Sounds Of The Outdoors With Helen Glover MBE

We've teamed up with award-winning wildlife field recordist and sound designer Pete Smith and Helen Glover MBE to bring you the Top 10 Sounds of the Great British Outdoors. We caught up with double Olympic Gold medallist and self-confessed outdoor enthusiast Helen to talk about her favourite sounds of the outdoors, and why spending time outside is important to her and her young family.

Can you tell us a bit about the three sounds you nominated for the Sound On campaign?

The sound that first came to mind was crashing waves. I always go straight to Cornwall! Thinking about what sounds really drew me to my childhood, and it was definitely the fact that I loved playing on the beach and being on the beach whenever I could. So the sound of the waves crashing is something that I love. 


The second one was the sound of the red kite calling, and that’s something that’s much more relevant to me now that I live in the Chilterns. It’s probably been most relevant to me in this lockdown period as well because now the airspace is really quiet, you can hear these red kites circling overhead so clearly. And it’s extra special as Logan, our little 2-year-old, picks that up as a call he can recognise, and he can hear it and say “Oh there’s a red kite”. So I can see it starts to develop his appreciation of the outdoors through that sound, which is amazing. 


The sound of leaves crunching is another one that’s really current now, and it’s something that both young and old can enjoy. We can all go for a walk and hear your feet crunching through the leaves, and it’s like a fully sensory experience at this time of year when the leaves start to fall and you can hear that crunch which is so familiar.

The list is so inclusive, and wherever you live in the country you can experience similar sounds. Was that important to you when putting it together?

I think some of the most important sounds to us are actually memories from a holiday, or our childhood, or special moments, or when you were walking to school kicking the leaves, or something that can take you back. And it may not be something you can walk out today and find, but I think everyone can look at that list and find things that they recognise. 

There are so many different sounds that you could have chosen from. How did you come up with your specific top three?

I sat down with my husband Steve, and he’s got the annoying advantage of being able to list a hundred off the top of his head because he’s much more in tune with that sort of thing! I love that having this challenge almost made me become way more in tune with the outdoors and with the sounds. And I think I was relying on the other senses – you can see, you can smell, but hearing what is going on is something you have to stop and think a little be more about is what I found. But yeah, Steve came up with some, I guess more obscure ideas like some bird calls I’d never heard of, but we definitely agreed on our top three. The red kites is something that we both love. I think we’d been for a walk in the woods that day and obviously the crunching leaves was very much in the forefront of our minds. And for both us Cornwall is a really special place and the crashing waves are special for that reason.

You’ve talked a lot about crashing waves, is that one of your favourite memories of the outdoors?

Yeah definitely, I love the sound of it. I think it’s really soothing and it reminds me of some of the most fun times I’ve ever had - swimming and surfing in the waves. There are so many ways that you can enjoy the sea and wherever you are on the coast of Great Britain, it’s always changing, it’s always moving, and you don’t know what it’s going to look like from one day to the next. 

Why is it important to you to be able to spend time outdoors?

The outdoors has always played a massive part in my life for various reasons, and those reasons have grown and developed as I’ve grown up. Most recently it’s been through training and through exercise. Getting outdoors has been a vital part of how I train, so it’s been really work related. Now the last year I’ve been able to slow down and enjoy the outdoors more for what it is, and get this appreciation of seeing it through the eyes of the children that I’ve had in the last two years. So, you start to get this whole new sense of how important it is. It’s not just a place to train. It’s not just a thing on your doorstep. It’s something you can enjoy in so many different ways. Whether it’s walking the dog, or meeting your friends, going sledging, or running up a sand dune - there are so many ways you can enjoy it. 

How are you fostering you and your husband’s love of the outdoors in your children?

We try to make sure everybody gets some fresh air every day, and it really does help if you have the right kit. Coming into this time of year, that’s become really apparent. We do want our children to enjoy it and if you come back and you’re miserable and you’re cold and you’ve been whining the whole way, you’re probably not going to look forward to it tomorrow. So, I think the best way is making sure everybody is ready and prepared, is warm and definitely not making it a chore or something that we have to do, rather making it something that we want to do. Like you said, as two parents who love the outdoors, the last thing we’d want to do is feel like the children were pressurised into doing it. We want them to want to enjoy it and I don’t know how that works, especially when they get a bit older, but we’d love to think that they share that enthusiasm with us.

You just mentioned kit. What is your one must-have piece of kit?

I think some good walking boots or shoes. You never know what you’re going to come across. You could be walking along a path that’s perfectly dry at this time of year and then you suddenly come up to a place where the cows have gone through the field, turned the grass up and you’re going to have to walk through it. And I think once you get wet feet, even the most positive outdoor enthusiast can get a bit miserable.

And are there any particular brands that you go to for outdoor gear?

The Patagonia coat that I got from Cotswold Outdoor is an absolute life saver. They really stand out when you are doing a woodland walk, and when the evenings are getting darker you do want to wear something nice and bright.

Helen's Winter Kit List

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