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?

Steve says:
17 June 2016

I understand some people still want/have to work on their cars engines but do they need to keep revving the engine when its running? It’s just not necessary as it proves nothing, if their car’s not running properly, revving the heart out of it isn’t going to help. It seems their brain is in their foot rather than their head!

Well how topical is this! From about 6.30pm until 11.00pm last night, someone in the village where I live decided to hold an outdoor event which involved continuous loud thump, thump, thump disco type “music” that could be both felt and heard above the TV, my noise cancelling headphones and all the double-glazed windows firmly closed. The only escape to drown it out was to turn up the headphone volume to a more gentle type music until it stopped.

There was no prior warning in the local news magazine of any such event taking place and I am wondering what effect this has had on the unfortunate people in the community with hypersensitive hearing. It has left me feeling quite drained to-day.

John says:
17 June 2016

In our village (c300 people and 115 homes) we have a ‘Quiet Sunday’ custom under which people are asked not to use machinery outdoors after 12 noon on Sundays. Most people follow the custom so that Sunday afternoons are generally quiet, the main noise comes on sunny days from leisure motor bikers roaring up the hill on the main road out of the village, a problem the police and local authority seem unwilling to tackle.

Good idea!! Years ago, we respected Sunday and tried to keep loud things for the week!!
Loud music in cars is louder in the summer too, when the car windows are open!!

Richard says:
7 August 2016

Dear John

I’d be VERY interested in learning more about how this was conceived and brought about.
We’d love to propose the same here in our small but noisy village!

Barry says:
17 June 2016

Almost guaranteed, on a rare sun drenched Sunday p.m. & garden relaxing time , out come the petrol mowers or DIY mania. Ban them on Sunday , as in Germany!

Deryck says:
17 June 2016

Oh how I agree! We lived in Germany for several years and he peace and quiet on a Sunday made sitting in the garden a pleasure. How about a petition to parliament on the subject?

Richard says:
18 June 2016

Sadly I have to concur with so many other correspondents. I am driven to distraction by the whine of 2 Stroke engines – mainly strimmers, but also chainsaws, hedge trimmers, and, God forbid, Leaf Blowers [!].

A Sunday ban seems a basic 1st start, and clearly quite practical as in several European countries.

The availability of petrol driven machinery at very cheap prices hardly helps, and Which testing Leaf Blowers etc without even mentioning the pollution issue is reprehensible.

The issue is a cultural one. Why people can’t enjoy the sound of birdsong and the fresh air without blighting it is beyond credence. It disappoints me greatly that support for organizations like the Noise Abatement Soiciety is so limited, and that DIY stores, Aldi, Lidl, et al punt this machinery to all without the dreadful damage done by their use being even acknowledged.

We keep a quarter acre garden with mostly electrical appliances quite happily, but then we don’t try to make it look like a Municipal Park.

Phil says:
18 June 2016

One of our close neighbours (3 doors away in a Victorian terraced street) leaves their (very large, though not ferocious) dog out for hours. It is the sort of large dog used in the mountains to guard flocks from Wolves, so it is bred to be an outdoor door dog. But it is outside for long periods and while out if often barks for long periods. It is impossible to enjoy the peace of the garden because when this happened, there isn’t any. The owner does not come out to see if there is anything particular it is barking at. Mostly she sits in the front of the house with the TV on, so she cannot hear it. However the owner simply says that anyone criticising does not understand dogs.

Barbara Chapman says:
18 June 2016

Oh for that lovely sound from years ago – the hand pushed lawn mower! Gentle and relaxing. For me, one of the sounds of summer.
My moan? Kids screaming and not being told to quieten down. Builders working on Sundays.
Totally agree with the idea of bans on making a noise etc on Sundays. If it can be done abroad, why not here? Keep Sunday Special.

Linda says:
20 June 2016

My neighbours are generally thoughtful and let me know when they are going to have friends round and play music etc. However, they have recently acquired a dog and yesterday, the first reasonable weather for a while, we were disturbed the whole day by either the dog barking or the owners shouting at the dog. I don’t want to cause bad feeling but I will have to raise it wth them if it continues.

