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

ebb and flow

The soundscape at the Sutton Courtenay Recreation Ground – home of Sutton Courtenay FC – is dominated by traffic noise from the A34, A4130 and the Milton Interchange. There is birdsong from nearby hedgerows and poplars; and occasional air traffic that activates the air with slowly phasing vibrations. Didcot Power Station stands to the South of the village. As part of Get Rid! I have been visiting football pitches and making recordings of the sound of football not happening – the sound of the absence of football. I made this recording on a visit to the Recreation Ground in March:



One evening – several weeks later – I headed back to see Sutton Courtenay FC take on Westminster in the North Berks League Division two. During the second half I stood behind the Westminster goal on the South side of the park. Amongst the first sounds that can be heard in the recording are those of a penalty being converted – the thump as the ball is struck; the crack as the ball hits the back of the net – followed by sporadic applause. The sound of the ball being struck is thunderous at times and travels farther than any other sounds of the game – like a bird-scarer or gunshot. As the play moves towards and away from the Westminster goal the sound of boots striking the ball is a constant.

What interests me about the experience of listening to the game from behind the goal is the ebb and flow of the sound as the focus of the game moves from end to end. As the play approaches the westminster goal the listener’s attention is drawn away from the soundscape of tyres on asphalt, birdsong and vibrating air to the shouts of the players. The waves of activity bring sound with them and take it away again. This is mobile sound-making. As the play moves away from the Westminster goal the voices of the players begin to articulate the space of the pitch as their commands bounce off the walls of the pavilion and spill out into the surrounding lanes and fields:


follow it in
everybody out then fellas
follow it in
fella what’s happening
Well done
Come on then
Fucking heads up
come on then all of us
go again, go again
Keep playing
win it back
fucking straight in son
go on son
let’s go again then son
help him out
time, time
switch on
down ‘ere
man on
back, come back
get up, get up, get up
man on
one of you
down the line
well done, well done
get back, get back
head up
watch your back, watch your back
out, get out
and again, and again
up, up
man on
go on, go on
stay there
working now
fucking hell
time, time
man on
man on, man on
go on mate
hold him up
how are you doing
well done
short, short,
wake up, wake up
do it early
coming in
round the back
good ball
one of you
up then, up then
eighteen, eighteen
good well done
well done
watch that midfield
early, early
up, up
calm it down
are you going with four?
pull out, pull out
put a name on it
well done
settle, settle, settle
don’t dive in, don’t dive in
do it early, do it early
turn, turn
i’ll have it again, i’ll have it again
hold him, hold him,
shoulder, shoulder
let it go
settle down a little bit eh
a little bit yeah
talk him in, talk him in
hey reds come on, sharpen up, you’ve gone off it
alright, alright
squeeze, squeeze ‘em up
get hold, get hold
I’m behind you, I’m behind
half way, half way fella
don’t foul, don’t foul
settle, settle
our ball
do it early
around you
yes, in here
come on boys all the way
get up, get up
stand ‘im, stand
well done
well done
well done
man on, man on
one-two, one-two
man on
if you want
touch it away, touch it away
leave, leave
hey, hey, hey
time, time
mark him
left back
one, one
in it comes
up, up
stay on your toes
don’t dive in
if you need, if you need, if you need
stay back
played fellas
well done fellas
good job in there yeah
to him
out we go, out we go
push wide
push up then boys
do it early
time, time

Marking the lines at the Bullcroft Playing Field (over and over and over…)

I have already written once about marking out pitches. On that occasion I wrote about marking out an eleven-a-side pitch on the Bullcroft Playing Field. For most of this season I have been marking out the pitch at St.Georges Field but this week I returned to the Bullcroft as one of the teams that I coach has a match there in a week or so and the lines were beginning to fade. I’ve been looking into the history of the Bullcroft as a site of football and there was certainly football being played there in the early part of the C20th. This aerial photograph was taken in May 1928 with a match in progress and there is some evidence that there was an organised football club in Wallingford as early as 1881.


The ephemeral sounds activated by the painting of the white lines whilst being elusive appear to have been heard on this site for at least the last ninety-seven years and probably more. For much of that period some kind of wheeled appliance would have been used although lines were also painted manually. The pitch that can be seen in the bottom left of the photograph is further South than the present pitch but occupies the same part of the Playing Field.

On the occasion that I made these recordings I was struggling with the padlock on the back gate of the pavilion where I usually exit with the line-marker. I couldn’t open the padlock and so decided to wheel the marker through the pavilion and out of the front entrance.


As I began to make the lines the wheels were stuck so I moved the marker backwards and forwards to try to free them until giving in to the inevitable and turning the wheels manually until they became looser – covering my hands in paint in the process.

Listening to the A34 from Drayton FC and Milton United


The two images in this post are taken from the English Noise map Viewer that can be found here. There is a key for the map indicating the average decibel levels represented by the overlaid colours at the end of this post.

The A34 runs from Salford to Winchester. The Southern leg of the road cuts through Oxfordshire from North to South. The soundscape at Drayton FC to the East and Milton United FC to the West of the road is dominated by the sound of the internal combustion engine; the resonating tarmac; and the rattle of trailers and trucks . Drayton FC play in the North Berks League and their pitch is on the South-West edge of the village. The centre circle is 175m East of the A34. If you stand in the centre-circle – where this recording was made – there are benchless breeze block dugouts; a line of low trees; and an electricity pylon that stands in the  field between the pitch and the road. The embankment of the A34 rises above the field and the sounds of the road flood down the embankment and saturate the surrounding area with a band of consistent high frequency noise. The rattle of trucks; the phasing of tyres on asphalt as they approach and depart; the liquid drone of the road – these are the sounds that dominate the listener’s attention.



Milton United FC play at Milton Heights which sits above the Milton interchange of the A34. I made this recording from the centre circle of one of the two pitches on the site which is 370m South-West of the A34. The sound here differs radically from that at Drayton. There is more local detail and a more varied frequency range. There is a sense that we are listening to sounds from farther afield – that this is an auditory vantage point. If I turn my head to the South I can hear the road as a high frequency drone – a more distant sound; if I turn to the North-East I can hear a more complex sound – a greater range of frequencies that includes vehicles slowing and braking as they exit the A34. There are sounds that are closer by too – trucks sit in the lane that leads to Milton Heights; the president of the club is painting white lines and at times we can hear this as the wheels of the line marker work against each other and the paint moves from wheel to wheel before it makes contact with the grass.


The key below is taken from the Extrium English Noise Map Viewer: