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?

Peter says:
15 June 2016

Not having a garden at present I/We have attempted to make our back yard as pleasant as possible with decking, trellis surround, potted trees and plants and ornaments. So I envy those that have a garden what ever the size. However noise can be detrimental what ever the environment outside you wish to relax in, for example in our case – Seagulls/dog barking (both for hours on end). People shouting, arguing, sirens – Po;ice/Ambulance. To mention a few of the annoyances endured, but on a rare occasion silence and if lucky bird song (Blackbird) – Bliss.

Brian says:
15 June 2016

Excessively noisy cars roaring round the roads especially late on Friday and Saturday nights.

I have a pair of wood pigeons who use my garden constantly [. There are no veggies to spoil.] They just sit on the lawn, or sometimes in the bird bath. If that is empty of water they look at it in a most frustrated fashion that makes me go and fill it up pronto. What is not to like about them ? They keep me amused for hours. As they are a twosome, do they mate for life ?
What does annoy me is my neighbours leyandii that encroach over my fence by several feet.And his attitude to my asking him to do something about them. Told me to get my gardener to do it. As a pensioner I can’t afford a gardener. Being stroppy, last time I cut them I deposited the cuttings on his doorstep with a note saying they were his.
Margaret Cameron

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David says:
15 June 2016

Noise from garden machinery, DIY sawing nearby and sometimes barking dogs are our main disturbances. Distant traffic noise also when wind is from the east.

D Cormack says:
15 June 2016

We have a neighbour, who seems to believe that as they think their very loud beat music is wonderful that all the neighbours must also love lt. It seems to just beat rhythm We hate it but there seems to be nothing to do but accept and retire indoors

Robin Gallagher says:
15 June 2016

We live in a quiet hamlet that is now surrounded with housing developments. On one side our land falls into a shallow valley that has narrow road at its foot. This is a magnet for local motorbikers (without and without helmets and number plates), and the noise echos up the valley walls into the garden. As holidays approach, we expect the noise nuisance too increase considerably. The police seem to have little success in catching them.

One of my ex-motorcycle cop biking buddies once sagely informed me that “almost all field bikes have been stolen” so if you are troubled by feral scum trespassing on private land, you should not give up on complaining to both the police and the land owner.

Although we like our neighbours as people, they cause us three separate, serious problems.

We suffer on both sides of our garden from teenagers who seem to think it is acceptable to kick their balls over the fence. We accept the noise of children – unless you can afford to live in a remote, detached house noise in inevitable. But the footballs (and sometimes rugby balls or tennis balls) cause damage in our garden. We are retired people and we grow food in our outside space; a heavy ball can ruin our crops or even damage the cage we have put up to protect them. We have added height to our fences but, as the boys get older, they just seem to kick their balls higher and harder.

On one side the neighbours have trees along much of their fence. These shade our garden from about 11am until evening. One particularly large hornbeam tree sucks all water from about a quarter of our garden – even grass will not grow there!

There are dogs on both sides but on one side the dog barks every time we go in or out, either at our front door or into the back garden, which is very irritating. It also sometimes goes into continuous howling mode when the neighbours are out.

Hugh, any damage done to any part of your property by a neighbours children is vandalism which is an offence. You can also cut any tree branches overhanging your space and give them back to the tree owner as they belong to them, unless you live in a conservation area as I do when planning permission is required from your local council.

Persistent dog barking is also an offence. Your local councils Environment Dept. is authorised to take action if all convivial attempts between you and your neighbour have failed. Parents are responsible to control their children’s behaviour and most reasonable people will understand if you explain to them the damage their balls are causing to your crops.

You are entitled to enjoy peace and quiet in your retirement and if I were in your shoes I don’t think I would find it quite as easy as you do to ‘like’ your uncaring and indifferent neighbours who obviously have little regard for your health and wellbeing. Good Luck!

I have had an instance where a line of poplars were suckering and damaging a brick-laid car-park. This at some distance from the trees. Representations made to the commercial owner resulted in remedial action being taken. I cannot recall precisely how much we charged for re-instatement of the bricks.

Trees are nice and I am in favour of them. Tall hedges not so if the impinge on neighbours.

I live in an urban area and my neighbour has three rescue dogs which bark and whine at the slightest thing. Dogs bark and rescue dogs usually have had a traumatic life, but sympathy runs thin after awhile. The sounds of children enjoying themselves and lawn mowing are fine, even on a Sunday after 8am, but using a chainsaw on a Sunday for a non emergency is anti social .

Personally, I think it should be ILLEGAL to be up and about before 9 am on Sundays – but that’s just me.

I also have a good friend who has a rescue dog that barks a lot. I keep telling her that she’d have been better off with a rabbit…

Brian Hackett says:
16 June 2016

Every time the sun comes out, so do the mowers and strimmers, drowning out the birds and bees. I really think people don’t realise how much they are spoiling other people’s relaxation. We have plenty of cool cloudy days when the work can be done.
I’d love to see Which campaigning to raise awareness – just something simple like:

Warm sunny day? Put the power tools away!

Rioja says:
26 February 2019

It should be a law. My happiness is peace in my sunny garden. I only get a couple of hours in between the dogs barking and the north facing garden. Every single time the sun pops out someone spoils my time within seconds with mowers strimmers and hedge cutters. Please stop.

Awful rotary mowers that whine on and on, should be banned, or a time limit placed per square metre

My grin is getting wider all the time I read this lot. There’s only one solution for some people – they will need to go back about 1000 years and live in isolation in the local forest. Noise is people getting on with their lives, we all make some and there’s only one way to deal with it and that’s a bit of give and take.

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Rowland Hopkinson says:
16 June 2016

Yapping dogs. Let out in the first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Also when other dogs go past. A real pain.

We have a very noisy family at the bottom of our garden. They have a kind of summer house with flashing lights and every fine evening they play loud music in there.Their 2 dogs are very yappy and the mother does not know the meaning of the word talk – only shout.

Brian Smale says:
16 June 2016

I live in a reasonably quiet area and noise from neighbours is not much of a problem, although traffic speeding by on what is supposed to be a 30mph road is quite annoying. I would not object to neighbours’ parties because that’s all a part of enjoying life, except that girls who constantly scream and shriek when playing can be a pain.

I lived on the continent for 18 years years and in Belgium and Germany the use of noisy garden machines on Sundays was forbidden. That really made for very pleasant garden time in the summer. I do find it irritating when neighbours use petrol mowers at full throttle, angle grinders and other really loud machines on a Sunday.

Bruce says:
16 June 2016

We do have yapping dogs nearby and a neighbour who bought a loud petrol driven mower for his small lawn but my biggest gripe is over neighbours who use quantities of BBQ lighting fluid. It’s stench is sickening – worse than that of burnt meat – and I do wonder if perhaps it is carcinogenic?

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I live on a hill in North Wales, away from the town and roads, and with no neighbours within 100 yards. So you would think all was quiet and peaceful, apart from the sheep and horses. But no, we get frequent and irregular screaming visits by jets from the RAF base on Anglesey, using our hill for low-flying navigation.

I realise that these particular professional men (perhaps women also) have to sharpen their skills in doing what they do and that is flying military aircraft, in particular jet fighters. But why directly overhead of where we live and do vertical climbs with re-heat or afterburners turned on . The noise generated really does rattle things. I have watched them with and without binoculars. Not only the noise but heaven forbid they have engine problems have have to eject from their aircraft leaving it to “land” wherever. It has happened before. But as far as the noise is concerned it really is deafening.

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Anne says:
16 June 2016

I believe that some countries do not allow the use of mechanical tools on a Sunday in order to give everyone a peaceful day.
In France, there is an unwritten law that no-one uses noisy garden tools during lunch time ie between 12 and 2pm.
These don’t seem to ne unreasonable ideas to keep the peace between neighbours.

It is surprising that noise and, even more importantly in my view, the efficiency of lawn mowers has not come to the attention of Brussels. Emissions from lawnmowers and garden machinery in general is many orders of magnitude bigger than toasters or vacuum cleaners and may even be significant

ray says:
17 June 2016

Neigbours dogs (two) bark every day
The owner is often present whilst they bark