Come and hear Kent's nightingales

Wednesday 26th April 2017

© Bill Bastion© Bill Bastion

Events in Kent and Medway seek out nature's superstar soloist

The nightingale should be on everyone’s nature ‘bucket list’; it is the bird that has inspired writers and poets from Keats to Shakespeare, and composers from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky.

Sadly, their famous song is disappearing from the countryside as numbers have fallen in Britain by 90% in the last 50 years and there are increasingly few places where it is possible to find them. Less than 6,000 pairs are thought to remain nationally.

Fortunately, Kent, including Medway, is one of their last strongholds, and a series of events in the county will this year aim to help people hear them as part of the UK’s first 'National Nightingale Festival'.

The events include guided walks by Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, plus a series of unique 'Singing with Nightingales' events that combine live folk music and storytelling performed against the backdrop of the birdsong by a range of artists including Sam Lee, the BBC Folk Award winner and Mercury Music Prize nominee and soon to be heard on the soundtrack of the new Guy Ritchie movie, ‘King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword’.

Links to all the events and their full details and times are at www.rspb.org.uk/nightingalefestival. Most require advance booking and most carry a charge.

Kent wildlife Trust are running two:
 

Greg Hitchcock, Conservation Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “If you’ve never heard the song of the nightingale you owe it to yourself to get out there and discover why it has inspired poets, musicians, singers and naturalists for centuries. Now more than ever it is important to understand what we face losing if the decline of this species continues.”

 

If you’ve never heard the song of the nightingale you owe it to yourself to get out there and discover why it has inspired poets, musicians, singers and naturalists for centuries.

Adrian Thomas, who helped collate the Festival, said, "There's something about the nightingale's song that makes it so special: it has power, virtuosity, variety. And of course there's the fact that nightingales keep singing when other birds settle down for the night - the song just rings out of the darkness.

"Given that nightingales are so scarce these days, these events are the perfect opportunity to experience a piece of natural magic in the company of experts."

Folk singer Sam Lee, said: "Discovering the song of the nightingale was a transformative experience for me. In history and folklore, it has been the muse of artists and country folk for aeons, but I was not prepared for its sorrowful elegant beauty.

"Learning to sing with them and bringing some of the UK’s finest musicians to collaborate alongside this bird, has become a songful pilgrimage for me. It’s also made me as eager to draw attention to the fragility of these majestic singers as I am to not letting the old folk songs be lost to the silence.”

The dramatic decline of the nightingale in Britain is thought to be due to a variety of factors, including changes in woodland management, browsing by deer which removes the cover they need, climate change, deteriorating conditions in their African wintering grounds, and development pressures.
The largest population of nightingales in England is at Lodge Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest, Medway, but is under severe threat. It is protected specifically for its nightingales but Medway Council has proposed to allocate the land for the development of up to 5,000 houses, which would destroy the nightingales' habitat and set a dangerous precedent for protected places everywhere. The #SaveLodgeHill campaign is calling on Medway Council to change its mind.
 

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