Do you find peace and quiet in your garden?

Pigeon in birdbath

With the weather improving, many of us will be heading out into our gardens. But do you find that noisy neighbours or pesky animals ruin it for you?

Ah, the spring! The first flowers are open and the weather is mild enough to tempt us into the garden.

And there’s nothing better than sitting in your garden on a sunny afternoon, cool drink in hand, listening to the birds singing… or the neighbours cutting through a huge pile of logs with a chainsaw… or dogs incessantly yapping.

In February we asked over a thousand Which? members which noises they loved and which bothered them in the garden. The results really got us talking.

Nuisance noise

Of the people who told us they’d been bothered by noise in their garden, almost two fifths had been bothered by a dog or dogs barking. Road and traffic noise were a big irritant too along with neighbours’ garden parties.

A fifth who’d been bothered by noise found the sound of someone mowing the lawn irritating. But a lot of people also said they found the same sound restful.

Bird song was reported as the most restful sound – but not seagulls, cockerels, rooks or wood pigeons.
As for me, I don’t mind the gentle tinkle of a wind-chime, but my colleague describes her neighbour’s wind chime as ‘infuriating tuneless dissonant clanging’.

But cats fighting, foxes yelping and in one case, cannon fire from a medieval festival, all seem to jangle our nerves.

Combatting unwelcome noise

Some noise you can never get rid of, but can fade into the background once you’re used to it, like traffic. Other noise can be dealt with after a quiet word with the neighbours.

So what do you do to combat unwelcome noise in your garden? Do you retaliate or retreat inside? What noises are the most irritating for you, and which do you find restful?


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I love the sounds of nature and we have wood pigeons in our garden permanently. Watching them bathe in a small dog bowl is a sight to behold and I can’t understand anyone not liking their cooing.

Roosts of some birds can be noisy, but they only make a racket during breeding season so not very long to put up with them.

I am lucky to live in a reasonably quiet area with no ongoing nuisance noises but I have lived in or visited other places where noise could drive you mad.

I think lawnmowers and screaming kids are the worst.

When I lived on an estate with many small gardens, lawnmowers were going all weekend and the smaller they are the noisier they seem to be. I did consider posting a note through everyones doors suggesting an amnesty from them on Sunday afternoons so we all got some peace but never got around to it.

As a child, if we screamed it meant we were in trouble and a parent would come rushing out to see what the problem was. We got severely reprimanded if there was no problem so did not scream when playing. These days kids don’t seem to be able to play without screaming and parents make no attempt to stop them.

My bugbear is aircraft noise which seems worse on a sunny. Living on the south east coast I do not expect to be bothered by light aeroplanes: jet are high enough not to be heard.

Mike G says:
15 June 2016

Light aircraft noise on fine clear days is a nuisance here too over the Surrey hills. I believe there is a minimum height restriction but it often seems to be ignored over rising ground.

Where we live in Snowdonia the only sounds we hear are gurgling brooks (we have one at the bottom of the garden), woodpigeons (we have several mating pairs), sparrowhawks, sheep awaiting feeding, lambs having just been born or simply gambolling in the hills, cattle, when they’re returned to the fields, our woodpeckers and very occasionally a tractor. In short, if you don’t like cities with their traffic and what seems to be continuous noise it’s a wonderful place to live.

I don’t agree that “country folk can be very sly if irritated” and certainly no more than ‘city folk’, who – to judge from the media, anyway – are more likely to resort to violence to sort out issues; we are just as straightforward as anyone and – more to the point – there’s a very strong sense of community which works to support those who need help and, in the mountains, that can be anyone at any time.

But the biggest problem in the mountains affects the olfactory nerves; muck spreading is widely used to keep the winter quarters for the cattle clean, so if the wind’s in the wrong direction it’s time to get the air freshener out.

The gurgling brooks can also sometimes become minor torrents but when you live in rural areas some things are different. For a start, the only night life comprises badgers, toads, foxes and persistent owls. Most folk that we know see bedtime at around 2230, and even the young farmers are pretty shattered by then, so the nights are silent, apart from the owls. But mornings are different. There’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise amid ruby-red clouds and seeing the colours of the rocks and the fields fill out as it lifts above the mountains. Sunsets are even more spectacular and we never tire of seeing numerous colours in the sky as the sun slips silently behind the Carneddau.

