Category: Get Rid!

Ligue de Football Nouvelle-Aquitaine, dishcloths and disalienation

For several years now I have been visiting a small hamlet in France called Chassagne located close to St.Amand-de-Coly a village with a distinctive fortified church. The nearest large town is Sarlat-le-Caneda to the south. We usually visit in August and although the Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and CFA (Championnat de France Amateur) seasons begin early in the month the local leagues tend to start several weeks later so it is rare that we are able to see any grassroots football. For some time now I seem to have developed a tendency to orientate myself in a place by seeking out local football pitches; investigating the material culture of the sites – the dugouts; scoreboards; fencing; goalposts; club-houses; advertising hoardings and floodlights. I’m never sure exactly what it is that I am trying to understand by contemplating these things. Perhaps there is a connection with my experiences of home and the terrain that I navigate in Oxfordshire – driving from one football pitch to another; from empty field to empty field. I find myself thinking about Frederic jameson’s Postmodernism or the cultural logic of late capitalism and in particular this:

Disalienation in the traditional city, then, involves the practical reconquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory and which the individual subject can map and remap along the moments of mobile, alternative trajectories.

(Jameson; Chapter 1)

The area we visit is full of hamlets and villages and is definitely not a city but perhaps any complex arrangement of spaces can be considered or read as such in the terms that Jameson uses.

During our visit this year I took a walk through Condat-sur-Vezere, headed to the stadium, and noticed that there was a match scheduled for the last Sunday of our stay – Condat-sur-Vezere FC v Limeuil FC in the first round of the Coupe Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In the weeks leading up to the match I visited the ground to record the sound of football not happening. The Coly a tributary of the Vezere River runs to the south of the stadium; the D62 to the north.

19th August 2017
14.19 : Condat-sur-Vezere

(the home dugout at Condat-sur-Vezere FC)

shifting cloud of white noise from the River Coly; wind through the screen of trees on the far bank; a voice; there seems to be a distant melody; flies buzz past; occasional waves of traffic on the D62 their sound rolling down the embankment spilling across the pitch and reflecting from the dugouts; the distant feral drone of an industrial process – perhaps the factory across the Vezere in Le Lardin; small birds in the low trees and bushes; slow moving waves of harmony as tyres sound asphalt moving from left to right – right to left; laughing; a blackbird sounds the alarm; a dog barks; a wood pigeon calls close by and then again in the distance; the drone of the factory is submerged by a breaking wave of birdsong and local traffic; someone cuts their way through the undergrowth; the white noise of the river is constant the slow flow sounding the rocks and banks; a large rattling truck with flat tyres grinds towards Saint Genies; clanking; chains; a shout; air vibrates with the distant rumble of jet engines; a magpie calls; the feral drone of the factory heads up the valley.



We arrived at the match during the second half and stood near the club-house and behind the assistant referee. There was a small bar and the constant sound of conversation; spectators on their phones; children playing; and sporadic applause. There were around seventy to eighty spectators at the game leaning up against the barrier that surrounds the pitch and gathered underneath the scoreboard.

(the club-house at Condat-sur-Vezere FC)

When I arrived back in England I asked a French friend – Gerald – who has lived in England for thirty years to listen to the recording and see how much of the on pitch communication he could transcribe. He also picked up some of the conversation amongst the spectators:

12s …pas que pour faire la fete…    :    Not only to party

47s Vas-yy’a pas de gardien    :    Go ahead there’s no keeper
1:24 Allez les bleus – on se les met    :    Go on the Blues, let’s have them
1:33 allez les gars on s’en…   :    Come on guys let’s…
1:51 la perd pas    :    Don’t lose it
2:12 bien joué Nathan elle est pas facile la …  Allez allez    :    Well played Nathan, it is not easy the… Come on…
2:19 y’a pas de caractère    :    There’s no character
2:38 En fait c’est lui le coach     :    In fact it’s him the coach
3:14 Nadège? Ah merde Janine    :    Nadege? Ah shit Janine
3:17 Ouais ou alors on lui enverra    :    Yeah or else we’ll send her…
3:20 Envoie moi la confirmation des ordres déjà    :    Send me the the order confirmation first
3:45 l’arbitres’il vous plait    –    Refereeplease
3:46 ca je m’en fou    :    this, I don’t care
3:48 je sais qu’y a Maurice… Maurice?    :    I know there’s Maurice… Maurice?
4:07 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
4:12 la partie de but au début mais alors    :    A game of goal at the beginning but then (doesn’t make sense)
4:41 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
4:48 Vous avez des mecs sérieux    :    You have some serious guys
4:52 mélange pas les torchons et les serviettes    :    Don’t mix dishcloths and tablecloths (…apples and oranges)
5:14 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
5:18 Moi je vois que ça après voila c’est Géraldine…    :    Me I can only see that and then after it’s Geraldine
7:00 Va dans le mur    :    Get in the wall
7:20 On est a Condat ici    :    We’re in Condat here
7:22 Allez les garsil faut y’aller    –    Come on guys, let’s go
8:37 Excuse je suis la j’ai loupé un but alors…    –    Excuse me I’m here, I missed a goal then…
11:12 Allez les gars montez les bleus    –    Come on guys go up blues
Gerald then summarises the transcription:
So to conclude it looks like someone called Janine (or perhaps Nadege) ordered some mixed dishcloths and tablecloths but the order was lost and Geraldine will look into it but if she can’t sort it out then Maurice will get involved. Maybe. And someone scored from a free kick around 7:05 possibly because Benoit didn’t get in the wall.

