Even though it is located just a few 100 metres from a busy main road, Jesmond Dene has the ability to block out the noise of the city. Replacing it, instead, with a musical piece with contributions from the Dene’s countless wild inhabitants. The first sound I am greeted by when walking into Jesmond Dene is the gentle flow of the river cascading over rocks and pebbles, often joined in perfect harmony by birdsong.
This continuous duet of running water and birdsong are occasionally accompanied by a gust of wind which funnels through the Dene at this time of year. I can hear the quiet rattle of leaves in the wind from afar, a sound that gradually increases in volume until the immediate trees around me which before, showed no signs of life, suddenly come alive and dance. As soon as this spectacle arrives, it passes on and slowly decreases in volume like a wave as it departs
As I sit on a bench, I soon hear another sound. The gentle rustling of leaves a few metres from me, I look around and see nothing. Until that is, I spot a Grey Squirrel scampering around the floor throwing up leaves in the air no doubt looking for a long lost nut buried previously.
I am met by numerous waterfalls as I walk through Jesmond Dene, in an almost systematic system as they are roughly all equidistant from each other, so the sounds of the falling water are always within earshot but in varying volumes of sound. When you stand close to the waterfall, the jarring sound that was once a quiet background noise now isolates all other accompaniments, demanding your undivided attention to the spectacle it performs, cascading thousands of litres a day.
It is common knowledge that green spaces are good for our health and mental well-being – from the improved air quality, enjoyable scents and shades of green, as well as providing a space for leisure and recreation. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace as I walked through the Dene. However, little attention is given specifically to the effect the sounds from green spaces have on our health and well-being. Recent research has proven that “naturalistic environment noises” has extended health benefits, including reduced levels of stress and anxiety.
“The sounds from nature have a deep connection with the life of human beings in the process of evolution. However, people today have been away from listening to those sounds” – Kazumi Nishida (2013).
With increasing development and expanding urbanisation, our green spaces, particularly urban ones, are coming under threat. We should encourage the protection of, and increase the amount of our urban green spaces not just for environmental protection, but also as places of solace key to maintaining good mental health and well-being. As an often overlooked benefit of green spaces, I wanted the bring your attention to the beauty of Nature’s symphony, and encourage you to go and see what you can hear next time you are in a green space.
Conor O’Hagan, Newcastle University Student