With planes grounded and country borders closed, digital travelling resonates on a whole new level this year. Unable to set foot in our dream destination in person, the only place for us to roam safely is online. In a matter of seconds, a click or tap takes us where we want to go, accompanied by images or videos that unfold into a virtual travelogue. It isn’t the best option, but it’s better than nothing.
If you’ve missed the carefree days of trekking through mountains and traversing across streams, listening to the call of nature’s beasts and bugs, this is as good an opportunity as ever for a virtual trip, while you wait for the chance to do it in person again.
Our forests make up approximately 31% of the global land area, with more than half of the world’s forests found in five countries alone: Russia, Brazil, Canada, America and China. These towering trees stand at 60,000 strong, providing habitats for 80% of the world’s amphibians, 75% of birds and 68% of mammals. To put its size into perspective, the total forest area spans 4.06 billion hectares; an international rubgy field is about one hectare in size.
Held annually in Feanedock National Forest, Leicestershire since 2018, Timber Festival is a weekend of celebration and reflection as you recharge under the leaves. Here, artists, musicians, creators and writers converge to rethink our roles as “guardians” of the forest. Jointly organised by The National Forest and event producer Wild Rumpus, Timber Festival hosts a plethora of programmes from the likes of campfire performances, art installations, workshops, light projections, and in-depth discussions.
Bringing the forest one step closer to you
Like many other public gatherings, this year’s Timber Festival was hosted differently, going online for the first time to provide experiences for nature lovers. The clever use of AR technology gives viewers a 360-degree treetop experience: through an interactive video, follow funambulist Chris Bullzini as he gracefully makes his way across a tightrope.
If you’re into podcasts, you’ll enjoy the Wilderness Tracks, where interviewer Geoff Bird talks to six different individuals about their favourite pieces of music that connect them to nature. Each episode includes a tracklist, perfect for before-bedtime listening as you wind down for the day.
However, the pièce de résistance is an open source database called Sounds of the Forest, where the sounds of woodlands and forests are collected, resulting in an ever-growing soundmap that brings together aural tones and textures from different corners of the world.
From lemurs in Madagascar to chirping birds in Malaysia, more than 150 renditions of nature’s graceful music can be heard by simply navigating through the map and clicking on each icon. The best part: it’s completely community-driven. Akin to the concept of foraging or gathering, anyone can contribute to the soundmap with a recording, which is then enjoyed as is, or used to create a new work of art. In fact, next year’s Timber Festival includes a lineup of artists who will be showcasing their reinterpretations of the data collected through Sounds of the Forest.
“It’s so exciting that people across the globe are going to be bringing the sounds of their local woods and forests to the Timber soundmap using just their phones. Experiencing and engaging with nature is so good for our wellbeing,” says Elizabeth Alker, BBC Radio 3 presenter and Timber patron.
Each icon represents a soundscape recorded in the forest.
Indirectly, this helps to raise awareness about the plight of forests around the globe. Natural disasters aside, these rich resources continue to be mindlessly plundered and taken advantage of, which only serves to impact the lives of humankind in the not-so-distant future. According to the State of the World’s Forests 2020, a study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the destruction of forests continues to occur at an alarming rate, resulting in a continuous and significant reduction in biodiversity. In just three decades from 1990 to 2020, the global forest area has decreased by 178 million hectares, equivalent to the land area of Libya.
We chose some of our favourite forest soundscapes from around the world to share with you:
In 2021, Timber Festival is set to return to Feanedock forest from 2nd to 4th July, featuring an impressive programme that includes performances from rock band Field Music, folk singer Sam Lee, violinist Galya Bisengalieva, and more.