The University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Earlham Hall is 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 took place Wednesday 14 August 2019.
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 was 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.
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.
Danny Bodewes, Assistant Director of Estates and Facilities at UEA, said:
"Now into its 4th year the ‘Silent Space’ project still has an important place in the green areas at the marvellous UEA Campus."
"Since the covid pandemic we have noticed a change of the use of all our campus spaces and the Dutch Garden at Earlham Hall has not escaped. Hybrid working & studying, changing lifestyles and the economic downturn mean that the campus does feel quieter at times. Nature just sees this as an opportunity and having a mind of their own, the gardens have matured and gained in biodiversity over the years. However, the use if the space is undiminished and it is still one of the best places for silent reflection on campus."
Liz Ware, founder of the charity Silent Space said:
"We were delighted when UEA joined us - the first university to do so. The initial collaboration with staff, postgrads and the Estates team was great fun and the resulting silent space is beautiful"
"Research tells us that while spending quiet time in a green space can help stress levels, a biodiverse space is even better. Thanks to the work of the Estates team, the garden at Earlham Hall is deliciously biodiverse."
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.