The hidden sounds of Tottenham Marshes

As it was such a lovely sunny spring day today I took a walk down to Tottenham Marshes which lies along the River Lee in North London. Don’t be fooled by the name though, this is definitely not a marshland any longer as it was one of the major dumping sites for household rubble after WW2. Currently it is more of a wild parkland which crossfades in and out of an industrialised urban dystopia! There is however a small wildlife pond so I got out my light recording rig which is based around a Sony PCM-M10 handheld recorder and a Sound Devices Mix Pre, plugged in my Aquarian Audio hydrophone and lowered it gently into the mirky waters below.


I wasn’t that hopeful as just two weeks ago when I had been here doing a hydrophone workshop I had been met with a barrage of silence. The warm weather we’ve had recently though must have awoken the insects as they were in full choral glory as you can hear:

After a while listening to this and explaining and sharing with the equally confused and intrigued passers by (I love the excited looks on their faces as they put on the headphones and listen to the hidden underwater world for the first time!) I decided to move the microphone around a little to see what other insects I could find, if any. I pretty quickly hit upon this really nice stridulation sound:

I then decided to switch to a totally different type of transducer, the electro-magnetic pick-up the kind you can buy from most electrical component retailers as ‘telephone pick up coils’ (which I usually cut out of their protective plastic housing in order to improve the high-frequency response). They work on the same principle as electric guitar pick-ups and instead of vibrations caused by sound they transduce electro-magnetic waves into an analogous electric current.


I made some really nice recordings walking around some electricity pylons and sub-stations but buy far the most interesting sounds came from the nearby railway line. Below are a few excerpts from a longer recording of trains passing beneath me.