The top 10 sounds of the great British outdoors revealed

Rain on canvas in the Scottish Highlands, waves crashing on Gwithian Beach in Cornwall and the rustling of the wind through pine trees in Kielder Forest in Northumberland have all been included in a list of The Top 10 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors, which has been revealed today.

The top 10 was compiled by experts from Cotswold Outdoor in partnership with award-winning wildlife field recordist and sound designer Pete Smith, whose extensive credits include the BBC and Channel 4, and Helen Glover MBE, member of the Great Britain Rowing Team, double-Olympic Gold medallist and self-confessed outdoor enthusiast.

Together the team identified The Top 10 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors, as part of a campaign to encourage people to spend time in nature local to them and reap all the benefits it brings.

The crunching of autumn leaves underfoot in woodland in the Chilterns topped the list of the best sounds of the natural world. The wind blowing through the grass of the sand dunes at Tyninghame Beach near Edinburgh also features along with the rush of falling water at a hidden-gem of a waterfall in South Dartmoor.

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    Best of British wildlife

    The best of British wildlife also made the list. The distinctive call of a cuckoo, heard through the spring months throughout the UK; the melodic song of a skylark, found all year round in decreasing numbers across UK countryside; and the increasingly rare cry of the curlew, seen across the coastline, were all quoted as being among the most iconic and much-loved sounds of the Great British outdoors.

    Jose Finch, Managing Director at Outdoor and Cycle Concepts, parent company of Cotswold Outdoor, said: “There can be no doubt that it’s been a difficult year for many and, as times have become increasingly worrying and uncertain, so many of us have made the most of having more opportunities to spend time outside – whether it was during our one hour of allotted exercise per day back in the first lockdown, while taking a break from the pressures of working from home and home schooling, when enjoying our vacations in the UK or now with national lockdowns.

    “In an uncertain world, you can count on one thing – the outdoors is right where you left it, and as the seasons change, we hope our Top 10 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors provides inspiration for everyone to get out and about in their local area. No matter where you are in the UK, you only have to step outside your door to hear nature and a whole host of soothing and restorative sounds, so why not go out into your neighbourhood and discover your favourite?


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    “The UK is spectacular at this time of year and there are so many advantages to getting outdoors and rediscovering the natural world right where you live. The sounds of nature have proven therapeutic benefits – lowering blood pressure levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so they are the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern living.”

    Capturing the top 10

    Wildlife field recordist and sound designer Pete Smith spent two days in the field prior to the latest lockdown measures capturing examples of The Top 10 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors for Cotswold Outdoor, as well as sourcing sounds from his archive and other libraries. The sounds are all now available to listen to at, along with advice and inspiration on how to make the most of time spent in nature.

    Helen Glover MBE said: “I love being outdoors and I’m fortunate to spend a lot of time in the natural environment, either for solo training sessions or when I’m enjoying local adventures with my family. I find that there’s always that moment when I stop and focus on the sounds of my surroundings – it helps to clear my mind and I instantly feel more relaxed.


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    “It was a pleasure to contribute to the Top 10 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors, although difficult to conjure up a shortlist of favourites. At the moment, autumnal walks around the Chilterns with my boys are fun, with the noise of fallen leaves crunching underfoot. I grew up in Cornwall and will always enjoy coastal walks accompanied by the ebb and flow of the tide, particularly on a stormy day when the waves are roaring and crashing.

    “As well as grounding me in the moment, I find sounds can be so evocative too. When I think back to past adventures, it’s the crackle of the campfire, the lapping of kayak paddles on a lake and the mew-like call of red kites in the trees that bring back such warm memories and make me yearn to get outdoors.”

    Field recordist and sound designer Pete Smith added: “To me, sound is everything, so it has been interesting how people have tuned into the sounds of their surroundings more than ever throughout 2020. It was the year that everything stopped and, as the traffic noise quietened during lockdown and our streets fell silent, the sounds of the outdoors became acutely more noticeable.

    “I’ve always been more relaxed and mindful when surrounded by the calming sounds of nature. Whether I’m camping out overnight during fishing trips to the Isle of Eigg and listening to the rain pelting the tent or walking along the sand dunes and hearing the wind whistling through the grass, sound is such an important and immersive part of spending time outdoors.


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    “However, for me, the very best sounds of the outdoors are the display calls of the curlew in spring.I grew up in a small village in South West Scotland surrounded by farmland, and curlews used to nestall around my house. Often, on moonlit nights, they would fly and sing all through the night. Whenever I hear them now, I am instantly eight years old again out in the field in front of my house. Sadly, curlews are now declining in numbers so it’s important to get out and enjoy these wonderful sounds while we can.”

    Cotswold Outdoor has been preparing people to discover the great outdoors for over 40 years, offering clothing, equipment and accessories from the very best outdoor brands.

    Top 20 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors

    1. Leaves crunching underfoot in woodland in the Chilterns2. Waterfall in South Dartmoor3. The rustling of the wind through pine trees in Kielder Forest4. Rain on a tent in the Scottish Highlands5. Red kites calling6. Waves crashing on Gwithian Beach in Cornwall7. The display calls of the curlew8. Wind blowing through the grass at sand dunes on Tyninghame Beach9. The cuckoo calling10. Skylark song11. Walking boots on a footpath12. The tapping of a woodpecker13. The jingle jangle of climbing hexes14. Blackbird song15. The ebb and flow of the tide on a pebble beach16. The call of a lapwing17. The crunch of walking on snow18. The croak of a raven19. The drumming of a snipe20. Black grouse ‘lekking’