The other delight is the almost total absence of crime; any vehicle heard after 2100 is presumed to be up to no good and with the size of the tractors the sheep farming community use there’s no easy escape routes. But overall I don’t think we’d ever swap where we live, despite the occasional muck spreading…

Aah! Nature’s year! Isn’t it wonderful? Just after the springing forward of the clocks we have the annual “what annoys you in the garden?” topic to ruminate on. I presume this is mainly for the benefit of Which?’s suburban clientele to enable those of us who live the rural life to tempt them into the tranquil pastures of the countryside. Sadly we too have to put up with the neighbour’s yap dogs, the frequent roar of military aircraft, the jangle of Greensleeves from the ice cream vendor’s van, and other noisome distractions. But we don’t mind any of that because we have the delights of Norfolk on our doorstep and to be able to lean on a gate and watch the newborn lambs, or see the pigs snuffling in their troughs, and virtually see the buds turn into leaves on the trees as you watch, makes up for the unwelcome intrusions.

As Adelaide says “. . . spring! The first flowers are open and the weather is mild enough to tempt us into the garden“, and so it did yesterday. In between the heavy showers I managed to mow the lawns [wearing two sweaters and gloves and with a hot drink on the table that went stone cold before I could finish it]. But the smaller birds appreciated my efforts with their thank-you sing-song as they discovered more insects in the grass and with the loud applause from the bigger birds as they flapped and clapped their wings. Even the squealing and squawking of the seagulls who have not yet gone back to the seaside, and the lively chatter of the rooks in their lofty cots, were a pleasure to the ears [under the woolly hat].

We occasionally get Greater and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers visiting our trees. I like the tap-tap-tap noise! The coo-coo of pigeons makes up for their naughtiness in removing my pea plants (the aren’t “my” plants are they, really?). When I’m out in the garden I’m usually working – planting, digging, weeding, and sometimes making a noise with the hedge trimmer and the lawn mower – and just switch off from the outside world. So I can tolerate my neighbour’s radio, ambulance sirens, helicopters, glider tugs, and all else that goes on. Very little time to just sit down with a G&T.

I live in the middle of a fair sized village and next to one of the village pubs and the village shop. We are also half way between two busy churches. I’ve lived in the country for about 35 years after spending 30 years in big cities in my youth and will never go back. Initially I lived in a very quiet isolated village for 8 years, which was quite depressing. I don’t mind listening to garden activities since it shows people are around. I can even tolerate the holiday traffic, since it is predominantly during the school summer holidays, but I do object to the heavy lorries that are specifically directed through the village as an alternative to the main road, which has a very steep windy hill. I also find strimmers irritating. It is so rare to hear children that I would welcome the sound of them playing. Our village suffers from the escalating price of housing so that many young families can’t afford to live here however we do have two primary schools.

The pub next door to us is very popular and we have had problems with carousing at times but we chose to live here!

When we arrived there was little wildlife in our garden but we have planted five fruit trees and have two enormous compost heaps, which has dramatically increased the number of birds and we also have a pet hedgehog. When you are out in the garden people stop to chat specifically because of our position – my husband spends hours chatting when he’s ‘gardening’.

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Rowan says:
9 April 2016

We live in a rather remote part of the Scottish Highlands – peaceful, you might think. However it rains a lot (especially last summer) so people have to garden when they can. Most sunny summer days have a buzzing accompaniment of strimmers (lawn mowers are impossible on steep hillside gardens) – which includes us – to keep the grass tidy.
So it can be noisy, but do you know what? For the majority of the year it is beautifully quiet, scenic and a joy (despite the occasional fighter jets on training sorties up the loch and the main trunk road nearby). Since moving up here we’ve found everyone accepts things as they are, and no-one minds as long as you think about your neighbours – i.e.not starting your grass cutting at 7 a.m.!
It is more peaceful than when we lived in Surrey, where we had to contend with screeching children at play (why do they yell so much in their gardens) also up and down the pavement on bikes and scooters, sirens from emergency vehicles, pub-goers shouting as they wend their drunken ways home past our house, garden parties which always seem to be accompanied by a device belting out music at top volume, and regular helicopters overhead.
Scotland is far quieter, despite the strimming

Barking dogs and noisy sparrows!

hardy perennial says:
9 April 2016

Happy dogs are my big bug bear.
I like most dogs and the ones I know personally are well behaved and don’t bark every time some one rings the doorbell, or every time they see a cat, or every time the wind blows. But people opposite have a happy dog who yaps incessantly form morning till night. Infuriating and not even a decent big dog bark!
The other thing that drives me nuts is when people play loud music through an open window. I love hearing birds sing, on a sunny day and I have no objection to everyday people sounds, but why impose your taste in music on others, when they may just want to hear the nature around them?

