The Peregrine

Audio Escape Trail

A celebration of Chelmsford nature write J.A. Baker

The Audio Trail

Welcome to The Peregrine: Audio Escape Trail. 

On this webpage you will find a map, and all of the audio clips for the trail. Below these you will also find information about the book’s author, J.A. Baker, and about the incredible birds he observed in the countryside around Chelmsford.

Before starting the trail, please listen to the introductory track below.

For a text version of each track please click here.

Audio Introduction

Guidance on how to navigate through the nature trail can be heard in this Audio Introduction.

We suggest that you listen to the audio clips on our trail through the Chelmer Valley Riverside reserve, beginning from the Anglia Ruskin Campus building, off Bishop Hall Lane in central Chelmsford. The trail is fully wheelchair accessible, and is a circular path of around 1.2 miles / 2km. If you can’t make it to the reserve you can still enjoy the tracks, wherever the natural world meets with humanity.

The Nature Trail Map

Track 1


Excerpt: Oct 1st

This track will continue to play for several minutes after the text has finished. If it is still playing when you reach the next listening spot, press pause on this track before playing the next one.

Track 2

“The Bridge”

Excerpt: Nov 11th

Remember to press pause on this track before starting the next one.

Track 3

“The Wier”

Excerpt: Nov 28th

Remember to press pause on this track before starting the next one.

Track 4

“Dark River”

Excerpt: Dec 29th

Remember to press pause on this track before starting the next one.

Track 5

“The Meadow”

Excerpt: Mar 2nd

Remember to press pause on this track before starting the next one.

Track 6

“Final Meeting”

Excerpt: Apr 4th

Remember to press pause on this track before starting the next one.

End of trail

Thank you for taking part in this Audio Escape Trail.


Below you will find more information about J.A. Baker, and the peregrine falcons he watched.

There’s also lots of other great events happening as part of the festival. You can find these on the festival website.

We are very keen to hear your feedback or comments, and you can leave this by using the link here:

About the book & the Author

A world-renowned nature book, The Peregrine was written by John Alec Baker in 1967. 

Born in Chelmsford in 1926, Baker was self-taught. He didn’t go to university, having failed the entrance exams, and learnt both the craft of writing and birdwatching from extensive reading and long exchanges of letters with friends. He published only two books, The Peregrine and The Hill of Summer – both set in the Essex countryside. 

Baker was born and lived in Chelmsford all his life. He grew up on Finchley Avenue, to the South of Chelmsford city centre, attended Trinity Road Primary School then King Edward VI Grammar School, and moved to Marlborough Road, just a few streets away from his childhood home, after he married a woman called Doreen Coe in 1956. They were together for the rest of Baker’s life.   

Baker never learned to drive, so all of his bird-watching trips to the countryside were made on foot or by bicycle, apart from occasional lifts from Doreen. Throughout his life he suffered from an arthritic condition that could leave him incapacitated for long stretches, and the medicine prescribed for this illness is likely what caused the cancer that eventually killed him. He died in 1987, aged only 61.

If you want more information on Baker’s life, and the Chelmsford he grew up in, historian Hetty Saunders has written a fantastic biography titled ‘My House of Sky’. In its pages Saunders brings Baker vividly and empathetically to life. Her soaring and majestic book is available here.

A ghost of a narrator … Baker as a young man on the Essex coast. Photograph: Special Collections, Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, and the Estate of JA Baker

About the birds

The etymology of the word ‘peregrine’ comes from the Latin word ‘peregrinus’, which means ‘wanderer’ or ‘pilgrim’. It is an homage to the birds’ seasonal migrations. Peregrines travel to Essex each Autumn – nesting around the estuary and surrounding farmland through Winter and early Spring, before returning to their summer hunting grounds in Scandinavia.

Peregrines now have a small but stable breeding population in the UK of around 1500 pairs. But at the time Baker was writing the species was in crisis. A particular farm chemical known as DDT was having a devastating impact on falcon numbers, and it was unclear if the UK peregrine population would survive. Baker’s book, and other awareness campaigns, led to improvements in legislation and protection for these incredible birds and their numbers have since rebounded. Peregrines are a conservation success story.

Baker describes adult peregrines as being ‘roughly the length of a man’s arm from elbow to fingertip’. Female birds, known as falcons, are slightly larger than male birds, known as tiercels. Adults are black, blue, or grey above, with barred white and grey feathers below. Both sexes also have a characteristic drooping dak patch on either side of their beaks that looks something like a thick moustache. For more information on Peregrines, as well as pictures and sounds of their calls visit the RSPB website here.

Peregrine Images

Take a look at the world's fastest animal
Brought to you by PRONK! Productions and partners the British Science Festival, Anglia Ruskin University and CODA Falconry.