When I asked Gerald to listen to the recording I wasn’t specific about whether I just wanted the on-pitch communication or whether all of the conversation was of equal value. I have often recorded and transcribed pitch-side conversation relating to the game – for example discussion with the linesman here –  but have rarely concentrated on the everyday conversation evident in Gerald’s transcription; the discussion of dishcloths, tablecloths and relationships; the conversations of bar staff; and spectators catching up with each other is an essential element of  the sounding experience of the match.

Travel! [#5] Ashendon Playing Field

This is the fifth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
The village of Ashendon sits between Upper Pollicott to the south and Westcott to the north-east on a road that heads north from the Aylesbury Road and connects with the A41 to the north-west of Waddesdon. At its southern end the road – at that point called Cannon Hill – climbs to a crossroads and then descends into a shallow valley before rising to a ridge on top of which sits Ashendon. As I entered the village I noticed a set of goalposts; turned left into a small car-park; and headed up the hill to the west end of the pitch. I didn’t have any sound recording equipment with me so I sat, listened and made a note of what I could hear.
6th July 2017
13.57 : Ashendon Playing Field
(Sitting behind the goal looking down the slope)
Reversing van pulses with white noise; passing car approaches and departs a slow-motion wave of sound; wood pigeons call in the distance; cars pass matching their sound envelopes – a meeting of waves; gentle breeze disturbs the trees; a blackbird calls from beyond the pavilion; a fly passes close by; the wings of a small bird – flapping; rattling cement mixer and white van meet, pause, continue; the squeal of brakes; a chaffinch calls; the leaves of the Oak treeshake in unison and form a barrier of sound between my position and the lane; two airplanes – one to the North, one to the South – the sound of their droning propellers rises and falls – left to right, right to left; one is dominant now and blends with the leaves in the breeze –  a drone powered by diesel and air pressure; a passenger jet – distant rumble; a rook calls in the gap between passing cars; antiphony between air traffic and the approaching protesting roar and squeak of a large trailer; a train sounds its horn to the South.
Ashendon Playing Field is the home of Ludgershall United FC who play in the Aylesbury and District League. The pitch has a distinctive slope and I imagine that a fair number of strikes on the goal at the east end of the pitch – at the bottom of the slope – finish with the ball being lost in the churchyard to the east.

On my second visit to Ashendon I had my equipment with me. There was a strong wind, so strong that many of the distinctive sounding characteristics of the area – the vibrations of distant jets, helicopters, and light aircraft; the phasing white noise of the passing traffic; the calls of red kites and wood pigeons – were obscured by the many and various sounds of the wind as it shook branches; whistled through bushes and shrubs; and turned the long grasses around the pitch into a multitude of whispering aeolian devices.


(looking west up the slope from the touchline)

Travel! [#4] Standing around on Warborough Green

This is the fourth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
Warborough Green lies to the east of the Parish Church and is flanked by ancient lanes to the north and south both of which peter out into the surrounding fields although the southern lane becomes a path that leads to the neighbouring village of Roke. To the east there are hedgerows, open fields and a view to the Chilterns. The church clock strikes eleven; the sound of horses hooves on the pathway are reflected by the white-washed walls of the timber framed houses to the south; a push-bike is walked across the grass; swifts sound their alarm and chase insects low across the cricket square; a dog walker is disturbed by my presence when I explain that I’m there to record the sound of football pitches not in use:
I just don’t like people standing around doing things like that actually
When looking on aerial maps the goalposts for the currently unused 11-a-side pitch are visible although I couldn’t locate the post holes. There weren’t any teams using the pitch in 2016-2017 although at various times prior to that Warborough & Shillingford FC and Warborough & Cross Keys FC used the pitch. Both teams have now folded as far as I can tell. I have only paid one visit to Warborough so far:
10th July 2017
10.43 : Warborough village green


(steel goalposts for small-sided football viewed from the former site of the 11-a-side pitch)


Jet engines above; distant vibration; frequencies phasing in a slow motion Doppler effect; a fierce babble of birdsong from the hedgerows; a fly passes; shouts of children the wings of passing Wood Pigeons slap together; farm machinery passes on the A 329 beyond the church; horses hooves sound the lane accompanied on the opposite side of the green by a free-wheeling bicycle; the call of Red Kites; passing cars slowly skirting the green are almost inaudible; swallows dive  across the cricket square – their complex multiphonic calls beat against each other; a car door shuts and a wood pigeon is disturbed – flapping ineffectually to gain greater height; collared doves and red kites call simultaneously from opposite sides of the green; another jet – high above the cloud cover makes the air vibrate again – I begin to wonder whether we are ever entirely free of this vibrating presence; the horses hooves on the surface of the lane reflect back off the cottages on the south side of the green; a blackbird starts an alarm call; my ear catches the far distant sound of a train – at least that’s my first instinct – it could be a fast moving truck on the A4074; a trailer rattles; the alarm calls of the blackbird are joined by the high pitched percolating call of the red kite; the two bird calls cease almost simultaneously leaving a space in the soundscape for the occasional calls of swallow and swift; a dog walker approaches; dog panting; the clink of a chain.



