Sensing Nature


The HomeSounds project invites everyone, particularly young people, to become active environmental listeners for the benefit of their creativity, health and education.

The sounds of our environment provide a profound, subtle and deeply influential context to our lives. Sound shapes our sense of time and place, our perspective of space, our self-awareness, our relationships with others and our connections with the natural world. It creates memory, forms emotion and influences profoundly how we communicate. By actively listening to our environment we can learn how our acoustic habitat shapes our lives, how to respect every sound within it, including those made by us, and how to become more aware, in the deepest possible sense, of ourselves, our communities and our world. For young people, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, the acoustic habitat they are part of is as important as the physical, emotional, mental, educational, spiritual or any other habitat. The extent of its influence is generally little understood. HomeSounds offers a unique opportunity to explore this influence in a safe and inspiring way.

An understanding of how important sound is to our relationship with the natural world has become increasingly important as our environment changes, and the effects of the climate crisis are experienced. Developing the skills of active environmental listening can help us build a positive relationship with our planet, and develop our understanding of the extent to which humans are just one, sometimes disproportionately influential, element of an infinitely complex interconnected ecosystem.

HomeSounds encourages active environmental listening through a wide range of activities that fit broadly into one, or all, of three main categories; Creativity, Health/Well-Being, and Education. Some of these activities include in-person and online sound-walks, the installation of live-streaming microphones and educational programmes for all ages, experience and abilities. The project works both independently and in partnership. Some of the organisations with whom we have collaborated include BREAK, MIND, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Mancroft Advice Project, City Academy Norwich, Norwich International Youth Project, Excelsior Trust, National Trust, RSPB, British Science Association, Norfolk County Council, English Heritage and many more.

Find out more: HomeSounds: An Introduction, Performance and Discussion

Shared silences in nature

Haveringland Parish Church is one of the oldest round tower churches in Norfolk, and has developed a reputation as a pioneer ‘Festival Church’; it provides at least 6 religious services a year and is developing a wider role in supporting the local community and those with an interest in the Church, and it and the village’s history. Lying about 10 miles north west of Norwich, as a part of this new approach it has used its award-winning nature conservation Churchyard as a space where people can experience nature ‘up close’ both on an informal basis but also as part of a number of ‘Shared Silences’ held at the Church, which combine some music, refreshments and socialising before and after a period of shared silence. There are some beautiful sunsets to be experienced too. Here’s a short film about the plans to develop the Church:

Wild Church

The idea behind Wild Church Norfolk is to connect with the whole person and offer something holistic in its approach. Something for spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing. There are opportunities to explore spirituality through reflection, prayer, liturgy, scripture and activity.

There will be elements to enable exploration of the natural world to gain knowledge, enhance creativity and cultivate awe and wonder. All of these aspects will enable people to be in touch with the ground beneath their feet, the world about them, the God around them and their inner most being.

Wild Church Norfolk is based in Watton. Charlie Houlder-Moat is a recently licensed Reader at St Mary’s Church in Watton and is hoping to offer a monthly Wild Church service in the church grounds and surrounding areas. In lockdown she has made videos and added to the Wild Church Youtube channel. She is starting a new ‘breathing space’ podcast which will also be uploaded there.

Charlie is working with the Diocese to set up a Wild Church Hub to bring local outdoor church practitioners together. There are quite a few! 

Find out more: via email, on Facebook, or on YouTube.

The Magpie Centre Sensory Garden

The Magpie Centre, home of West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled Association, provides more than 100 riding and carriage driving lessons a week for people of all ages and with a wide variety of physical and learning disabilities.

November 2019 saw the pilot session of a new initiative, ‘Tea With a Pony’, whose aim was to bring together people living with dementia, plus their carers, for a social gathering over tea and cakes.  The session also included the chance to meet and greet some of the ponies, and handle items of tack and grooming equipment.

In the meantime, Trustee Rosie O’Grady visited a sensory garden and suggested that such a project could be undertaken at the Magpie Centre, to offer an added dimension to the ‘Tea With a Pony’ visits.

This is now under construction, and a large field shelter, with wheelchair access, has been erected, in which participants can safely meet and greet the ponies, and shelter in inclement weather.

Plans for both hard and soft landscaping have been drawn up for the sensory garden, including paved and gravelled paths, raised beds and a water feature and work on this is in its early stages, with completion proposed for spring 2021.

Find out more: Magpie Centre

Ringsfield Hall

Ringsfield Hall Woodland Activity Centre is a 50 bed residential centre set within 15 acres of grounds in the Waveney Valley. As a Natural Oasis amidst an intensive agricultural landscape, we are an ideal place for nature connection and encounters with wildlife.

We offer many activities including Mindfulness, Health and Wellbeing, Conservation, Woodland Crafts, Team building and Adventure in nature. Our aim is to engage, enable and empower people to connect with the natural world and discover ways in which they can help to care for it.

We also allow space for reflection and contemplation, be it in the woods, in the quiet garden or in one of our wildlife watching spaces.

Find out more: Ringsfield Hall website and Facebook

Norfolk Nature Stories

Norfolk Nature Stories is a Norfolk Library and Information Service project funded by Arts Council England which aims to connect communities through the power of storytelling and nature.

In partnership with Vision Norfolk, MensCraft and MIND, we created a range of storytelling events working with professional storytellers Suzanne Arnold, Shane Ibbs, Paul Jackson, Sue Squire. We have also created 4 online storytelling collections filmed at Mousehold Heath, which can be viewed on our YouTube channel.