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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March 2005, 00:30 GMT
Maps show tranquil secrets of UK
'Tranquillity' maps were made for Northumberland National Park and West Durham Coalfield.

Feel like some peace and quiet? Don't know where to find it? Researchers from Newcastle and Northumbria universities may have found the answer.

They have produced a "tranquillity" map of two regions of the north east of England.

The maps are detailed enough to reveal local pockets of peace and quiet that might otherwise be overlooked, the researchers say.

It is hoped techniques pioneered by the two universities could lead to a tranquillity guide for the whole country.

Project leader Dr Robert McFarlane, of Northumbria University, said reports and statements have frequently talked of the importance of tranquillity in everyday life.

"What we've lacked until now is a robust, reliable way of showing where people can find it. Our new maps do just that," he said.

He pointed out that previous attempts to map tranquillity have relied on expert opinion to define what is meant by the term.

Walkers in Northumberland National Park (Picture: R Coulam)
Northumberland National Park was considered largely tranquil...

But his team instead asked hundreds of countryside users and visitors what tranquillity means to them.

"Openness" and "naturalness" of the landscape were the most important qualities an area needs if it is to be classed as tranquil.

Presence of rivers, low noise levels and sea views were also important, their research suggested.

Turn-offs included the presence of other people, transport noise and the visibility of roads and urban development.

The researchers fed this data into a computer programme, matching it to profiles of places in two areas of the north east - Northumberland National Park and West Durham Coalfield.

'Important tool'

Maps of the two regions reveal very different pictures.

The picturesque Northumberland landscape, including designated world heritage site Hadrian's Wall, reveals a broadly peaceful area with many remote pockets of tranquillity.

Farmer's field in Derwentside, west Durham (Picture: Derry Brabbs/CPRE)
...but West Durham Coalfield only had pockets of tranquillity

But the more densely populated west Durham area shows much less overall tranquillity, with only a few havens of peace and quiet.

The research, outlined in a 56-page report, was commissioned by local councils and nature groups alongside the Countryside Agency and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Huw Davies, the Countryside Agency's regional director, said the mapping technique could become an "important tool" for planners.

"For those involved in major new regional development and regeneration schemes, this new methodology might even help to create new tranquil places. Tranquillity matters to people and it needs protecting," he said.

Tom Oliver, lead countryside campaigner at CPRE, said tranquil areas face a "multitude" of threats.

"This new approach can help us protect and enhance these precious places," he said.

The full report, entitled "Mapping Tranquillity: defining and assessing a valuable resource", is published by CPRE Publications.

Do you have a favourite hideaway from the stresses and strains of modern life? Please send your pictures to: yourpics@bbc.co.uk


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