(looking west towards the pavilion)


The high-pitched sound of red kite calls counterpoint the slow phasing of aircraft; the sound of football boots being clapped together reflects off the buildings to the south; the flap of pigeon wings and the pointillist babble of birdsong mark the boundaries of the green; the church clock strikes eleven providing respite from the rumble of the vibrating air; the nearby vibrations of a light aircraft are replaced for a moment by the distant rumble of jets – I begin to wonder if the sound is a helicopter rather than a plane but I can’t see the source; a dog barks – just once; as the air traffic recedes the mid-range hiss of the road returns; swifts and swallows continue their brittle song; a distant collared dove calls from the east of the green whilst the sound of rooks arrives from the west; a tractor moves slowly on the A329; birdsong continues to articulate the boundaries of the open space; the clank of a trailer; a car engine – closer now.



While writing this I have just heard that Benjamin Mendy is set to join Manchester City from Monaco for £52M and that Kilian Mbappé may be joining Real Madrid for £161M. Curious to think that the football played on the village green at Warborough over the last hundred years is related to the sport of millionaires; corporate finance; and institutionalised narcissism that saturates the media. Instead of falling victim to the boundless details of the life of modern football I would prefer to take a moment to imagine myself sitting on the green at a future date listening to the calls of players and coaches – put ‘im under; get rid; time; straight back in – reflecting back from the pavilion; the occasional clapping of spectators; the ball striking the crossbar; a dog barking, straining, desperate to chase the football; the green falling back into silence as the players, coaches and spectators disperse; the call of wood pigeons as they return to the centre circle.

Travel! [#3] Cuddington Playing Fields

This is the third in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.

The second journey I took in this study consisted of visiting three pitches with a notebook as my only recording device. I began at Long Crendon, sitting on a bench and listening to the sound of the motorised roller on the cricket square, before heading north-east to Chearsley – which had led me to Towersey Park on my last journey – and then on to Cuddington and Ashenden. The shape of the playing fields at Cuddington is curious – like a rectangle with one corner cut off. The football pitch is marked out against the boundary that runs south-west to north-east. Beyond the pitch there are cornfields; rows of electricity pylons; and the A418. There is a white-washed breeze-block dugout with clearly marked home and away benches. I headed for that, took a seat, and listened:

10th July 2017
13.11 : Cuddington Playing Fields HP18 0AJ

(looking out from the away dugout)

A sheep in a distant field; the buzz of a fly comes and goes; distant sound of tyres sounding the road surface blends with the sound of the line of trees to the north of the playing field swaying in the breeze; the flap of wings as a small bird – perhaps a sparrow – dashes past the dugout; the fly returns – the buzz resonating against the white-washed breeze-block walls; air traffic lightly plays on the fringes of the soundscape – perhaps a helicopter on this occasion – with a tremolo of vibration from the rotor; a car door slams; cars pass slowly on the Aylesbury Road creating graceful waves of sound; the wings of a butterfly are occasionally audible as its erratic flightpath takes it in and out of the dugout; the call of swifts as they dive towards the centre circle then stay low; a babble of birdsong in the surrounding hedgerows – wrens, sparrows; the distant sound of geese calling in flight; a solitary crow punctuates the sounding world with four staccato calls; the light aircraft returns – twin propellers creating competing sound waves that buffet each other creating a vibrating tremolo.

I walk across the pitch and sit on a bench with my back to Aylesbury Road

The flutter of wood pigeons as I take a seat; a car passes and I can hear dry leaves and debris on the road sounding the tarmac and shifting in its wake; the breeze knocks the stems of the long grass together; collared doves call; the air is thick with the white noise of the gusting wind in the hedgerow, the grasses and the nearby trees that creates a dense shifting drone for the listener to dive into and explore; approaching cars emerge from the white noise and then sink back into it taking their sounding – their audible cloud of phasing frequencies – with them; a tractor and trailer pass by shaking and rattling – the sound reflects from the screen of trees.

Listening from the resonant shelter of the dugout made a distinct difference to what I could hear most particularly the delicate sound of butterflies wings and the buzz of insect flight. I returned to the playing fields a day later and once again sat in the away dugout:

11th July 2017
13.24 : Cuddington Playing Fields HP18 0AJ

(white lines)

The horn of a train; cars pass spraying water as they go; the calm after the rainstorm; light birdsong from the fringes of the playing field; perhaps a passenger jet overhead blending with the white noise of distant trees shaking; the unmistakeable sound of a high speed train spreading ripples of vibration up and down the tracks; police siren – perhaps two; the sound from the road returns – the standing water amplifies the sounding tyres; a cockerel in the distant – collared doves by the tennis courts; jackdaw calls as the air falls silent; a collective whisper – a wave of hush – as a flock of sparrows dive over the top of the dugout and head towards Bernard Close; a warbler begins to sing above the shining white noise of a passing truck; quietness falls and the polyphony of birdsong becomes audible again; red kite in the distance.

Wind sounding the hedgerow, trees and long grass; the pitch-shifting resonance of distant air-traffic; the wave of rising and falling sound activated by passing cars; the polyphony of birdsong; and the sounding results of the erratic flight of the wood pigeon have been the staple listening experiences of the time I have spent exploring the football pitches between Brightwell and Winslow. The listening process has been iterative as I have become more familiar with these elements attempting to analyse them in greater detail and understand how the sound – more precisely – is being made. There are, however, also more unique sounding moments. There is one of these in this recording – 5’14” – where the sound of a small group of sparrows – not enough to constitute a flock – head north across the playing field passing directly over the away dugout. In my listening notes I describe this as:

a collective whisper – a wave of hush.