711paul says:
15 June 2016

Seemingly deaf neighbourhood dog owners, and inconsiderate garden machinery users are great spoilers for us! The odd bark is fine, but uncontrolled barking that goes unchecked is a nightmare if you are trying to read or just listen to nature. Why do many dog owners not seem to care about courtesy toward neighbours?
The other frequent noise intrusion is garden machinery running over weekend mealtimes or evenings. Lets have a moratorium from 12 – 2 (at least at weekends) and from 6pm onwards please!

Alfred Coulson says:
10 April 2016

My house backs onto a public footpath, and every time I step out into my back garden, or someone passes on the footpath, my neighbour’s dog yaps and yaps and yaps. If I remain outside and make the slightest noise, it starts up again. Seriously, this ‘dumb’ animal is ruining our quality of life, especially during the Summer months.

We have exactly the same problem with a small yappy dog that is left out in the garden almost all day and yaps frenetically at anything passing, or me in the garden. Added to that, they also have a large trampoline which is sometimes occupied by up to five screaming girls for hours on end! Have you mentioned your problem to your neighbour at all? You might find this website useful:

Maggie says:
10 April 2016

I live in a part of Docklands that most people don’t know exists, not far from London City airport, and I can see Canary Wharf from my landing windows. There are 2 ponds and extensive parkland nearby, so I get all sorts of noises in my garden: the distant hum of traffic from the A 13, planes taking off, the faint clackety-clack of the DLR. We have lots of wildlife for what is essentially an inner London location: as well as the usual starlings, robins, blackbirds, magpies and bluetits, I have wrens, collared doves, woodpigeons, jays and the odd woodpecker. I’ve often heard the thrum of swans’ and geese wings as they fly over the house – we’re on a migration route. I enjoy the sounds most birds make, I even love the noisy jostling of the starlings on the birdfeeders, but the ‘croo croo’ of the collared doves drives me to distraction. It sounds like someone doing a very poor impression of a pigeon. Human generated annoyances are a neighbour who thinks we all share his love of country music and a yappy dog next door, both of which are usually solved with a polite word.

Chris Shovelton says:
16 April 2016

We live in a town but back onto woods. We are thus blessed with the sounds of various birds, including buzzards, owls and assorted standard garden birds. These are all “good” sounds as are the occasional night time fox yelps. We also get pigeons, magpies etc which are less pleasant but part of nature.
What drives us to distraction is the fact that our neighbours keep poultry and for some reason they insist on keeping a cockerel which crows most of the day from morn till night. That is not a peaceful sound, nor is it appropriate for an urban setting.

I must agree with you Chris. A cockerel crowing would be expected, and should be tolerated, in the country but not in town. People should have respect for their neighbours – like controlling continually yapping dogs, interminable loud music with the windows open, and so on.

A relative in a town lived with poultry next door that attracted rats due to poor attention to cleaning – particularly spilt food. These invaded her own property. Is that acceptable? I don’t think it is.

Living in close proximity to others does bring with it responsibilities.

The email headline linking to this was “peace and quiet”. I do not disagree with previous contributors but paradoxically they extol the benefits of lack of quiet and not what makes for peace!
Environmental health regulations recognise the annoyance of noise comes from its intensity & type relative to background noise that is usually road noise. For us the greatest disturber of our peace is the smell every afternoon from a nearby restaurant whose chimney etc meets environmental regulations & is well maintained but whose smell of spices cooking is very evident every afternoon when the prevailing wind is in our direction. Until we moved a cowshed was our neighbour.
Another annoyance for some is light pollution.
I can always switch my hearing aids off for sound, put dark dark glasses on for light, wear a face mask for smells & if I can then fall asleep instead of being agitated by all the overdue weeding, pruning & lawn treatments then that is peace exactly as I would aim to get on holiday.

Living in a small East Sussex town we have been lucky for nearly 20 years….until now. Minor traffic noise, lawn mowers, strimmers etc even partying and occasional loud music don’t bother us. Noisy birds are welcome. But we have now been invaded by ……wheelie bin noise ! We have an elevated garden with a perimeter wall and fence on top of that. There is a private estate at the back of us and several of the adjacent 7 bungalow properties have now started stock-piling their 2-3 bins per property against our wall. Sitting out on our decking on a quiet sunny day is now spoilt by the slamming of bin lids . and once one has slammed it seems to create a ‘lets dump our rubbish as well” reaction. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop at noise. We’ve just forked out for pest control following a rat infestation (attracted by the smell from the bins), deterred a would-be burglar using a bin as a hop-up to climb our wall, are concerned about the fire hazard if a bin was torched and generally are unhappy with this problem. Yes, we’ve reported it to the council ( couldn’t be bothered to come and see us) and our local councillor who bumbled around for 2-3 weeks before being scared off by the estate manager ! Next step is ,I suppose our local MP……what a bind. To add insult to injury the private estate manager writes “our residents only want to live peacefully and quietly” … our expense !!!!

