Accidental Nature: The Listening Ears
I’ve just had the most amazing few weeks filming some very personal films for this year’s Springwatch. The basic idea of them was to be Landscape films, each with a different theme to explore. Dungeness, the Southern most tip of Kent, was one of my favorite locations and its theme was energy.
Its an area of shingle that’s 40sq Km, the largest shingle foreland in Europe and its been formed by the energy of the sea. Waves washing and shifting shingle relentlessly. In itself, it’s a very natural and unique environment, but there are certainly some very Accidental Nature things going on too. The most visually striking of those is to be found at what are known locally as the Listening Ears. Three large concrete walls and domes standing a good 40 ft. high.
Now classed as Schedule One listed monuments, these bizarre structures were built just after the First World War in an attempt to find a way to hear enemy fighters approaching over the English Channel. The inventors hoping they would focus distant aircraft engine noise, magnifying to a point that allowed the defence staff to hear them well before their human ears would normally pick them up. Those few extra minutes would give valuable time to scramble air defence ahead of the enemies arrival.
In the end The Ears never came to use as Radar was invented, and they became defunct along with the land surrounding them. That land was an old quarrying pit from which cement was made, that Cement used to make the Listening Ears. The pits are now flooded and full of life. Reed beds play home to the likes of marsh frogs and reed warbles and high above them Marsh Harriers hunt. And it’s the Marsh Harriers that were relevant for my film. What better place to comment about the importance of sound energy and the Harriers acute listening skills when it comes to hunting, than at these marvelous Listening Ears.
The cement works and listening ears were certainly never created with the idea of a nature reserve being made off the back of them but, by accident, that’s certainly what happened. And, now the ears are schedule one monuments I’m pretty sure the area will always be protected and nature will benefit.
Whilst filming, not only did we get shots of the Marsh Harriers, we also captured some fantastic behavior as the male came in and made a food pass with his mate. An arial exchange of food energy, part of the Springtime bonding rituals. Along with nailing some cracking starlapses, brown hares and stunning landscapes it’s all in made for a great film, with those Listening Ears taking center stage.
The Ears are privately owned by Cemex who now value the areas importance to wildlife and they allow guided walks to go and see the Listening Ears. Learn more about them here. For details of the open days and guided walks, contact Owen Leyshon, Romney Marsh Countryside Project firstname.lastname@example.org. Springwatch starts Monday 28 May, see the whole film then.Tagged in: Accidental Nature, Dungeness, Listening Ears, nature, Sound Mirrors, Springwatch, wildlife
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