Laurence 'Loz' Colbert of Oxford band Ride has made recordings of the dawn chorus in an ancient forest for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Drummer Mr Colbert and fellow sound artist Richard Bentley rose at 3.30am on May 2 – International Dawn Chorus Day – to travel to Singe Wood, near Hailey, and Wigwell Nature Reserve in Charlbury, to capture the sounds.

Ride was one of the most influential bands of the early 90s and Mr Colbert been interested in “situations with microphones” since a child.

He has lately been exploring the relationship between sound and architecture as part of a PhD at Oxford Brookes.

Mr Bentley creates engaging sound works for clients including Crisis and Nature Nurture, and is currently producing ‘slow media’ for mental health patients and arts workshops for intensive care staff.

Both sites they visited were once part of the ancient Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood, which now comprises much of West Oxfordshire, and are managed by the Wychwood Project.

Recording the birdsong gave the artists a rare opportunity to get close to nature, an energising experience.

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Mr Colbert said: “In the dark I began to hear the sound of two deer ‘barking’ – one to my left and one to my right.

“The natural reverb that carried their sounds across the wood was incredible, and not being able to see the source of the sound made it even more powerful.

“In the dark, on your own, conspicuous in every step you take, your senses are heightened. It is the kind of listening that many practitioners seek.

“Maybe there is a sense of the primal echolocation that exists within all of us, but on hearing this reverb we get a real sense of where we are.”

Mr Bentley added: “I was accompanied by a rather large and very curious badger, who sauntered across the bridge to see what I was up to - my closest encounter to date. It was a beautiful morning for recording.”

Mental Health Awareness Week runs until May 16 and this year’s theme is Nature and Mental Health.

Miranda Davies, communications and events officer at the Wychwood Project, said: “A full-throated dawn chorus is one of nature’s most miraculous sounds.

“We felt it was important to share this restorative soundscape as widely as possible because it’s one of the wonders we are working to preserve and can really benefit wellbeing.”

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Oxfordshire is currently suffering a startling decline in wildlife, according to Wild Oxfordshire’s The State of Nature in Oxfordshire in 2017 report.

The county’s curlew, snipe and redshank populations decreased by more than 50 per cent from 2005 to 2015 and willow tit populations are falling, possibly due to a loss of traditional practices such as coppicing.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 recorded the lowest ever numbers of chaffinches and greenfinches.

However, there is some good news for local bird populations.

Finch populations at Foxburrow Wood in Witney have soared since the Wychwood Project took it over in 2012 and transformed it into community woodland. And bitterns recently returned to breed at RSPB’s Otmoor reserve after a two-century absence.

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