A recent environmental study on the Isle of Oxney has found that rural noise is just as distressing as its urban equivalent. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, tinnitus, high blood pressure and depression are all being linked to noise pollution and the bucolic bliss of rural living is now under threat.
It’s no joke. Humans have acute hearing because (creationists look away now), when we were at the evolutionary stage of being prey we needed to hear our predators and we’re particularly sensitive to rough screams.
I mean, have you ever heard pigs feeding? No, not the comfortingly soft grunts they utter as they rootle through the undergrowth, I’m talking about the sounds they make when their snouts are in the trough. Forget oink, that’s for storybooks, it’s much more of a SHRIEK which can even double in intensity when they start to nick food off each other. The unnerving screams of pigs in meltdown have the power to invoke visceral fear far beyond that of The Exorcist and a decibel level to rival that of an electric drill. No wonder farmers are being advised to wear ear defenders at feeding time.
Next up disturbing the rural bliss is the seemingly innocuous cockerel. In 1570 a tone-deaf individual decided that cock-a-doodle-do best described that particular call of nature. Apart from a handsome chap near me who tootles out a rather melodic ‘Yoo Hoo’ thereby worrying his coterie of hens and the cockerel who shares his territory even more so, most roosters vomit out a grating erk-a-erk-a-errrrrrrrk. Loudly. And the pastoral picture of them only doing so to greet the dawn is very much a rural myth.
Cockerels crow whenever they feel like it, morning, noon and night plus all the hours in between, for any reason they can think of. Predator lurking? Check. A hen has just laid an egg? You bet. Another cockerel sounds a bit pushy? Yep, because a loud response is needed to let him know who’s boss.
Then of course there’s the decibel challenging dawn chorus. No, not the delicate chirpings of stirring birds, more the single gun shot that heralds the new day and the fact that a male calf has been born at the dairy farm. Well, what do you think happens to them? Yes dear reader, even the vegetarians among you, if you consume dairy then you should eat rose veal.
But that gun shot isn’t the end of our early morning alarm call, it’s soon added to by the rest of the dairy herd BELLOWING because they’ve been disturbed. This upsets the donkeys who start braying uncontrollably which in turn winds up the canine population who bark discordantly thereby upsetting the sheep who bleat at the top of their decibel range. This cacophony then kick-starts the haunting, stomach-churning cries of the peacocks that grace the manorial lawns of the retired city fat cats.
And please don’t get me started on traffic noise. Too late, I’m there. If you think it’s bad in town, consider the rural alternative. We get our fair share of lorries but it’s tractors that increase the decibel levels. It’s not just the 24 hours a day working on the harvest, all year there’s constant to-ing and fro-ing from farms to fields towing the latest contraption that will either plough, scarify, seed, till, spray or fertilise. Move into a chocolate box cottage on a blissfully quiet lane next door to a quintessentially perfect orchard and have your ears (and nasal passages) assaulted by the constant delivery of chemicals and fertilisers that are necessary to produce a flawless apple. There’s even a chemical that’s sprayed onto the embryonic fruit to increase competition among them so the smaller, more feeble apples drop off the tree to leave the others to prosper without overcrowding. Who knew? Apart from me, obviously.
Rapid gun fire in town will cause palpitations but here it just adds to the increased noise because there’s always something someone, somewhere wants to shoot in whichever season has opened, apart from rabbits and pigeons which are fair game all year round. And if it’s not wildfowl being targeted then the clay pigeon shoots take over, ensuring there’s no let up.
Not exactly a picture of rural bliss, is it? But what was the environmental study that made these findings, I hear you ask (yes, I can hear you, see paragraph two). It was mine. Carried out in my garden. You can’t get more scientific than that.
And if any of you think this is just a ruse to stop our overcrowded and unpleasant land from being concreted over to build more houses to accommodate those fleeing urban life … you’d be dead right.