It is hard to describe the sound – it lasts for less than a second but is distinctive as it is the only incidence of the sound on the recording – an ephemeral moment. I listened and re-listened again and again.

Travel! [#2] The Village Green, Stadhampton

This is the second in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
The Village Green at Stadhampton sits at the north end of the village and is divided into several parts by the A329 that cuts north to south; the B480 that heads north-east to Chalgrove; and Cat Lane that winds south-eastwards and then peters out. The largest part of the green accommodates the football pitch that is the home of Stadhampton FC who – in 2016-2017 which was their first season – played in the First Division of the Upper Thames Valley Sunday League. The goalposts are still standing.


I have visited the Village Green a couple of times to listen and record:


6th july 2017
14.49 :  The Village Green – Stadhampton OX44 7UB

(looking north towards the B480)

Crow overhead – two calls made simultaneously with the sound of a passenger jet; swifts flying low; a large articulated lorry bounces through pot-holes that make an instrument of its trailer – the sound resonates across the green; a dog barks and the sounds of agricultural industry can be heard – perhaps a JCB moving earth or clearing a path – or perhaps the sound of outbuildings being removed; a single jackdaw call; the smooth white noise of the road like a wave receding from the shoreline on a beach of small pebbles – Aldeburgh perhaps – the sound is constant but rises and falls; a babble of hedgerow birds in the distance – a chaffinch the chief noisemaker amongst them; wood pigeons call from a rooftop; a group of rooks call; a fly passes my right ear; another light aircraft progresses slowly across the sky with the steady pulse of tremolo propellor sound; all of the sound-making activity is on the fringes of the green – only the darting swallows enter the space regularly; a car passes – tyres on grit and gravel – the sound fades quickly; the chaffinch is back and a military helicopter passes to the east hurling tremolo waves of sound to all sides; as the helicopter passes a passenger jet can be heard high above the clouds.


10th july 2017
11.26 :  The Village Green – Stadhampton OX44 7UB

(red clover flowers near the scorched markings of the centre circle)

Wind shakes the screen of trees along the Eastern edge of the village green; a single light aircraft overhead – distinctive tremolo of diesel engine; sounds of agricultural industry – a resonant metal trailer-ramp hits concrete – pallets are dropped; the bright droning sheen of tyres on asphalt blends with the wind; birdsong from several directions simultaneously; the sound of an accelerating engine rises above the road surface drone; a collared dove call duets briefly with an abandoned pasty wrapper that moves slowly across the grass with the erratic breeze – and then darts away caught by a sudden gust; rook calling; a chorus of wood pigeons now; twin copper beaches at the northern edge of the green are sounded by a sustained gust of wind that then moves on to the eastside of the green creating sound in its wake; a diesel-engine truck reversing; the rattle of trailer and grind of gears as a refuse truck passes and is swiftly followed by the call of a red kite and the distant flap of wings; a kazmierczak truck passes but its contact with the road surface is soundless at this distance until a dull thud as it hits a pot-hole – perhaps the truck is full and the weight of the trailer is deadening the sound; a flat-bed truck passes straight afterwards – its base a resonant metal sheet – rattling freely and accompanying the sound of children calling in the playground.


On this second visit to green on July 10th I also made a sound recording:

Travel! The corridor of uncertainty

(bare earth where the white lines were marked at the village green, Stadhampton)

This is the first in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow.

At the beginning of July we drove the short distance from Wallingford to Winslow in Buckinghamshire. I didn’t necessarily choose the most well-trodden route and we found ourselves on a series of roads where alongside severe subsidence – particularly on Carters’ Lane that runs between Blackgrove Road and North Marston – there seemed to be a very real chance that if we stayed out too late we might find that the dense hedgerows on either side of the tarmac had linked up by the time we returned and where we had set off on a decaying trunk road we would be returning on little more than a rural pathway. This reminded me of my interest in recently disused roads and the way that they can quickly recede into the undergrowth becoming narrow footpaths bordered by a wild profusion of plant-life. These sites are a chance to see the formerly vibrant arteries of our transport networks becoming archaeological sites before our eyes and ears as the tarmac sinks into the soil beneath and the sound of tyres on asphalt becomes the sound of dry leaves dancing along a narrow paved pathway; or the sound of  wood pigeons’ wings as their undulating flight takes them from tree to tree. Given my interest in rural football pitches and considering the descent of a site of activity and movement from the present into the past I began to think of pitches in close season as archaeological sites: traces of white lines or depressed channels in the grass; a slight dip in the goalmouths; a bare patch of soil where the centre circle had been marked with a mixture of white paint and weed-killer; round holes for goalposts perhaps now covered in weeds; uneven growth patterns along touchlines; discarded, rusting, goalposts abandoned in a nearby hedge or propped against a fence and now covered in dense creepers.

I felt that I had to return and travel this route again, to pause, get out of the car, spend time, listen. The area seemed curiously remote and in particular Carters’ Lane seemed to be a road that had lost itself and its purpose as it heads North but then peters out as lanes branching to either side head East to North Marston or West to Hogshaw. All that is left of the path North that eventually curves to the East towards Granborough is little more than a desire path that for brief moments passes between hedgerows as a lane would but for the most part simply follows the field’s edge. Having taken a look at the OS map of the area I can see that Carters’ Lane is marked as a Roman Road. I began to think of a way of combining my interest in this route with the discovery of rural football pitches in close season; of using the football pitches along the route as listening stations – sites from which to survey the soundscape; to consider the ephemeral nature of our occupation of space. I began looking at maps – both analogue and digital, searching for evidence of the presence of football pitches.

