Recorded on location in Scotland; isolation, human desire and the supernatural are explored in this unsettling drama about the relationship between hope and desire, Man and Nature.

Old man … ………………..Jimmy Yuill
Sister ………………………..Alyth McCormack
Old man as a young boy…. .David McLellan
Sister as a young girl ……….Michaela Sweeney


Beardyman and the Mimics | BBC Radio 4 30th August 2008

Champion beatboxer Beardyman, aka Darren Foreman, is a master of vocal artistry. He can make all manner of noises, including entire percussive music tracks, using only his mouth, throat and tongue. Inspired by the lyrebird, he ventures on a personal journey to unveil the secrets of animal vocal mimicry. He encounters ornithologist and musician Bill Oddie, birdsong scientific experts and a whole new world of sounds.

This programme contains extensive use of Chris’s recordings and an interview with him about the mimicry capabilities of Starlings…

30 Aug 2008 10:30 BBC Radio 4

Sonic Horticulture with Mark Aitken | resonancefm August 2008

I can hear the grass grow

Where exactly should you plant your ears to discover the best route for recording sound? Or is the root of sound near the source or is it floating somewhere in a garden of ambience? Take a trip with sonic gardener extraordinaire Chris Watson.

Part One

Tuesday 12th August 6pm
Saturday 16th August 4pm (repeat)
Saturday 23rd August 4pm (2nd repeat)
Part Two
Tuesday 2nd September

I can hear the grass grow
Resonance FM 104.4
(available in gardens all over the world)

A Guide to Garden Birds (repeat) | BBC Radio 4 August 2008

25 – 29th August 2008

A Guide to Woodland Birds Series | BBC Radio 4 May 2008

New Series starting Sunday May 26th 2008 at 1445 on BBC Radio 4

“The quality of the sound recording in this series is so good that if you shut your eyes you could be in the Forest of Dean. Chris Watson is the man responsible for the sound, while presenter Brett Westwood offers the poetical, evocative descriptions of the birds he spots.

An interactive webpage to accompany the series is available this week.” [Radio Times, May 2008]

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

The Castle – A Portrait in Sound | BBC Radio 4 7th December 2007

11:02 – 11:30
Producer: Sarah Blunt

From The Radio Times:


You can also read a review from The Observer:


It should also be available to listen to here for a week after the broadcast
A powerful, evocative sound portrait of Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland; its wild inhabitants and ancient ruins. 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 the vast grey shelf of whin sill rock on which it stands. 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 have been reclaimed 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 together the voices of naturalists, archaeologists and a poet and historian with sounds specially recorded by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, this rich, powerful and evocative sound portrait, explores the history of the castle and its relationship with the landscape, wildlife and natural elements.

“The castle has just so many incredible sounds, it’s just full of music”, says poet and historian Katrina Porteus of the sounds which reverberate around the castle walls.
G2: Radio: Pick of the day from The Guardian Features Pages by Phil Daoust:

“Complaining that there’s too much Chris Watson on the airwaves is a bit like moaning about an excess of Attenboroughs. OK, perhaps Watson’s not quite in that league, but he has been indefatigable in bringing nature’s splendours blah blah to radio audiences. Nary a weasel wees in the woods without Watson being there to record it. Lately he’s been lurking in Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Built in the 14th century by the Earl of Lan-caster, this vast fortress has since been reclaimed by nature, and its skeletal remains echo to the cries of kittiwakes, the roar of the wind and the gentle waffle of archaeologists and historians. They all come together in The Castle: A Portrait in Sound.”

“In a particularly successful programme, Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland is vividly described by naturalists, archaeologists, poets and historians, their voices set against an evocative backdrop of seagulls, wind and waves produced by acclaimed wildlife recordist Chris Watson. Memorably silhouetted on the dramatic coastline, the ruined castle seems as powerful now as it was when it was built, the fulmars and kittiwakes defending their territory like a forgotten army.”

The Castle – A Portrait In Sound; Pick of the day; Critics’ choice from The Sunday Times Features by Paul Donovan

“The wildlife recordist Chris Watson and the producer Sarah Blunt join up again for this atmospheric portrait of 14th-century Dunstanburgh Castle, near Craster on the coast of Northumberland, with its kittiwakes round the ramparts, seals on the beaches and skylarks high above. Unmissable for all those who long to flee the traffic and crowds and escape to wide open places.”

Radio Choice TV & Radio from The Times Features by Chris Campling

“The 14th-century ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle, perched on the Northumberland coast, resembles nothing so much as a set of broken teeth, an inhospitable place at best -but not if you’re a bird, or the wind, or the sound of the sea. And it is their life that the wildlife recordist Chris Watson (above) has captured so evocatively.”