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UEA’s Earlham Hall to host region’s first ‘Silent Space’

The University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Earlham Hall is to become the first garden in the region to host a ‘Silent Space’, giving students, staff and members of the public a space to enjoy the Hall’s stunning ‘Dutch Garden’ silently, away from the noise of modern life.

As well as being the first Silent Space in East Anglia, it is also the first at a UK university to be created as the result of a collaboration between students, staff and Estates team. The official opening of the Earlham Hall Silent Space takes place on Wednesday 14 August.

Silent Space is a not-for-profit project that encourages gardens already open to the public to reserve areas for silent visiting, so that visitors can enjoy the restorative benefits of peacefulness in nature. Inside these spaces, visitors are asked to switch off from technology, social media, cameras and talking, enabling them to enjoy and contemplate the gardens with only the sounds of nature in the background.

Most Silent Spaces only operate for a few hours every week, but UEA’s Dutch Garden will act as a Silent Space continuously throughout the day, making it one of the most accessible in the country. Connecting with nature has repeatedly been proven to be beneficial for people’s health, wellbeing and happiness; the continuous nature of the Dutch Garden as a Silent Space means visitors to the garden can benefit at any time.

The space has been developed as part of the Courage project – a collaboration between UEA and uea(su) to promote postgraduate researchers’ wellbeing on campus – in partnership with the UEA Estates’ Grounds team.

A group of researchers from the Courage project, PhDiggers, joined forces with the Grounds team to clear, tidy and plant the space, with the planting design being heavily influenced by research into the garden’s history from Ruth Cooper in the Grounds team. The project was also made possible thanks to funding from the Norfolk Gardens Trust.

Martin Marko, Postgraduate Education Officer at uea(su), said: “The UEA-uea(su) partnership project, Courage, is currently prioritising mental health and wellbeing at UEA by providing a range of opportunities for postgraduate researchers to take time away from their research and studies. The allotment and gardening group, PhDiggers, enables students to spend time outside, away from their labs or desks, being active. Students working shoulder-to-shoulder on the development of the Silent Space provided valuable opportunities to talk and share experiences.

Sometimes it is hard to find a place of calm during busy term times on campus. Having a Silent Space on campus provides a place to get away from the hustle and bustle, disconnect and relax. Knowing that the space has been created by members of the university, to support wellbeing, really makes it feel like a valuable project and asset to the university and the local community.”

As well as furthering UEA’s commitment to promoting wellbeing on campus, this project follows the recent news of UEA’s grounds and site gaining Green Flag accreditation for the third year in a row, a testament to the University’s work on biodiversity, environmental management and community engagement.

Earlham Hall’s Dutch Garden follows the formal garden design of gravel paths, walls and separating ‘box’ of aromatic plants and culinary herbs dating back to the 18th century, providing a perfect place for students, staff and visitors of the University to enjoy nature in a historic setting.

Richard Hipperson, Assistant Director of Estates Operations at UEA, said: “This joint venture represents a great culmination of effort between the Estates Grounds team, the Silent Space project, uea(su) and the Courage Project. Providing access to green areas dedicated to quiet reflection is vital in improving mental wellbeing for the benefit of our students and staff and we are proud of the Estates Grounds team for helping to make this collaborative project a success and representing the values of the Estates and Facilities Division.”

Liz Ware, founder of the Silent Space project, said: “I’m thrilled that UEA is taking part in Silent Space. It’s been a joy to collaborate with staff, postgrads and the Estates team and to see the space developing. 

Taking time to be silent in nature is such a simple way to take care of ourselves - and it’s free. Even 5 minutes can help us to rest and restore.” 

For more information on Silent Spaces, please visit their website: https://silentspace.org.uk/.

For more information on the Courage project, please visit their website: https://www.uea.su/postgraduate/courage/