Generally we associate gardens with peace and quiet, and I know that we inconvenience ourselves considerably at Veddw in not using noisy machinery when we open the garden – and we hate it when other people do use strimmers and hedge cutters when we pay to visit.
Is noise inevitable everywhere in reality and our stereotypes of gardens perhaps over constricting? Though we could at least think of creating deliberate noise that actually adds to the experience?
Here’s Alison Levey’s experience and thoughts on the subject.
Anne Wareham, editor
I had the good fortune to call in at Westonbirt Arboretum recently on my way home from a trip to Bath. I had had a very nice few days away and in my head what I wanted to finish off my break was a nice, quiet, peaceful walk surrounded by trees.
On arrival to Westonbirt you have a choice, head into the main arboretum or go into the Silk Wood. As I arrived I could see the arrival of a school visit of young teenagers. They were loud and boisterous and clearly ready for a fun day out of the main school routine. Silently I cursed a bit to myself but thought if I got on with my walk I could probably avoid them. They could enjoy their day, I could enjoy mine. This was a mistake. They split into groups and I kept running into them no matter how hard I tried not to. I could also hear them wherever I went and it became increasingly intrusive.
As it grew more intrusive I became more and more frustrated by this and started to head back to the car park. I had paid £9 to enter and for a 20 minute trip this felt a poor use of my money so I diverted myself into the Silk Wood. The Silk Wood was peace and calm personified. A few walkers like me, many with dogs just enjoying the early autumn sun and the beauty of the surroundings.
As I continued to walk I considered further my exceptionally grumpy attitude to the school visit. As I entered the Silk Wood I could see three more coaches of various school age children heading in to the main wood for the morning.
I decided I was being unreasonable in my frustration and also contrary to what I believe to be right. Many of us often say how much we want the younger generation to be involved in gardening and nature. I myself tried to interest my children in planting things, but as with most things, once they reached teen years the fact that I enjoyed it labelled it totally as ‘uncool’.
I remembered also going on school trips to woods with my children when they were that age and how much the children loved being outside and just enjoying nature around them.
But – I argued to myself – I came here for peace and tranquillity and they very nearly ruined that. I paid my £9 for a peaceful walk and I nearly gave up on that quest.
The point, as I see it, still remains that the children had as much right to be there as I had. Yes I had paid, but so had they. I wanted to enjoy the space in one way and them in another – which one of us was wrong? It is not my space, nor is it theirs and at the end of the day whilst they were loud and boisterous it was with happy noises. It was the realisation that it was happy noises that finally resolved this internal debate. Had they been swearing, shouting and screaming abuse at each other I think I would have been fully justified in feeling annoyed at their presence. They were not, they were enjoying the woods at least as much as I was and that has to be good. Thankfully there was an escape route for me, I could find the peace I was looking for and we could both co-exist in the arboretum happily.
I would however have liked some guidance that one wood would be noticeably noisier than the others, something to let me know that I would be sharing my time with school trips so that I was forewarned.
The experience in general made me decide that we have to find our own ways to co-exist in these open spaces and to enjoy seeing others being happy. If we wish for something different we need to find a way to achieve that for ourselves. The children were not responsible for my annoyance, I was. If we want to share our gardens and areas of natural beauty with the younger generations then this is the compromise I am willing to make – I wonder how many others are?