Sounding Perran Sands

This time at Gear Sands, sound artist Mac Dunlop reports in on his progress as he works on an audio project based in the dunes of Cornwall.

I started work on a new episode of the Ambient Year Radio show - which goes out on Falmouth and Penryn's Source FM on Wednesday nights at 10pm.

This week's episode used some field recordings from Perran Sands for the first time. I wanted to get a feel for the 'atmospherics' I'd picked up while recordings out on Gear Sands near the remains of St. Petroc's Oratory. In some places you can almost hear the sand grains tumbling in the wind, rising up the pitch of a dune before falling back down.  The sand is so smoothed and fine in places, almost powdery. I was trying to catch the sound of the rustling grass too, but I'm not sure I got there.

The sound of a bee buzzing into some flowers beside my microphone was a nice surprise, especially on such a windy day.

A group of purple thistle flowers are pictured in the dunes

Andy, Jon and I talked about three distinct areas of the sands here. A golf course, a caravan and touring site, and then there is the loose dunes themselves. One thing you'll notice when you park in the available space just off the main road, is that is it a long way to the sea. If you're carrying a surfboard you might want a stop or two along the way.

I notice how much Hawthorn there is, growing low, like outbreaks of brambles. So many berries coming this year - they say lots of haws forecasts a long cold winter - nice little breaks from the wind though.

That's where the bee buzzed the mike, maybe it wasn't collecting pollen, might have just been curious about my microphone - an alien looking thing that just dropped into its territory.

It was a very windy day, I cut through the dunes toward the Perran Sands Touring site rather than head down to the sea line this time. The gusty swishes of the sand faded into my own footsteps, first on the grassy lawns surrounding the mobile homes, then onto the harder tarmac. The wind carried sounds of play from the sport ground ahead, mixing with sparrow chirps and the rustle of yucca leaves. Almost a village atmosphere at this time of year. The growl of a site kitchen's ventilator, cars parking and conversations, a tractor revving up onto the site road, a sit-on lawn mower reversing between the pitches.

Finally I turned back through the kissing gate, and spend the next five minutes walking back to the car park by the main road. All the busy sounds of that transient tourist park community faded as the distance grew behind me. I avoided dog pooh abandoned along the trail. Apparently most dogs do their 'business' within 100 to 200 meters of the car park, and that is why there are different grasses and other plants there. The un-bagged excrement being richer in nutrients than the dunes normally are. Even such small things accumulate into significant impacts on an ecosystem, so don't forget to pick up after your dog.

I'll be back with some more reports in a few days.




Want more from Mac? Click here to read his next blog, 'Recording in the Rain'

A black and white image of sound artist Mac Dunlop looking at the camera

About the Author

Mac Dunlop

Mac is a composer, producer, and performer based in Cornwall, UK. His recent albums include, Viral Nature, Petrichor, and Somewhere Nearby. A new album 'MDQ' will be released in October 2021on the Belgian based Off Records Label. His music ranges in style from experimental ambient to modern classical and jazz. He features on BBC Sounds, Resonance FM, and Cornwall's Source FM as well as other independent music and sound art broadcasters.

Find him online at :,,,