Jim says:
20 June 2016

Now that we have had a fine and sunny day we find a drone ‘wandering’ over our garden- horrid high pitched noise. Phoned the Police to find out what the legal position is- they didn’t know. Tracked down where it had come from and asked the young lad to respect our privacy and not fly a drone above our 15 ft hedge and not only into(over) our garden but also our neighbours. Forgot to ask if it had a camera attached. Hope that will not happen again- seems to be a sign of the times?

Jim -if its in your air space and it isnt the RAF/police then its behaving illegally . As usual its a waste of time looking on British websites so– head West and yes instructions for building your very own jammer as they are illegal I wont mention the websites or how to build one but it can be done . While a wideband one would work it would be better if you found out the transmitter frequency and built one for that fixed frequency. Wavechange , if you are reading this you will know the original jammer going way back to the turn of the 20th cent. the old spark transmitter built using an electric motor it is so good at jamming its banned for use outside a Faraday cage. The good thing about jamming you cant be blamed if it falls to the ground and they dont know you are using one.

Jim you can buy ready built ones in the US cheapest $190 – 150 yards range . Dont know if you would be allowed to import one.

Jim says:
21 June 2016

Thanks Duncan. I gather from a villager elsewhere it is becoming a nuisance and they are worried in case the drone is being used to target properties.

JIm–Your friend is absolutely right to be worried . This government better get in quick with legislation . As somebody conversant with electronics in its building and repair it is very easy to fit a minature radio beamed spy camera to those drones,– so you can picture some pervert spying on your children/wife etc in the privacy of your own property . Law or no law I would bring it down by any means possible and then challenge the owner to sue me .

There are regulations in place on the operation of drones. There are several restrictions although I do not know the details, but the Civil Aviation Authority is the responsible government body and I would suggest that any concerns are reported to them in the first instance to see if any infringements have occurred. It worries me that people might try to bring a drone down in a populated area with potential harm to people and property.

@duncan-lucas – I have only read about these early jammers. Of course spark transmitters don’t operate at a specific frequency and could cause mayhem. When I was a student I built a pocket-sized one transistor medium wave radio jammer with a range of about 3 metres because I was fed-up with the pop music played all day where I was doing a vacation job. I found it in the loft when I was moving home recently.

Watching drones still has novelty value for me, but I can see that there is considerable potential for causing public nuisance.

John – Jim was putting the fact that his neighbour was hovering one over his property ,in that respect I would bring it down .I am not condoning somebody doing it for fun elsewhere. The Civil Aviation Laws apply to airports and flight paths they do not cover somebodies back garden . In the US the government has 1000,s of drones in action across the US fitted with satellite quality cameras and microphones spying on the population ,it is so bad US citizens are shooting them down and it is a major issue in the States thats why you can buy drone jammers although they dont have the range or frequency to affect military ones or FBI ones

According to the CAA’s Dronecode, drones fitted with cameras must not be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures. That seems fairly conclusive to me and a reason to report an offender hovering a drone over someone’s back garden.

Must have missed that on cameras John although you would need binoculars and a telescopic camera to prove it..

Agreed, but it’s a reasonable assumption that any drone being operated over property has a camera on it. What other reason would there be to fly a drone when there’s more fun to be had with a radio-controlled model aeroplane?

Cant argue with Logic John “one up ” to you .

I agree that if you move to a residence under a main commercial flight path, then you should accept the noise, but I have lived in a quiet residential area for over 30 years. I am now more than ever bombarded with the howling drone of lightweight training plains being used by would-be flying enthusiasts who are prepared to pay a lot of money to gain a licence. As the aerodrome in question is on the coast – why does this training not take place in the estuary instead of over residents’ private houses?

Richard-I gather the training takes place inland and not over the sea because of different weather conditions -ie- wind direction and speed . I do agree it is annoying as there are some “enthusiasts ” training near me also those small one man aircraft which to me look dangerous if the engine failed .

Duncan – thank you for your response. I would agree if the aerodrome trainers were sending their pupils in-land for that reason, but my house is even nearer to the sea than the aerodrome is! I am only half a mile from the actual coast, so I tend to doubt the weather conditions would be noticeably different. I very much agree with your comment about engine failure danger. Where they train now, houses are at risk, but there is a large expanse of sea grass and flat land on which they could land in an emergency.

