Listen to: Into the Forest with BBC Radio 3

Wirksworth, Derbyshire, England

This midsummer week (16 – 24 June), BBC Radio 3 will be featuring an exploration of how forests have, in different ways, affected the human imagination and inspired the creativity of artists throughout the centuries.

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We will be looking at how forests are places of dappled light, of intrigue and possibility, of the beginnings of adventures, of growth and the drama of a summer that is about to happen. 

In the autumn, when the clocks change, we’ll be back in the forest for darker, colder, and perhaps more dangerous stories. 

Chevin Forrest in the morning mist as the light dances through the tree tops.
Radio 3 go on an exploration of our forests ©Getty
Musical woods

Forests are places of magic, intrigue and beauty. As humans, we attempt to manage them, but they have a complex life of their own, from the animals that live there in an entwined ecosystem, to the way in which living trees provide a complex breathing architecture. When felled, forests can offer the basis for music though the tones that the wood provides in its raw state, and when fashioned into musical instruments – going back to their source, if you like. On the show, we will hear music played on wooden instruments in forest settings.

The value of our trees

Forests are an endless source of inspiration so, for this special season on the station, we’ll be immersing ourselves in that world. On Radio 3, we’ll be taking ourselves out of the studio and will be presenting our weekday breakfast programme from a different forest every day, beginning with Tollymore Forest in Northern Ireland. Presenter Petroc Trelawny will invoke the atmosphere of the forest in his presentation with plenty of natural sounds, and music inspired by forests.

Tollymore Forest Park
Foley’s bridge in Tollymore Forest ©Getty

Later in the week, we will visit Glen Affric in Scotland and consider how forests form romantic notions of nationalism and nostalgia for lost worlds. In Wales, we’ll visit Gwydyr Forest Park, a woodland that has grown around former lead and zinc mines, and we will look at the enchantment forests can bring into the landscape.

On Midsummer’s Day, we’ll be in Sherwood Forest, exploring the forest as a source of magic and magical thinking, linking everything from Scandinavian midsummer traditions to English traditions, such as the green man. Finally, we’ll go to the New Forest and consider the world of forests as places of sanctuary and calm.

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Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire ©Getty
Walking with words

Every day, we’ll have an essay inspired by a walk in the woods that will reveal the effect of forests on artistic imaginations. There will be a Sunday Feature that will look at how forests have affected different senses of culture over the years – looking at fairytales and other folklore, including Robin Hood. 

The season will also feature a version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, recorded in a Sussex woodland, and Words and Music will consider the most symbolic of English trees, the mighty oak.

Oak tree at sunrise
Sussex oak tree ©Getty

Afternoons will feature the responses of Romantic composers to the forest. Our Composer of the Week will be Carl Maria von Weber, who had a keenly intuitive response to the natural power of the woodland landscape and its implied magic.

We will also have a feature on Canadian composer R Murray Schafer, who has written music to be played in forests and wildlife reserves, and our Between the Ears programme will feature the noises of the Amazon, recorded in binaural sound. Throughout the schedule, forests and imaginative responses to forests and woods will be present.  

Dawn Over the Gwydyr Forest in Autumn, Near Betws-y-coed, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales
Gwydyr Forest Park, Snowdonia ©Getty
So, why are we heading into the forest now?

At Radio 3, we have found that there is an appetite among listeners for natural sounds – animals, glaciers, birdsong, the sound of trees, the sea – all kinds of things, particularly when they’re combined with music or poetry. This is part of the Slow Radio format we have been exploring – events in sound that can take the listener out of their everyday lives and transport them to a place where they have time to think and contemplate. 

Throughout the week, there will be a sense of magic that we hope will bring the power of forests and the natural landscape to you – whether you listen live, or download via iPlayer Radio – to bring sylvan joy to your commute.

So go on, add some green intrigue and magic and come Into the Forest with Radio 3. You may be surprised at what you find…..

Click here for more information, click here.

Words by Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3 

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Discover more about British forests here.

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Main image ©Getty