Choosing the View

They say about TV or radio, if you don’t like it, you can always switch it off or change the channel. Similarly, wherever we may be, we can choose what to take notice of, we can choose our view. That can be a challenge sometimes, especially if what is in front of you is a blank wall, but when out and about we tend to miss so much of what is around us and I am as guilty of this as the next person.

That’s OK! It means that when I do take notice of my surroundings, a simple walk down the street can become an adventure of discovery. I don’t mean that there are suddenly different or new things happening around me to what’s normal, I simply find I have more interest in the normal things. The shapes and patterns, the textures and colours . . . of the sounds as well as the sights.

monochrome railings

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Sounds Down the Street

Having crossed the road on my walk this week I continued walking down the street and found myself enjoying the various sights and sounds much more than I would normally in an urban environment. This was because I was looking and listening to everything around me – I was focused on what could be seen and heard and not thinking about what had to be done that day or a forthcoming meeting, none of the things that are usually going through my head on a working day.

In the midst of a busy working day and what can seem like cacophonous activities or surroundings, we can take a rest just by changing our focus and paying attention to the intricacies of our local environment, outside or inside, urban or rural.

Walking down the street

The urban aural environment is obviously different to the rural – this is confirmed visually for me when I look at the spectral display for a sound clip like the one below. I am used to seeing the patterns of bird song in a sound clip and depending on the bird, these sounds show up at a range of different frequencies – the cries of the gulls in this clip are at a relatively low frequency. The highlights shown scattered across this spectral display create a quite different pattern and seemingly quite random – they are  the squeaks and squeals of vehicle brakes. Some of these, the highest pitched, are out of my hearing range these days, but it’s good to be able to see that they are there.

Walking Down the Street

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Sound clip spectral display

Sound clip spectral display – click to enlarge

Crossing to the Other Side

Crossing to the other side of the street on my walk this week revealed more natural life than it occurred to me I might find. This is a busy city centre street (or close to it) and the predominant features tend to be of man-made materials – concrete and metal, tarmac and bricks.

As I reached the point where the street I was on changes its name, I crossed to the other side and as I waited at the pedestrian crossing I noted some of the patterns around me and also the plants and flowers lining sections of the street.  The perspective of trees lining the extension of this street is a deliberate plan, but the plants and flowers (some would say weeds) in the forecourts (if they can be called that) of the buildings on this section of the street are there because that is what nature will do if you let it.

The owners of these buildings and businesses are clearly not concerned about this aspect of their working lives and from my point of view the growth of the wild flowers and grasses are a lot more attractive than concrete, but each to their own. At least the vegetation allows some natural drainage.

Street-side plants

Street-side plants

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My Walk this Week – Street Recce

My walk this week is along a short street near the centre of town. It could be any street with mostly businesses lining each side in what were once houses. There is plenty of traffic but as I have claimed with StillWalks, there is as much to listen to and hear in an urban setting as there is in a rural one.

The sounds may be different, and it could be argued less attractive, but focusing my attention on different aspects of the soundscape allowed me to hear and see things that I would often pass over unnoticed – colours, patterns, textures to be both seen and heard.

So my walk this week is an exploration of an everyday urban location with the intention of familiarising my self to some of the visual and aural details in preparation for a full StillWalks production walk in the future.

Street Walk-1

The sound clip below is a bit longer than those I normally post through the week but on this occasion it seemed appropriate. There are many layers of of activities, starting  with the sound of me closing the car boot and progressing from the car park onto the street. The sound of a drill as I round a corner is also associated with a smell for me – as I returned to the carpark later on, passing this same spot the pungent smell of sealant was powerful and made me pass by quickly.

Street Walk – Clip 1

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No Fishing

This sign and its distorted reflection may say “No Fishing”, but the next photo below shows that there are fishing boats just round the corner from this entry point to the inner marina at Swansea.

no fishing

The other vessels in Swansea’s Maritime Quarter range from small to large sailing and motor boats of all types. The modern catamaran and the older style of sailing vessel below suggest something of this range – and all of the owners rely on the security the marina offers to keep them safe. However, I was a little taken aback when I saw the razor wire!

Lapping Water

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Sensory Perception at the Lakeside

Nearing the end or turning point of my walk this week, I emerged from the riverside woodland footpath at the Enterprise Park near Llansamlet in Swansea. This zone has grown over the years and one of its main characteristics is that you are almost forced to take the car from place within the zone.

However, despite the sound of passing traffic (below), once I had crossed the road I was able to enjoy the lake that forms a central feature in the area. As in any urban area, there is always the background sound of city activity and traffic, but the lake here forms an essential and effective oasis from all that.

Lakeside

We need these oases in modern urban living, but it is not just a matter of them existing. We need to make sure we use them as they were intended and enjoy the natural benefits they can bring on a regular basis.

Walking around a lake or park, down a tree-lined street, along a river, we are offered the opportunity to not just exercise of our limbs, but also to exercise our sensory perception. Looking and/or listening is possible for almost everyone and in my experience is well worth it.

Passing Traffic

Lakeside Ambience

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Riverside Trees and Buidlings

Trees and buildings, urban sounds and natural sounds, those are the defining features of my walk this week. The buildings were always there but were often well hidden by the trees.

buildings and trees

The birds were always there but they too were well hidden in the trees. People and dogs were evident as well but until writing this post I had not included them in the images I selected for any of my posts this week – what does that say about me?

There were walkers (adults and children), dog walkers, joggers and cyclists using the footpath and as can be seen in the one photo I have now included with people, they are very conscientious dog owners who have all cleared up after their dogs..

Walking the Dogs

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Under the Woodland Bridge

This was a first for me – viewing the railway into Swansea from underneath. For some reason it had not occurred to me that the Tawe riverside footpath would, at this location, inevitably pass under the railway.

There is something fascinating, even exciting, about the combination of natural and man made – wood, leaf, concrete and iron – the different (and similar) scales has as much to do with my fascination as the juxtaposed materials and textures.

Railway Bridge and trees

The reflection of the bridge in the waters of the river below provides a link between the hard functional materials of its construction and the more natural woodland lining the river.

Both the railway and the footpath were in use on this Sunday morning with plenty of walkers, joggers, children and dogs enjoying the woodland. However, I didn’t either see or hear a train during my walk.

Walking Conversations

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