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Tranquillity (also spelled tranquility[1][2] or called equanimity) is an emotional state, the quality of calm experienced in places with mainly natural features and activities, free from disturbance from man-made areas. As such it is a public good and can be seen as an indicator of environmental quality. Although harder to measure than other indicators such as water or air quality, by analysing the various factors that contribute to tranquillity it is possible to produce maps which show the relative tranquillity of different areas.

Benefits Edit

Psychological research has highlighted why tranquillity is important. Being in a tranquil place allows people to relax, to escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life and to “recharge their batteries”.


For many, the chance to experience tranquillity is what makes the countryside different from cities. In a survey by the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 58% of people said that tranquillity was the most positive feature of the countryside. Just as great art, design, and traditions allow us to enjoy our identity, so tranquillity allows us to see, hear, and feel the spectacular beauty of the natural world.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) mental illness such as depression is likely to be the primary cause of ill health by 2020.[5] In addition there is growing concern in many Western countries about obesity.

There is mounting evidence which shows that exposure to nature can contribute to physical and psychological wellbeing. A review of over 100 studies into stress among 16-21 year-olds showed visiting natural environments to experience tranquillity and solitude is an important stress-reliever.[6] Other studies have found that exposure to nature helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.[7]

Children who visit the countryside regularly are less likely to be obese and to suffer from attention-deficit disorder.[8]

Mapping tranquillity Edit

File:CPRE England tranquillity map.jpg
The first method of mapping tranquillity was developed by Simon Rendel of ASH Consulting for a Department of Transport study in 1991. This led to the production of a set of Tranquil Area maps covering England, produced by Rendel and ASH Consulting and published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the former Countryside Commission.

In these maps tranquil areas were defined as places which are sufficiently far away from the visual or noise intrusion of development or traffic to be considered unspoilt by urban influences.

More sophisticated mapping techniques are now available following work by researchers at Northumbria University, Newcastle University, and CPRE.

Maps have been produced for the whole of England which show the tranquillity score of Ordnance Survey Grid derived 500mx500m squares. The tranquillity rating for these is based on 44 different factors which add to or detract from people’s feelings of tranquillity.[3] These factors were defined following extensive public consultations.[4]

The new methodology uses advanced modelling techniques to look at the diffusion of the impact of these factors over distance, taking into account the terrain of the land. For example, the tranquillity increases gradually the further one is from a busy road, but increases more sharply if the road is hidden in a cutting.

The map on the right shows the result of the mapping process developed by Northumbria and Newcastle Universities. The dark green areas are those which are rated as having the highest composite tranquillity score; dark red areas represent those areas which have the lowest composite tranquillity score (ie. are least tranquil).

Examples of stimuli having positive impacts on tranquillityEdit

  • a natural landscape, including woodland
  • presence of rivers, streams, lakes or the sea
  • birds and other wildlife
  • wide open spaces

Examples of stimuli having negative impacts on tranquillityEdit

Note: Tranquillity is not the absence of all noise, activity and buildings. Research has found that many rural activities, such as farming and hiking, and natural noises such as birdsong and cows lowing, enhance people’s experience of tranquillity.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ World Health Report 2001 & 2002
  2. ^ Institute for Health Research Lancaster University Climbing trees and building dens: Mental health and wellbeing in young adults
  3. ^ Kennedy, 1993, cited in Morris, N, Health, Well-being and Open Space, Literature review. Open Space, 2003. And Bennet LW, Cardone S, Jarczyk J, Effects of a therapeutic camping program on addiction recovery. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 15, 1998.
  4. ^ Bird W, presentation to CABE Health Week conference, May 2006 and Faber Taylor A, Kuo F, Sullivan C, “Coping with ADD: the surprising connection to green play settings” Environment and Behaviour Vol 33 No 1, 54-77, 2001.
  5. ^ Original figures from The Rural Strategy 2004, DEFRA
  1. [1], retrieved on 09-18-2007.
  2. [2], retrieved on 09-18-2007.
  3. [3] Presentation given by Andrew Oliver on Tranquillity to the University of Surrey, retrieved 2 Nov 2007
  4. [4] Saving Tranquil Places, CPRE report on Tranquillity, retrieved 2 Nov 2007
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