How quiet is 'quiet'?
For many, one of the best things about moving to the countryside is the peace and quiet, particularly at night. A good dose of silence, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, its sirens and helicopters, the traffic, the bawdy drunks. Yes, peace and quiet is what the countryside is all about.
Except no one has told Nature that she needs to keep the noise down.
During daylight hours, the sounds of people are still present and are considerably less than in the city: children playing, the occasional tractor chugging along the lane, a mower, a strimmer. Yes, definitely quieter. But once night falls and the rural population are tucked up inside, the nocturnal clamour begins.
Early evening and the cows begin to lowe and the sheep bleat at each other from the other side of the valley. Soon, the owls begin to call, the resident tawny that perches in the big ash at the end of the drive hoots to her mate right through to the early hours. The wind howls through the buildings and trees, each leaf shaking and creating its own noise. Branches creak, scraping and tapping against roofs and walls (one of our leylandii has an unnerving squeak), the fire rumbles, pops and crackles (if the angle is right the wind whistles across the top of the chimney) and the rain on the caravan roof can be anything from a gentle 'pat-pat' to a full-on percussive racket (the radio is just about comfortably audible when at full volume). One particularly windy night, I was out in my dressing gown and wellies, with my head torch and bushcraft knife, chopping back the ivy that had been scraping and squeaking against my window for so long that I simply could not bear it anymore. Now there's an image for you.
But the loudest thing of all is acorns. Yes. Acorns.
Before I lived in a home with a metal roof, it had not ever occurred to me that acorns could be noisy. But park your caravan under a large oak tree in autumn and you soon learn that acorns are most definitely the loudest thing about.
This year is a particularly good year for acorns. The hot summer means that oak trees are laden with the biggest acorns I have ever seen. Massive acorns that hurtle towards the ground and thwack off the caravan roof with a noise similar to a rifle shot.
Luckily I am not of a nervous disposition. Even in the stillest of weather conditions an acorn can hit its target with such volume, totally unannounced (how would an acorn announce its imminent plummet, I wonder?), that it can make a slumbering cat wake with a start and a worried look on his face (a cat that has no qualms with fireworks). Acorns frequently make me jump and the subsequent rolling sound as the missile heads towards its final landing place always feels like a taunt. A 'so there'. A 'Ha! I scared you!'.
Yes, I am anthropomorphising acorns.
Of course, I'm not really complaining. Even with the owls and the acorns it is still quieter than in the city. Silent enough for me to observe the imminent change in the weather before it happens as it ripples through the trees. Quiet enough to notice the fluttering of the robin’s wings as it comes to the bird table. Peaceful enough to hear the cat purring from the other side of the room. Now that really is quiet.
Yes, Nature may be noisy at times but at least it's not incessant. And when she does decide to make a racket, the sounds are always more pleasant than those that people tend to make.