The pitches that I found were in a variety of conditions from those at Wallingford and Thame both looking sprightly as pre-season and the challenge of new leagues – the Hellenic and Southern respectively – approached; to long disused pitches at Little Milton; pitches with goalposts still standing and others covered in a profusion of flowering red and white clover. At Cuddington – home of Aylesbury Dynamos – white lines had been freshly marked whilst the lines had long since faded on the village green at Stadhampton but scars remained where chemicals mixed with the paint had made the soil barren.

(abandoned goalpost in long grass at Towersey Park)

My first attempt to retrace my steps on the route from Wallingford to Winslow was brief. I was in Long Crendon for a meeting and rather than head straight home I decided to strike out on the route. The first village I came across was Chearsley. Following investigation it seemed that the local football team Chearsley Cricketers FC had folded in February 2016. I found this message on their website:

After yet another frustrating week having to chase up people to even reply to text messages and ultimately an inability to field a competitive side the club have made the difficult decision to fold the club after 10 years. Those that have had the thankless task of running the club over the years deserved better.

The tagline on the website reads:

Welcome to the home of Chearsley Cricketers FC. Providing 10 years of footballing mediocrity 2005-2016.

 In the 2015-2016 season Chearsley Cricketers FC played in the Aylesbury Sunday Combination Premier. Home matches were at Towersey Fields so that’s where I headed to listen:
A bird-scarer sounds complete with reflections from the house fronts on the other side of Thame Road; a distant train – I hear undulations in the sound as it moves from rail to rail; a drone close by – or is it a chain-saw?; the shimmer of poplars in the breeze – the aeolian drone of wind through the leaves; the chain-saw returns – sporadic; birdsong is distant – articulating the hedgerow and fences that mark the boundaries of the playing field – silence in the open ground except for the occasional forays of swifts and a solitary Red Kite; abandoned goal-posts in the long grass; passing cars are not travelling fast enough to fully rise above the drone of the poplars – perhaps on a day when the road surface was wet with rain; a swallow calls – a dissonant multiphonic; a cow; the gentle pitch-phasing of a passing passenger jet; greenfinches in the car park; the bird scarer sounds three times – the third time lower and with a ricochet of rapid reflections; jet engines resonate through the cloud cover and blend with the aeolian drone of the poplars; the chain saw; a Red kite passes – calls once – I strain to hear the flap of its wings but hear nothing.
And record:



On the threshold of the car park with ChirpOMatic and the linguistic peculiarity of the heath


On the 11th April this year I visited Sutton Courtenay FC for an evening match in the North Berks League Division Two against  Westminster FC who eventually ran out as runners-up in the League. I have already posted sounds from the match and considered the ebb and flow of the game as a sounding event that articulates the playing area, the recreation ground,  and the fields and lanes that surround it.
As I have spent more time on football pitches in Oxfordshire – and around – with both the presence and absence of football I have found that two of the most dominant sounds are those of the wind in trees, hedgerows and grasses; and of birdsong. Both are complex and detailed sound worlds. When describing the sound of wind activating leaves, branches and grasses there are so many factors that impact on what we hear – the size and structure of the leaves; their density; whether they are fresh and supple, beginning to dry, or brittle; the strength and direction of the wind and whether it is moving whole branches or just gently shifting the position of individual leaves; and whether the leaves are coming into contact with each other or nearby objects such as fenceposts, wires, boundary walls and so on. The wind is never regular in speed, direction or pressure and so one of the real joys of listening to its impact on trees and hedgerows is the way that it shifts and moves its attention so that at one moment the leaves in the higher branches of the trees are sounding and then at the next they are silent whilst a gust is sounding the smaller leaves in a hedgerow twenty metres away – it is a shifting, ephemeral soundscape. Thomas Hardy’s account – from The Return of the native – of an Aeolian experience on heathland provides a musical analogue:

It might reasonably have been supposed that she was listening to the wind, which rose somewhat as the night advanced, and laid hold of the attention. The wind, indeed, seemed made for the scene, as the scene seemed made for the hour. Part of its tone was quite special; what was heard there could be heard nowhere else. Gusts in innumerable series followed each other from the northwest, and when each one of them raced past the sound of its progress resolved into three. Treble, tenor, and bass notes were to be found therein. The general ricochet of the whole over pits and prominences had the gravest pitch of the chime. Next there could be heard the baritone buzz of a holly tree. Below these in force, above them in pitch, a dwindled voice strove hard at a husky tune, which was the peculiar local sound alluded to. Thinner and less immediately traceable than the other two, it was far more impressive than either. In it lay what may be called the linguistic peculiarity of the heath; and being audible nowhere on earth off a heath, it afforded a shadow of reason for the woman’s tenseness, which continued as unbroken as ever.

Throughout the blowing of these plaintive November winds that note bore a great resemblance to the ruins of human song which remain to the throat of fourscore and ten. It was a worn whisper, dry and papery, and it brushed so distinctly across the ear that, by the accustomed, the material minutiae in which it originated could be realized as by touch. It was the united products of infinitesimal vegetable causes, and these were neither stems, leaves, fruit, blades, prickles, lichen, nor moss.

