Silence seems to be the new must-have criterion for urban vacationers in search of nature and tranquility. The good news for such travelers is that there exists such a thing as silent green spaces, listed by an American association under the name "quiet parks."
Here, no talking, no singing, no shouting. Instead, open up your ears to soak up the sounds of the nature that is all around. The rustle of leaves, the splash of a river, the song of birds. Soothing sounds that inspire feelings of contentment and help us forget the cacophony of car horns and traffic that punctuate our daily urban life. Welcome to the world of silent parks, these green spaces where the only sounds your eardrums detect should be the sounds of nature.
This concept of "silent parks" is gaining ground. In Spain, a park located an hour's drive from Barcelona called Montnegre i el Corredor has even been awarded the "urban quiet park" label by the US-based association " Quiet Parks International ," which campaigns to "to save quiet for the benefit of all life" by maintaining natural spaces spared from man-made noise.
In 2021, English park Hampstead Heath, located in north London, also received this label. Other places to receive this qualification are Yangmingshan National Park in Taiwan and the Dender-Mark in Belgium. The places listed on the NGO's website have been subjected to a thorough measurement of the surrounding noise, using sound sensors. One of the essential criteria to join the hand-picked list of "quiet parks"? Fifteen minutes of total peace and quiet before a human-generated noise breaks the silence.
Silence, an endangered treasure
Like the tourist establishments that offer silent retreats, these parks favor silence and are ideal for connecting with nature, an act that is so crucial to our mental and physical well-being.
An interlude in a fast-paced life that an increasing number of city dwellers seek out, in particular since the the pandemic lockdown measures, brief periods during which nature has regained its rights and which have exacerbated the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for many city dwellers.
According to the World Health Organization, noise is a major environmental nuisance in industrialized countries that can affect individuals in a number of manners. "It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behavior," says the UN agency.
But it's not only humans who are affected by noise: wildlife is also affected. For this very reason, some national parks in different countries have strict regulations that aim to reduce noise in their parks as much as possible.
Measures that are unfortunately not always fully respected, especially because of mass tourism. The association Quiet Parks International outlines "the immediate need for identifying and protecting endangered locations because quiet places are quickly becoming extinct."