Good noise, bad noise

Country Life adores the sound of cricket and church bells, but not the roar of planes or lorries. Here, we unveil our most loved and hated countryside noises

The countryside is a noisy place, with no shortage of animals, birds and vehicles of all kinds passing through on a regular basis-but which sounds do you enjoy, and what has you reaching for the earmuffs? We may categorise some sounds as ‘bad’, such as a vixen screaming, but we would never dream of a countryside without it. However, other noises, such as the roar of a motorway or revving of an off-road bike, we would happily exchange for the hoot of the tawny owl or thwack of a cricket ball any day.
Yet even these glorious sounds may not be to everyone’s taste. Does it surprise you that a resident petitioned to silence the church bells at Aldeburgh in Suffolk, branding the noise a nuisance-or would you support them? Here, Country Life names the top 10 best and worst noises of the countryside.
 
 We like to listen to…

1. Cricket
A relaxing afternoon on the village green is broken only by the sound of the gentle ‘thwack’ of the ball being hit, followed by the polite applause.

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2. Tawny owls
The ‘t-wit’ and ‘t-woo’ of the tawny owl is actually made by two owls working together; the female and male respectively. However, the popularity of this iconic sound does not extend to the screech of the barn owl.

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Noise courtesy of the British Library Sound Archive.

3. Streams
So long as it’s not a burst pipe, the burbling sound of running water is one we associate with lazy summer afternoons spent fishing and relaxing by the river.

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4. Woodland birds and the woodpigeon
Another sound that reminds us of summer, the the woodpigeon’s endless cooing can be enjoyed in almost every country garden, as the woodpigeon is the UK’s most common pigeon.   

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5. Church bells and organs
With 5,200 churches with bells to choose from in England alone, you don’t have to be a campanologist to appreciate them. Robert Lewis, editor of The Ringing World, recommends Chewton Mendip in Somerset, Oakham in Rutland and York Minster for the most heavenly peals. Organ music drifting into the village was also a favourite, and we applaud craftsmen such as Alan Partridge, who makes the reed shallots that give English organs their unique tone (Country Life, T&C, December 6).

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6. Horses
The clip-clopping of horses-including hound exercise on summer mornings-heading down the lane was a strong favourite.

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7. Bees
Not only has honey replaced marmalade as the nation’s favourite toast topping, but the British Beekeepers’ Association has enjoyed a 30% rise in membership over the past seven years as well. The buzz reminds us of hot summer days.

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Noise courtesy of the British Library Sound Archive.
 
8. Crackling of a wood fire
Spitting dry logs mean winter, Christmas and the transfixing power of a warming hearth.

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9. Cockerels
This one was a slight bone of contention in the office; although many loved the crowing, others felt it was quite a challenge at 5am.

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Noise courtesy of the British Library Sound Archive.
 
10. Steam trains
The longest heritage railways in the country are the West Somerset Railway (WSR) and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), at 23 and 18 miles respectively. The WSR begins in Bishops Lydeard and ends in Minehead near Exmoor; the NYMR starts at Pickering and terminates in Whitby. The latter goes via Goathland (better known as Aidensfield in Heart-beat or Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter films) and Grosmont, with its 1920s railway junction complete with tea room for a Brief Encounter moment.

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We cover our ears for…
 1. Motorways
The droning sound can carry for miles across flat countryside. If you hate the buzz, avoid junctions 13 and 14 (the nearest to Heathrow) of the M25, Britain’s busiest motorway, which accommodates some 200,000 cars a day.

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2. Strimmers
An aggressive, tedious and invasive sound that many objected to.

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3. Off-road motorbikes
That revving heralds only one thing: motorcross and the destruction of peaceful Sundays.

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4. Lorries on country lanes
There are some 440,000 lorries in Britain, including 90,000 articulated lorries over 38 tons, which bounce and rattle their way along otherwise quiet roads. The small village of Barrow Gurney lies en route to Bristol airport and sees 15,000 vehicles a day, including HGVs. It’s joined a growing number of villages asking to be taken off the electronic maps used in sat-navs.

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5. Electricity pylons
Humming and buzzing, the noise of pylons can detract from the value of your house.

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6. Planes
Planes are threatening the future of Newmarket, with increased traffic unsettling the horses, and, as outlined in our Manifesto 2008, National Air Traffic Services plans to redraw flight paths into Luton, Stansted and London City Airport, which means more flights over rural areas such as the Hertfordshire countryside around Bishop’s Stortford, Hatfield Forest and the Blackwater Estuary.

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7. Bluebottles
Whether buzzing on the floor or hitting the windowpane, bluebottles are not a welcome addition to summer.  

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8. Endless barking
There is only one thing worse than incessant barking: incessant yapping.

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9. Vixen
Some enjoyed the spooky sound of a vixen screaming, but most found it unsettling.

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    Noise courtesy of the British Library Sound Archive.
 
10. Poultry farms
A single, content, clucking hen, who has just laid an egg, is so much more appealing than the continuous gobbling of mass-produced poultry.

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Research by Rebecca Pearson and Alan Boyles

What do you think? Send your suggestions on a postcard to: Flora Birtles, Country Life, Blue Fin Building, 110, Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU. Please include your contact details.