NEW PAGES FOR the sound maps section are being put together and they start with a few recordings made along the Thames Estuary. The towns, villages and marshland along the Estuary have been among my favourite places to visit for the last fifteen years.
Canvey Island is a three-mile-wide patch of Thames floodplain separated by creeks from the Essex side of the river. The western half of the island is consumed by post-industrial scrub and vast liquified gas containers. The eastern half is mainly housing, and between the two is a caravan park and a small seafront resort.
Walking along the seafront this afternoon, I came across a small group of Caribbean men and women holding an outdoor Sunday service on a bandstand. A Communion table had been set up, laden with flowers and fruit, and around this the worshippers sang and danced:
Earlier I’d tramped across the western side of Canvey Island and scrambled over a fence to get as close as possible to the oil refinery at Coryton, thinking the sound of the gas flares might be worth pointing a mic at. Grasshoppers fizzed unseen in the long grass and hot sun, ahead the refinery growled and roared.
Straight after finishing and packing up a siren sounded briefly, an eerie whale-like noise that echoed across the landscape. About half-a-minute later it sounded again, and the time after that the recorder was switched back on:
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An hour later it could still be heard from the middle of the island; someone said it was a test. The new Estuary pages should be up this coming week.