The Return of the Native (Hardy: 1878)

Alongside the sound of the wind the sound of birdsong is – as mentioned – one of the most dominant aspects of the soundscapes that I have experienced during the project. Up until this stage I haven’t really attempted to go beyond the description of the phenomenon as just that – birdsong. There has been no attempt to identify species or consider whether the song is coming from a long distance, from the treetops or from the hedgerows. I began to think that I should seek to rectify this but have precious little knowledge of bird calls beyond the most common participants, the Chaffinch, Blackbird, Jackdaw and Wood Pigeon. In order to begin to decode the birdsong in the recording featured below I enlisted the help of ChirpOMatic – an app that automatically identifies bird calls. It was developed by computer scientist Alex Wilson and biologist Hilary Lind. In 11″ episodes I applied the app to the recording. ChirpOMatic provides three top matches and two runners up for each recording it makes. I have included the top matches in the transcription below.

What soon became clear was that ChirpOMatic was perhaps hearing birdsong that wasn’t there – possibly as a result of the multiple sounds present – and was also missing some birdsong as a result of it being too distant or obscured by other more dominant sounds. For example, there is a constant chirp of Sparrows in the background of the recording and these are not picked up by ChirpOMatic and the call of the Peacock also fails to register. The combination of birdsong, shouts from players and managers and other sounds in the soundscape make ChirpOMatic‘s task a tough one. The Mallard identified at 1’50” is almost certainly the result of one of the substitutes walking to the carpark to get the mud off his boots by knocking their soles together; whilst the Lapwing’s alarm call identified on several occasions is probably the result of – amongst other things – a player calling hey! hey! hey! hey! at 2’45”. What I did establish through reference to the identifications of ChirpOMatic and my own research was that there were almost certainly calls from the Chaffinch, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Peacock and Sparrow plus some that remain unidentified. Despite ChirpOMatic‘s insistence the presence of the Curlew, Green Woodpecker, Starling, Song Thrush, Pheasant and Mallard is unlikely on this occasion!

The recording in question was made on the threshold of the car park next to the gate post:


(0’00”- 0’11” ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; Curlew; Green Woodpecker
The drone of distant traffic can be heard from the A34 to the West and the A475 Abingdon Road to the North. There are occasional sounds of local traffic on the High Road.
look up
look up
look up
look up
A dog barks.
(0’11”-0’22” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Blackbird; Green Woodpecker




(0’22”-0’33” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Blackbird; Starling


one on one
there it is
there it is
one on one
one on one


(0’33″-0’44” ChirpOMatic)
Blue Tit; Green Woodpecker; Song Thrush
The whistle.
(0’44”-0’55” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; seep alarm call (Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird Dunnock, Starling)
(0’55”-1’06” ChirpOMatic)
seep alarm call; Robin; Curlew




(1’06”-1’17” ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; Robin; Curlew


The muffled thud of boot on ball.
come here


(1’17”-1’28” ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; seep alarm call; Robin
The whistle.
(1’28”-1’39” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Song Thrush; Great Tit
The ball is closer now. A clear sound of contact.
Car keys.
(1’39”-1’50” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; seep; Song Thrush
The soles of a pair of football boots are tapped together to clear them of mud.
(1’50″-2’01″ ChirpOMatic)
Pheasant; Mallard; Black-cap
A goal-kick.


(2’01″-2’12” ChirpOMatic) 
Robin; seep; Goldcrest


help him
come on


(2’12″-2’23″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Wren; seep
(2’23″-2’34″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Lapwing; Great Tit


The whistle.
(2’34″-2’45″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Song Thrush; Starling
The sound of clapping.
A distant peacock.
(2’45″-2’56″ ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; Lapwing; Robin
The muffled thud of boot on ball.
hey! – hey! – hey! – hey!


(2’56″-3’07″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Curlew; Carrion Crow
(3’07”-3’18” ChirpOMatic)
Curlew; Robin; Lapwing


have it


(3’18”-3’29” ChirpOMatic)
Wren; Blackbird; seep
Football boots on tarmac.
(3’29”-3’40” ChirpOMatic)
seep; Wren, Starling


go again


(3’40”-3’51” ChirpOMatic)
Blackbird; Curlew; Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
A car passes by.
(3’51”-4’02” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Pheasant; Curlew

Listening to Steventon v Hanney 66 from the causeway

Stivetune (xi cent.); Estiventona (xii cent.); Stiveton (xiii cent.); Stivington, Estiventon, Stiventon, Stuvinton, Steveington (xiii cent.); Stephyngton (xvi cent.).

The parish, which contained two tithings, East End and West End, in the 14th and 15th centuries, comprises 2,401 acres. It is in the Vale of the White Horse, where the country gradually ascends from the Thames to the downs, the height varying from 200 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north to 300 ft. in the south, on Steventon Hill. The subsoil is Gault, Upper Greensand and Kimmeridge Clay, the soil cretaceous clay. The principal crops grown are wheat, beans and oats. There are 1,630 acres of arable land, 695 acres of permanent grass and 26 acres of woods and plantations. There were 268 acres of meadow in 1086, and the whole parish appears in 1294 as a large manorial farm, the manor containing 1,500 acres of arable land, 220 acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture, two dovecotes and poultry worth 67s. 1d.

(from A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924; quoted in



As mentioned in a previous post entitled Listening to Didcot Eagles the fleeting and ephemeral presence of the sounds of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds has become an important part of this project. I am fascinated by the way that the sounds of the match brush up against the dominant soundscape, that is, the sounds that through their continued presence are part of the everyday soundscape of the site. Didcot Eagles play at Brightwell Recreation Ground, a playing field at the Southern edge of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell on Mackney Lane. The village has been bypassed and so the sounds of life passing through have now been replaced by the distant white noise of the A4130. Steventon’s home ground is in the North East corner of the village but roads intersect at the South West corner of the green including the B4017 Abingdon Road. There is also sound from the Paddington to Bristol railway line that  lies to the South whilst the A34 is just a couple of fields away to the East and the Milton interchange is nearby. In short, the air in Steventon reverberates with the sounds of transit.

When I arrived for the North Berks League Division Five match against Hanney 66 I parked in the village hall car park and began to explore the surrounding area listening to the shouts of players and coaches. I moved towards the match and away again as I tried to find the boundary of encounter with the sounding presence of the match. At the back of the village hall and to the South of the village green I found a raised causeway, stepped up onto it and began to record:


As i began to think about writing this post I did some research about Steventon and discovered that the Causeway I had been standing on was part of a medieval causeway that runs from the church at the South-West edge of the village to the village green and beyond as Milton Lane becomes a track and then a narrow footpath. The football matches played on the green for the last hundred or more years, then, become part of the sounding history of the causeway, part of the evolving soundscape of the village, part of the auditory fabric of the inhabitant’s everyday experiences.


I moved along the causeway and began to hear the sounds of an air pump feeding the bouncy castle at the social club:



Walking around the back of the club house I stood at the edge of a small car park and listened as one of the players struggled with a padlock as he tried to get back into the changing rooms. I walked across the green towards a bench situated between the club house and the pitch. I took a seat, changed the batteries in my Edirol and listened to the ebb and flow of the match:


Having spent some time on the bench I wandered around the pitch and took up a position on the East side of the village green roughly parallel with the half-way line and spent some time listening to the match. One of the most distinctive aspects of the on pitch communication was the use of Stivvy as an abbreviation of Steventon. this interested me because up until the C16th Steventon had a variety of variants on the name most of which had i as the first vowel rather than the current e including Stivington, Estiventon and Stiventon. Perhaps, then, the abbreviation as heard here is a survival from an earlier iteration of the name of the village:


left and right
press left
make sure you come out
it’s going
it’s going
it’s going
get it under
your ball
it’s gone
it’s gone
behind you
to your left
step to your left
there you go
it’s good enough
it’s good enough
getting further back here
in here
in here
you’re in
and challenge
challenge then
retain it
in the box
great knock
push out
push out
good save
well done
set again yellow
let’s keep it loud Stivvy
let’s keep talkin’
drop a bit
drop with the kick
let’s call it
let’s turn, let’s turn
man on, man on
track him
get shape then
mark up
tuck ’round, tuck ‘round
man coming
man on
sit on
well done
not now
not now
not now
take him on
let’s go
blue ‘ead
unlucky mate
coming in here
squeeze on
no, not in there
in the middle
look for it
go left, go left, go left
drop, drop
well done
good work Stivvy
come on
keep going
go on then
man on
get shape then
i’ll dummy it for him
who wants it Hanney
drop for the kick
keep dropping
keep dropping
no fouls
take it in
take it in
six yard box
make something of it then Stivvy
get your shape
well done
early ball
let’s get on it
shuffle over
shuffle over
option there
man on
let’s hold
through ball
hold the ball
watch that
watch that
no foul
pick him up
make him play
make him play
back if you want
there you go
run the ball
good play boys
pick him up
you’re giving him too much space
fucking joke
fucking joke
all the way then Stivvy
stay back
keep it going yellows
it’s not over yet
back in
let’s go again then yellows
tight then yellows
who wants it

As the match drew to a close I walked back across the village green and sat on the grass near the club house and bouncy castle. There is an ensemble of sounds here brought together by the presence of the match – the sound of the air pump mingles with the calls and shouts of children; a radio plays music inside the club house; chat at the end of the match; adults sitting at tables talking in lower voices; a buzz of activity; the final whistle.

Listening to the flight of Wood Pigeons at Saxton Rovers


One of the strands of Get Rid! has involved investigating the ephemeral nature of the sounding culture of grassroots football – its brief presence in the soundscape of town council parks and playing fields – and considering the sounding moment of each match to be immanent in each of the football pitches I have visited. The pitch was still marked out clearly on this occasion at Saxton Rovers and the goals were stacked near the pavilion at the East end of the field. I could imagine the tread of assistant referees on the stud-marked touchlines; the crack of a post or crossbar as the ball rebounds back into play or the sound of the glancing blow as the ball heads out into touch; the dull thunk as the pegs holding the net in place are withdrawn from the soil; the referee’s whistle; the commands of coaches and players – man on! options! tight! put him under! COME ON!; light applause from the few scattered spectators; a dog barking – wanting to enter the fray and join the game. These sounds are present in the architecture and material content of the site.

