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Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

23 March 2011

Thames drifter

HERE ARE SOME recordings and photos taken along the Thames over the last few days. First was a trip on the Riverbus from Putney to Blackfriars using what the Evening Standard might call ‘our most underused asset’ to get around.

According to the Transport for London website the first Riverbus departs Putney Pier at 6.20am. This wasn’t true last Thursday, unless the Riverbus runs unseen at that time in the form of a submarine. The 7.30am service was punctual. An Oyster Card won’t get you a ride for nothing: it costs £5.50 to go from Putney to Blackfriars, but it’s worth it to see the city from the river bright and early in the day.

Battersea power station


Thames watermen have the relaxed attitude that comes from working in what amounts to a hereditary guild, and at a pace set by the slow ticking of the tidal clock. Someone in an office somewhere will want to change all that. In this recording you can hear the boat approaching Wandsworth Pier and one of the crew calling out to the waiting commuters:


Few people walk the Thames path east of Thamesmead, even when the weather’s fine like it was last Sunday. A colony of pigeons had turned the gantries at a riverside factory near Belvedere into their squalid home, flapping up clouds of birdshit and feather-dust, nature’s own asbestos:


You can see the factory by scrolling to the far right of this panoramic picture:

Panoramic view of the Thames

Ducks and wading birds were gathered further west in a tiny bay by the Crossness nature reserve. Perhaps they’re encouraged by the reeds and the waters welling up near the shore from the sewage works. Don’t say this website doesn’t take you to the most glamorous places. You can hear the plant’s incinerator in the background:


It must be a good spot for birdwatching and it’ll certainly be worth another visit equipped with a directional mic for recording bird calls.

The Thames at Crossness


Part of the concrete river-wall at Erith juts out slightly further forward than the section below it. I happened to pass by when the level of the river was just a few inches below this ledge and wash from a passing container ship was starting to reach the river-wall. The ripples struck the wall at an oblique angle, and the overhang made the sound of their impact deep and appealing:


So many of the little triumphs and disappointments of sound-hunting are down to luck, just like life in general. It’s good to overcome the urge to dither. Should I record that sound? Will it have gone by the time I’m all set up? Perhaps it can be recorded some other time? No, do it now.

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