We live in the countryside. and it was heaven for 15 or so years.
3 years ago planning permission was given for 90 houses at the back of us in a small valley. Then more permission was given for another 244 houses. Since that time the noise of the site lorries constantly beeping has invaded our lives (and our garden) from 8 in the morning to 5 in the evening 5 days a week and till 1 ish on a Saturday. We have had 3 years or more of this intrusion so far and probably about another 6 to go. It is nerve shattering , high ptched noise pollution,, never mind the loss of habitat for the wildlife that used to make our lives a joy.
I know this is happening all over the country and my sympathy goes out to everyone who has to suffer this .

The noise of reversing vehicles [and especially the fork-lifts and dumper trucks that are constantly going to and fro on site] make life a misery even on a small development. This is a fairly recent form of disturbance that has not been recognised in the planning system: there are usually planning conditions restricting the hours of work on a building site but they have not changed since the days when building work was a fairly quiet activity with low-tech machinery. Now, every process is mechanised, every brick that has to be cut is done with an angle grinder, all timber is sawn with a power tool, and nothing is pushed around in a wheelbarrow but always on an all-terrain vehicle that is both noisy and intrusive.

It also seems to me that the builders are putting up two or three houses at a time scattered over the site, and selling them off, rather than getting on with it and building whole sections in one go before ‘releasing’ them. Again, the planners have a lot to answer for here because they have demanded a ludicrous amount of inconsistency in new house patterns on new developments so no two adjacent properties look alike and cannot be built efficiently in a row, terrace or block. The higgledy-piggledy site layouts reminiscent of the wormcasts on beaches haven’t helped either because it means the first residents are marooned in a crazy network of unfinished roadways and have to endure the sight and sounds of the never-ending construction work and deliveries past their new homes for far too long.

It took the company over three years to complete our small development of just sixty homes on a generous site. Things weren’t always quite as bad as I have described but the disturbance did drive us to go away for a few days from time to time. The new houses are wonderful and we are very pleased with ours but living on the edge of a building site was quite painful at times. I certainly think the local authorities should ban any noisy activity on Saturdays and limit it to 0900 – 1600 on weekdays. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that many people are at home all day. Somehow we didn’t mind the builders’ radios and comical banter – it was the mechanical noise that was so intrusive.

It might concentrate the minds of local councils if Council Tax for the planning authority was not payable until the entire scheme was finished [the county council and police authority could still have their precepts].

John says:
27 April 2016

The next door neighbour chain smoking which blows into my home or when they decide to cremate food what ever the weather again blowing towards the house, making summer a misery.

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” Nose pegs at the ready … musang king durians are now on sale in the UK. The infamous durian – regarded the king of fruit in much of south-east Asia – is best known for its pungent smell, variously compared to sewage, rotting flesh or, at best, ripe cheese.”

The suggestion is that they are best eat in the garden ……

However escalation is actually not a very good method of resolution and one has to bear in mind that if neighbours with addictions exist then smoking is quite a mild as alcohol could make for a far more unpleasant neighbour.

At 7am I am just surfacing, often rudely woken by a car alarm set off by the owner for a few seconds before they open the door. People driving away from their own house blow the car horn to tell family they are just leaving! Worst irritation is unattended house alarms (I think they can go on for up to 20 minutes). My peace is shattered by that time.

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I am not bothered by noise where I live – but what I hate is people who start bonfires. Just when people want to sit out in the lovely weather, or want to have their washing drying on the line outside, or want to just open their windows – we have to retreat inside and shut the windows. (or suffer from breathing problems if we stay out in it)
I thought there was some law about burning garden rubbish. There is no need these days with all the recycling for garden rubbish or just make a compost bin/heap…

Constantly yapping dogs – there are two next door who are constantly bark whenever I (or other neighbours ) are in the garden, or when they hear an external noise of any sort.
Its relentless and I am seriously considering moving house for that sole reason.

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It cannot be beyond the wit and intelligence of 21st Century engineers to use noise reducing surfacing materials to surface busy roads near to residential areas, especially A roads and motorways. This type of noise
is to one extent or another 24/7.