Richard – as your home is nearer the sea than the aerodrome then they are doing what I can watch in my cottage in a small fishing village, they like the scenery and attracting attention of our village inhabitants.

Lawrence Daniell says:
21 June 2016

Wind chime in my neighbours garden. Especially annoying as they never seem to go into their go garden!

John says:
22 June 2016

Neighbours who can’t understand why we don’t enjoy their music or radio as much as they do, when they open the doors and windows and turn it up, to be able to hear it loud and clear while sitting in the garden.
Dogs left alone or ignored, to bark continually for hours on end.
Neighbour who spends hours at weekends using an electric sawbench, presumably for business.

peter Bishop says:
22 June 2016

At the bottom of our garden is some parkland leading down to the river. Some years ago the Council decided to build a steel ramped skatepark. The noise was appalling. Every few seconds there was a dreadful crash, just like somebody throwing bricks into an empty skip. For any technical people reading this the noise was 85dB in my garden. After an 18 month battle with the council, the Ombudsman declared a statutory nuisance and insisted upon it’s closure. With perseverance it is possible to establish “statutory nuisance”, which is quite a powerful legal tool.

I lived in the same home for 34 years and the only real problem was a neighbour who used to turn the car stereo on loud when he washed his car, sometimes more than once a week. I think he takes it to the car wash now because it’s years since I have heard music. I’m not keen on the noise created by petrol mowers, especially my own.

At my new home, one of the neighbours has bought a huge trampoline for the kids and it gets a bit noisy when they have their friends round.

We had the lot last Sunday – trampoline, paddling pool, hosepipes, barbecue, garden football, plus the children playing noisy games with much screaming and squealing. However, I have noticed there is a good side to all this: whenever children are playing there is always one girl who issues orders to the others on what to do, what the rules are, who should go first, etc. This is essential developmental work for their role in later life and is to be encouraged.

It is sixty years since I was last there so I don’t know if it is still in place, but there used to be a large motto painted across the entrance to the seaside pier at Walton-on-the-Naze that said “There is no happier sound in all the world than the sound of children laughing“. Even when I was a youngster I thought it was a matter of opinion rather than a statement of fact.

The latest game – when dad is not around – is to kick balls high in the air to get them over the high netting surrounding the trampoline, rather like a giant basketball net. The kids then shout my name to summon me to return the balls. At least they say please and thank-you.

wavechange -thats so the kids get to know you .

They certainly are. Some of their balls end up high in the trees, which might be deliberate, so I reckon they might be playing games with me. One of these days I might be invited to have a go on the trampoline.

Watch you dont break a leg on the trampoline wavechange !

I’d better forget the idea, Duncan. If I yell in pain, that might annoy the neighbours.

Why not get your own trampoline and footballs and show you can do it better than them. Maybe that would lead to neighbourly bonding once you were on common ground. Careful you don’t annoy your neighbour on the other side though.

As Duncan has warned, I might injure myself, but I do jump up to check that I have managed to get the balls inside the net enclosing the trampoline when I return them. The neighbours on the other side are as quiet as a church mouse. I’m rather glad that my garage, which I will use as a workshop, is next to the house with the noisy kids. I have a collection of noisy power tools. 🙁

I hope you don’t have a conservatory or a greenhouse Wavechange.

Most of the balls are the size of small footballs and are very light, so would do no damage even if they reached the conservatory. I returned four of them plus two smaller balls the other day. Dad knows what is going on because he thanks me when I chuck them over the fence if he is in the garden. He has a noisy lawnmower like mine. I think the quiet neighbours on the other side must wait until I go out before cutting the grass because I never hear them doing it and it’s kept tidy.

I heard a bit of a commotion at the bottom of the garden and was surprised to see a neighbour perched on a stepladder trying to cut branches off a small tree with a tenon saw. His wife said that they were removing it because it was diseased. I lent him my pruning saw.

They could be testing their boundaries as well as yours Duncan 🙂

Kids will do what kids most like doing until, unlike some parents, you tell them to stop!

