Monthly Archives: May 2015

Harrogate Underground

Did you know there was an old, disused Underground Railway in my hometown, Harrogate? The tunnel was abandoned 150 years ago and the far end near Leeds road became an air raid shelter during the war years.

George Hudson and the York and North Midland railway completed the line from Church Fenton in 1848. When it reached the site of what is now Harrogate’s Hornbeam Park station, it veered left and then plunged under the 400 yard long Brunswick tunnel, before emerging on what is now the far side of the Leeds Road/Park Drive roundabout. Here the line followed a discreet cutting before reaching Brunswick station, built opposite Trinity church, on Trinity road next to the stray. The only evidence the station was here these days is a plaque set in stone opposite the church.

The station was built here, because it was not allowed to cross the Stray, for fears of noise and smoke polluting the area. However attitudes had changed towards the railway by 1862 when the North Eastern railway arrived in the town and completed the new station where it still stands today. The branch through Brunswick tunnel and the station was then abandoned after only 14 years in operation.

During the Second World War the tunnel was converted into an air raid shelter with steps leading down to it from the Leeds road roundabout area. Workmen constructing the roundabout in the 1960’s accidentally dug into the roof of the tunnel not knowing it was there.

The air raid shelter was abandoned by 1943. Today the entrance is filled in leaving no trace it was ever there. Apparently, the tunnel is in remarkably good condition considering it has been abandoned for 150ish years, you can even see the indents in the floor were the sleepers used to be.

The air raid shelter was built with six foot high blast walls and wooden benches running along both sides of the tunnel. Toilet cubicles were also to be found in all four corners. There was also evidence of electric cabling suggesting there was a light and power supply down there during the war.

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Harrogate International Dawn Chorus Day

International Dawn Chorus Day is the worldwide celebration of nature’s daily miracle. This year there will be more opportunities than ever to join in the excitement. Celebrated on the first Sunday of May, the story goes that International Dawn Chorus Day began in the 1980s when broadcaster and environmentalist Chris Baines asked everyone to attend his birthday party at 4am so they could enjoy the dawn chorus with him. Since then IDCD has grown from a small event in Birmingham UK to an annual international celebration with Dawn Chorus events held as far afield as the Caribbean and Antarctica.

Here in Harrogate, we had our own event tied in with We asked for the residents of Harrogate to rise early and record the dawn chorus in their locality. To date, over eighty countries have participated in International Dawn Chorus Day, and this year people all over the globe will once again be rising early to greet the morning sun and enjoy nature’s daily miracle.

The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country promotes International Dawn Chorus Day because the best way to generate support for nature conservation and understanding of the importance of the natural world to human well-being, is to get people to experience the wonders of the their local wildlife first-hand.

About the album

I have tried to sort out the tracks into how they would have manifested in the wild. We start with the earliest (chronologically) at 0430am moving around the town, through both the busy and quiet parts, as the Dawn Chorus unfolds.


1 – High End Of Dragon Parade by Allan Smyth. Recorded at 0430 on a Zoom H5 – Allan had a fantastic rig set up involving a chair and 4 microphones. But a bit of plastic sheeting is in his back garden. Allan said it was quite a wet dawn and the mics picked up a bit of the precipitation hitting the sheeting. However, I am over the moon with this recording.

2 – Leeds Road by Andy Foster. Now this is retro – Andy Foster recorded the dawn chorus on a cassette recorder! There is quite a bit of background hum’ to the recording that you associate with cassettes but it captures the busy part of town succinctly.

3 – Back Dragon Parade by Andy Backhouse. Recorded on a Zoom H5 – This track was recorded at the top of a fire escape. The dawn rain was coming in at a drizzle and was bouncing off the metal staircase.

4 – Scotton Drive by David Littler. Recorded between 5am and five thirty, this snippet of the original was recorded on a Zoom H6 – David said the dawn wind carried in a fair amount of noise from the nearest motorway, the A1. However, I think it is ace – real sonic photography (if there is such a thing?).

5 – Low End Of Dragon Parade by Andy Backhouse. Recorded on a Zoom H5 with Telinga Clip On Mics – finding a time when drunk people were not walking past proved to be the issue – all whilst dressed as Arthur Dent from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.

6 – Back Dragon Parade [Binaural Microphones] by Andy Backhouse. Recorded on a Tascam DR-2D with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones, this track is designed to be listened to on earphones. Binaural Microphones means that the mic is placed in the ear of the recordist.