Close your eyes and think about where you live. What do you hear? The better you know a place, the more familiar the distinct sounds become. As I was writing this blog I realised that most of this can go unnoticed. The definitive Ashbourne sounds are a character of a town with a landscape – with distance between buildings and with no constant hum of traffic obliterating everything. They also demonstrate the balance of leisure and work, country and town. The prime location for many of these would be up close and personal or on quiet Sunday morning. Here’s a few of the sounds that I think characterise Ashbourne.
- Shrovetide has a few distinctive sounds. There are obvious ones associated with the Shrovetide Hymn, the PA system and the National Anthem on Shaw Croft. The sounds that I associate are the strange trudge of spectator feet against a near silent car-free backdrop following the game or coming back from a cold and wet day. The other is the sound of the Hug – the sound of exertion, shouts of encouragement and the splash of the Henmore.
- Remembrance Sunday is another poignant occasion in the town. With our strong military connections and the setting of the Memorial Gates with the traffic stopped I think Ashbourne observes the ceremony on the Sunday before the 11th of November better than most. The quiet as the wreaths are laid, the silent March past, the hymns and the Last Post are magnificent.
- We’re good at Christmas too but the sound for me is the brass band playing carols – possibly in Victoria Square or in the Smith’s Tavern. It’s not the direct sound but the distant half-hearing of familiar tunes – I can hear it now as I am writing this.
- Birdsong. We are a country town and this means that most of the town is relatively traffic free early in the morning. At a weekend you can still hear the birds singing loud and strong up until around 10am. If I go the Leisure Centre I can come outside and stand on the railings facing the church and hear the birds singing their little hearts out in the Spring Time. The other memorable sounds are the larks and the buzzards above the fields surrounding the town, the screech of a pheasant being surprised, or the screaming of the swifts around the Methodist Church on a warm Summer evening.
- We are a sporting town with our sporting venues close to the Town centre. The sound of whistles from the sports pitches reaching the town centre on a weekend morning are distinctive and say so much about the way of life here.
- The market square has its own sounds. The setting up and taking down of stalls with the no-nonsense clank of the metal frames and loading and unloading, the hum of the stallholders talking amongst themselves or to customers. We are not a market where the customers are touted in with shouts. Then there are the cobbles and that distinctive rumble as car tyres or shopping baskets are rolled over them. Finally the ambience at dusk on a warm Summer evening where the noise from the pubs drifts out on to the square with half-heard conversations.
- The dressing of the town for events is distinctive. There is no finer sight than a breezy but sunny spring morning with the bunting and the flags on the shops. They have their sounds too when the wind picks up. The cracking of the flags shows the flags themselves off at their best.
- Church bells, either during practice or a call to worshipped on a Sunday morning. Like a chiming clock on the mantelpiece in your home, you’ll be surprised just how familiar the tone of the bells and the tunes are to you. They are ingrained through repetition.
- One of the more esoteric, but nevertheless distinctive, sounds of Ashbourne is the phantom train noise in the Tunnel. This is a great experience when there are not too many people around. It can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
- Finally, we do still have the sounds of cars and I think the distinctive ones for me are the occasional boy racers in hatchbacks doing their circuits of the town and the distant hum from Darley Moor on race days.
I am writing this early in the morning with the doors open. I can hear the birdsong from the hedgerows and green fields surrounding Ashbourne. I’ve got a robin, a dunnock, a song thrush and the distant rooks. For how much longer I wonder?