Quite right Beryl .

Leonard Bruce says:
24 June 2016

The adjacent East of England Show Ground holds `Truck Fests’, the continuous noise from air horns is really sickening, also, the noise of these awful vehicles coming and going through our village is nerve shattering. We have also had some of these trucks parking in the village, wheels on the pavement, crushing ruts in the soft tarmac.
The very loud shouting over the `tannoy’, communication system, this can be heard for nearly one mile away and continues from dawn to 11pm at night every time there is an event. Noise pollution of the very worst kind.

The participants must spend a good bit of their time watching – Antique Truck Club of America–All American Truck Club etc you even have some in this country like- Tyneside American Car+ Truck Club . Some people have too much time and money . Oh well ! each to his own, I used to collect stamps but dont remember getting shouted at for turning the pages.

Angus Williamson says:
28 June 2016

Living in High Wycombe we have an airfield on the other side of the town, so we have a fair sprinkling of light aircraft, especially at weekends, some of which are fairly noisy. Helicopters seem to be on the increase and are even noisier, and more intrusive. Wood Pigeons and Collar Doves have a particularly boring, monotonous call, and we have a lot of those. The Wood pigeons which clear the bird table at a fast rate are deterred by a non PC method (some may say) but it seems to work because they only have to see movement inside a closed window and they have flown!

There is a lot of military aircraft activity in our area and I actually find it quite reassuring. It causes little disturbance at the weekends or in the sunny evenings [remember them?].

Wood pigeons seem quite jumpy for their size and their short take-off capability is very powerful. If only their bombing was better targetted. For aerial bombardment the seagull has no peers; they can deliver pinpoint accuracy or widespread devastation with the versatility [and comparable effects] of the Brimstone missile. I think it is the fish intake that enables this.

John -you are absolutely right about seagulls ,living in a small fishing village there are a;; types of them from the Herring Gull upwards but the onces to watch (or be scared of ) are the Great Black Backed Gulls . They have no fear and are like Japanese Zero pilots I have seen them swoop down and steal children’s ice-creams , while sitting in my car at the harbour eating a fish+chips supper one landed on the bonnet , walked up to my open window reached in and stole a chip and -by god ! are they strong ! .They are very dangerous birds and dont stick to eating fish ,they eat the young of other birds and woe betide if you get to near their nests many people have permanent injuries on their face and head , as they swoop down in attack formation . I watched several large Rooks go for their young and then watched as the Rooks were chased from one village to the next village the gulls never giving up attacking them till they left a 2 mile area . Your right wood pigeons are jumpy although my neighbour has one nesting in her arbour just above her head , the bird looks at her but doesnt budge . I have one very fat one come down into my garden every time I put out seed ,even the flighty starlings dont fly away from me now as the new generation are used to me.

Well its happened ! – exactly what my prediction about your next door neighbour watching you in your garden and how it would suite perverts . 120 miles from Moscow a hovercraft with a camera operated by a young man captured a couple in a church bell tower having sex —and published it with pictures on the net. —-Its went VIRAL !! – this could be you –now where is my SAM hiding ?

Which of the two parties was the offender?

Now thats the Million $$$$ question !

Perhaps the couple at it up the bell-tower were hoping to be filmed. It’s not unheard of!

Christine Wright says:
3 July 2016

There is a large garage that has been built at the end of a garden at the bottom of ours, as there is access to it at the back, cars go in and the man sees to them, revving them frequently and loud music too. It isn’t that frequent but always seems to be on a lovely day when it would be nice to go into the garden. We did once report to council and for a while it was okay but is back to the same again. It really is pretty awful. Inconsiderate.
Other noises don’t particularly bother us, as they are usual ones you would expect, i.e., mower, other garden machinery etc.,

Is the large garage a commercial enterprise , if so there are limited actions you could take Christine apart from council noise pollution. On the other hand if it is some guy making money on the side you have various options , like reporting him for running a business , also to the tax authorities and more but that would cause big trouble between you and him , do you want that ? ,if somebody is short of money and is supplementing his income or is getting welfare -ie-cheating the system it depends how strongly you feel about it.