CPRE Northumberland

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Nature's peace

Bolam Lake Bolam Lake © Don Brownlow Photography

For most people, especially those living in towns, the quality they value most in our countryside is its tranquillity.

Peaceful, unhurried, natural, with room to breathe and roam freely, the countryside has, since the dawn of civilisation, offered people somewhere to escape the noise, grime and crowded streets of urban life.

While our countryside is vanishing through the relentless spread of urbanisation, even more disturbing is the way what is left is rapidly losing its quiet and unspoilt character. Radio masts, pylons, traffic on main roads, buildings and structures out of keeping with rural tradition all form an insidious tide of infiltration that has been hard to oppose.   

The problem is that pinning down what anyone actually means by tranquillity, let alone sorting out where we can and can't find it, is notoriously difficult. CPRE started drawing up maps in the 1990s, and their efforts were boosted significantly about 10 years ago here in the North east when they commissioned a study of peoples' perceptions of tranquil places.

Researchers at both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities made a thorough job of quantifying features in rural tranquillity as perceived by a large sample of people. At the same time they studied two distinctive areas, a swathe of the Northumberland National Park and a section of the one-time mining and industrial area near Consett. The results of that study led to the informed, rational and robust approach to tranquillity which CPRE now champions.

Based on the key factors of openness, naturalness and quiet, landscapes with trees and/or water especially are the most highly valued for their tranquillity. Areas with lots of noise, people and commercial or industrial development score low by the same token.

Tranquillity maps of England show that we in the North east, followed by Cumbria and North Yorkshire, enjoy the widest expanses of tranquil countryside in the country. But only away from our larger towns and cities. We have much to be grateful for, but no cause to be complacent. Protecting and preserving our green heritage is a constant battle, but one we are determined to win.

We hope you will join us in keeping Northumberland's countryside a haven of true tranquillity, a place where 'nature's peace will flow into you as the sunshine flows into the trees' (John Muir).

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Tranquillity map of Northumberland (part) with Berwick just out of sight at the top, Newcastle bottom right and the National Park clearly marked. Green areas are most tranquil, yellow moderate, orange least. 

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