Burnley’s Singing Ringing Tree: it’s grim up north

When I started this blog five years ago, I was looking forward to writing inspiring travel stories about the world’s great cities and beauty spots. Think Venice, Hong Kong, Halong Bay and Lake Bled. One place I didn’t think I’d ever write about is Burnley, but that was before I’d been to the Singing Ringing Tree.

While staying with friends Ben and Jo near Preston, Jo said it had always been one of her dreams to see “a whistling tree” near Burnley. Why not, we all thought?

So having made the picturesque drive along the M65, we found the Singing Ringing Tree, high on a hillside overlooking the Lancashire mill town of Burnley.

We had left Preston to slate grey skies and drizzle, but by the time we pulled into the visitor car park, snow started to fall. We could clearly see Burnley town centre and its football stadium Turf Moor (affectionately known as Turd Moor by rival fans) below us.

The snow continued to fall – I felt like I was part of Captain Scott’s doomed Antarctic expedition, and said to Kat “I may be some time”, as she chose wisely to stay in the car.

Within five minutes, a major snow blizzard was blowing horizontally in our faces and visibility was so poor, we couldn’t see anything other than an odd metal tree and a background of white.

The Singing Ringing Tree sculpture has been on this hill since 2006, and is part of the Panopticons project to “erect a series of 21st century landmarks across East Lancashire”. As well as Burnley’s Panopticon, there is The Atom in Pendle, Colourfields in Blackburn and The Halo in Rossendale to see if I’m lucky enough to visit the area again. The idea is to entice people into the countryside to see these sculptures and enjoy panoramic views at the same time.

From a distance it looks like one of those flat-topped trees you might see in the African savanna. But up close it looks ridiculous, and nothing like a tree. It’s made of tubes of galvanised steel, which are supposed to sing and ring in the wind, but on our visit, they were howling like a pack of wolves in the storm-force winds.

I have been complimented on the quality of my photos in the past, and make an effort to take nice images that complement my writing. But I must apologise for the lack of pics here – my camera clicking finger went numb in the frozen conditions soon after I’d taken two photos of the tree looking like something from Alien.

According to Google, the average visitor spends 30 minutes here, but we had been and gone inside 30 seconds.

Burnley were playing Chelsea at Turd Moor that afternoon, and I wasn’t sure how Chelsea’s pampered millionaires would fancy it in the snowy north. As it happened, they were lucky to get away with a point, and their manager Antonio Conte looked eager to get back to civilisation a.s.a.p once the final whistle had blown.

If you fancy experiencing the Singing Ringing Tree for yourself, be prepared to share the road up the hill with stray sheep going walkies and watch out for cattle grids.

And wrap up warm – preferably in ski jacket, gloves and mask.

Categories: UK and IrelandTags: , , ,


  1. My god, you were brave going to the outskirts of Burnley on such a day………….but then again, moist days are like that in Burnley (known as “the land god gave to Cain’ to the locals)

  2. dreary weather for your visit..interesting sculpture

  3. Flippin’ heck! It’s a bit of a come down from Venice! Or even St. Abb’s Head 🙂 🙂 I have heard of it but won’t be rushing there any time soon. Thanks for saving me the trouble.

  4. Do you remember ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ on Kid’s TV (Tales From Europe) or was that before your time? If you get a minute Google it and watch a most bizarre fairy tale.

    They have something similar at the sea front in Zadar in Croatia called the wind organ which works on the same principle!

  5. Ah I live in Clitheroe which is not that far from Burnley….yet I have never visited The Singing Ringing Tree. Gonna make sure I do this year. Ps It’s not Always Grim up North.Honest!

  6. Hah, this post made me laugh, it felt very British! I would definitely go out of my way to visit this for the strange spectacle it is and nothing more.

    It strikes me that seeing this thing operate at its best is very weather dependant. On a still and sunny day it probably won’t make a sound, but on a day like yours, you’ll get wolves!

  7. What a brave and intrepid blogger you are Andrew, venturing forth into the frozen north. I’m glad to be able to view this sight from the warmth of my study!

    • Did I just call you Andrew? It must have been the thought of that chilly wind slicing through my brain. Many apologies Richard!

    • Hard work but someone’s got to do it! I’ve seen photos lately of the view from the top of the hill looking lovely and green in the spring sunshine.

      • FO… as of yesterday, the US has suspended all detipratoon of Haitians. When people bitch that there is no difference in how Obama Admin handles their shit and the previous one handled theirs… I hope we all remember this and that there IS a difference. In first 24 hours, our military has taken over air traffic control so that planes can land…. our Navy's sea hospital will be in port today, and 3 C Transport planes have been off loaded and supplies and rescue equipment are now on the streets.

      • every womans different i put 3 stone on with my first child then when i had my daughter two years later i only put 1 stone on ,it depends on how active you , and weather you milk the situation or not , i didn’t i just got on with it

  8. Wow! That’s some weather you had, but it adds a certain drama to the place. I like the sculpture and visiting things like this is something I enjoy.

  9. Makes for an interesting photo even though the weather seems grim.

  10. Interested to hear your views – you had a not great experience. But on a good day (all 4 of them) you get a great view up there anyway – does the ‘tree’ add anything?

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