Northumberland is the most tranquil county in England. London is the least tranquil place. There is more tranquillity in Cumbria than in Cornwall, but less in the West Midlands than in the Home Counties.
Today, the Campaign to Protect Rural England is publishing a colourful new map which gives a general idea of where to find tranquillity. Large parts of the north are shaded in bright green, denoting tranquillity; London is blood-red, meaning there is no escape from noise, while other areas are a patchwork of red, green and yellow. The map was compiled by researchers at Newcastle and Northumberland universities, who interviewed 1,300 users and visitors to the countryside.
The five most important components of tranquillity listed by the CPRE are, in order, a natural landscape, the sound of birdsong, the absence of man-made noise, woodland, and a clear view of the night stars.
The five phenomena that do most to destroy tranquillity, again in order of importance, are constant traffic noise, crowds, ugly urban development, light pollution and human noise.
The point of measuring tranquillity - according to the CPRE, which has been running a two-year campaign to keep noise out of rural beauty spots - is that once they know where to find peace and quiet, the authorities can make sure it is preserved.
Last year, CPRE members were asked to go out and "hunt for hush". They identified 75 places in England free from intrusive noise such as traffic or aircraft. Most are in protected areas, the North Yorkshire Moors or Northumberland National Park. Fewer were in the "ordinary" countryside, but the new map shows tranquillity even in some farmers' fields or natural woodland in the congested South-east.
The CPRE fears that the demand for housing and the rise in traffic will gradually destroy whatever peace is left. Government forecasts suggest that traffic will increase by 31 per cent between 2000 and 2015.