Trees at Goffs Park will get a listening ear when Tree Wardens and officers, councillors and passers-by get the chance to listen to the trees on Friday and Saturday using specially designed equipment.
Listeners can hear the sounds made by a tree through headphones and a specifically designed microphone which picks up the noise of a tree pulling water from the ground.
Apart from being a great educational tool the equipment has the potential to be a diagnostic tool too, determining among other things, when a tree is drought stressed.
Alex Metcalf, designer of the device and Royal College of Art qualified product designer, said: “I was brought up in the countryside in Cornwall and I’ve always been fascinated by the trees. That’s where my interest came from; I was interested in knowing what I could hear inside a tree.”
Alex spent a number of years developing the microphone which could pick up the particular frequency and amplify the tiny noise that a tree makes.
Alex added: “A tree makes two sounds, a kind of rumbling and also a popping, a bit like Rice Krispies, caused by water and air mixing inside the xylems. The less water there is in the ground the more popping can be heard as the tree takes up more air. Most people don’t know how much water is in them and it makes people realise how alive trees are.”
An average oak will pull up around 50 gallons of water on a summers’ day, 80 per cent of which is just to keep the tree cool and is released again through the leaves.
Alex, who takes his device around the country for educational events and visitor attractions, is working with Kew Garden scientists to help realise the full potential of listening to trees.
He said: “We hope to use it to identify drought-stressed trees and determine which trees do better in particular areas, but long-term monitoring could throw up other interesting research about drought generally and climate change. We’re not sure of these uses yet though and they’re a long way off.”
Councillor Lenny Walker, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, said: “I thought they were barking when they asked me to go and listen to trees, so I went out on a limb and got to the root of what they were trying to say. I’ve never heard of anything like it before but the equipment is really remarkable. It’s a great way to get people appreciating nature.”
Alex will be at Goffs Park from 9am to 5pm on Friday and 9am to 2.30pm on Saturday.
Photocall: 11.30am near to bottom car park and railway line.