I have also been investigating the way that traffic sound impacts on these sites. You can see Saxton Rovers home ground – Caldecott Recreation Field – in the centre of the image above taken from the England Noise Map that shows – in particular – the way that sound from the A415 spreads out across the surrounding fields and floods the river and its banks. Earlier in the Spring I found myself in Abingdon at 6.30am dropping one of my boys at a rowing event. I had nothing to do for several hours and so walked the short distance to Saxton Rovers home and made a recording.


What struck me about the soundscape on this occasion was that I could very clearly make out the difference between the early morning sound of the A415 to the East and that of the A34 to the West. The local traffic of Ock Street was also audible and the detail of individual vehicles could be heard. On the Recreation Field itself my attention was drawn to the undulating flight of Wood Pigeons and in particular the sporadic flap of their wings as they did the bare minimum to stay airborne.


Don’t panic up there…

(Photo: Steven Matthews)

In April I travelled to Grasmere with poet and football coach Steven Matthews to investigate the soundscape of locations that relate to the poetry and life of William Wordsworth. After spending an afternoon at Greenhead Gill recording the sounds of fast flowing water – the tumultuous brook of Wordsworth’s Michael, a pastoral poem (1800) – we headed to Hillard Park the home of Ambleside United to see their reserves host AFC Carlisle in the Westmorland Association Football League Division Three. As soon as we parked up on Under Loughrigg – the lane that runs along the course of the River Rothay as it heads South towards Windermere – we could hear the sounds of the game. We crossed the river and I stopped to listen to the shouts and commands of the players and coaches as they blended with the babble of the flowing water, the distant vibrations of air-traffic, occasional cars on the lane and birdsong. The sounds of the match are only audible as play moves towards us at the Northern end of the ground. The sound of the ball being struck is distinctive and cuts across the sound of the river:


Steven walked on and headed up the bank at the Northern edge of the pitch and I stopped again to listen. Further away from the river now the soundscape is less consistent with the flowing water just a light white noise. The shouts of the players counterpoint  the calls of birds in the low shrubs and children playing on the other side of the park. The thud of the ball can be heard in more detail now and with less uniformity. The dull bird-scaring slap of the goalkeepers kick is joined by lighter sounds – headers and the occasional deft touch perhaps:


We took up a position behind the goal and watched the last twenty minutes of the second half:



ooh bit wild
head up yellas
keep working, keep working
tight on nine
tight on ten
nice and tight
big head
well up
come on
…and again seconds
well in
cover him, cover him, cover him
well done
yellow ball
well done
take it easy boys
talk to him
keep talking, keep talking
come on
come on lads don’t panic up there
try to get it on the deck lads
encourage, encourage
we’re too deep there
left shoulder – left shoulder
yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow
one on one
switch on eh
keep your discipline man
how many
how many do you want
four or five
one more, one more
one more, one more, one more, one more
get in the wall
do you want me in or not
yes, i want you in
catch it
keep it organised
off you go, off you go
left back, left back
go left back, go left back
don’t foul, don’t foul
get off it
well back there mate
I said two
then I said three
it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone
let’s talk about it
who’s on eleven there
well in lad
get it under control yellas
get it won lads
that’s much better
half way
get ‘em up
square ball there mate
one there
follow in
don’t be scared to ask for the square ball mate
I said three then I needed four
turn and face lads
keep going
come on
boys, boys
keep hold of it
ten minute warm up
good ten minute warm up
good ten minutes
get the quality
big head
well up
squeeze up
too deep
back in, back in, back in
move, move, move
come home if you want
turn out
go, go, go, go, go, go, go
great movement lads
half way lads
that’s quality movement that mate well done
keep working lads
big ‘ead
clean win on that lads
clean winner
backs to goal
there’s no need for that
are you going ten or nine
put it in there
big ‘ead
push in the back
get out – get out
let’s stop these fouls boys
big ‘ead
listen, listen, listen
…and again
gotta be hooked
that’s quality there
seven to go
you have it
making a meal of it
squeeze out
you’ve gotta get that
have a winner
come away with that
stand up there
open your body
don’t foul him
push on there
five yards in front
step out
big squeeze
step out
get him offside
he’s off, he’s off
no foul
that’s quality mate well done
left shoulder
you sit on his toes
win, win, win
talk to him
keep him out there
organise then,
organise, organise
I’ve got nine, i’ve got nine, i’ve got nine
you go ten
edge of the box
let’s win it all boys, win it all, win it all
hit it
deal with it
free header man
be responsible
come on
come on lads
well done
let’s keep it going
keep it up, keep it up
keep it up boys
out left, out left
quick out left
it’s gone
hey, centre halves
big squeeze
who’s up
time, time, TIME!
well done fellas
keep going
keep talking
last four
get ‘em fired up again
edge of the box no further
slightest touch
big ‘ead
well done mate
nine and ten lads
nine and ten
wake up
someone’s gotta want it
hard lines mate
good spell yellas, come on, keep it going
voices again
keep it going
play to the whistle lads
keep going
keep fighting
keep battling in there
well in
keep running
boys, boys
and again
close the gap
man on, man on
get it under
well done mate
left back, left back, left back
out left
good skill that
find the space, find the space
turn and face
left shoulder
what’s that for
every fucking time
free kick to them
fucking fouls constantly
on the head boys
nice and tight there
and again
second ball boys
good battling that lad
if you need
get out
walk out
start to walk out
get ‘em out
you have to switch on boys
whip it
same men, same men
that’s working, that’s working
back stick
well done wall
brilliant lads that’s quality well done