Survey of people using Tarvin Community Woodland.
(Part 2 – Saturday 6th March 2021)
During the survey on Sunday, we counted 347 people and 167 dogs, even on a day that was rather miserable, chilly and occasionally wet. The woodland has continued to be well-used through the dull winter months of December, January and February so we were reasonably confident that the numbers recorded in March ought to be greater than in December – not least because, this time we were surveying for two extra hours; beginning around dawn at 7 am until 6 pm, around dusk. This time, the weather proved to be a good deal better for the ten volunteers than in December, although the early birds were chilled by the early morning temperatures. This obviously also kept the walkers away initially, but, by midday, the sun was out, the day was warmer and the woodland became very busy.
Each volunteer spent an hour at the Hockenhull Lane gateway, counting how many adults, children and dogs went past them. Over the ten daylight hours studied, the results were gratifying, with the surprisingly large number of 639 people using our woodland – considerably up on the December count of 347. Adults again greatly outnumbered children, who made up only 19% of the walkers (up from 16% last time.) Indeed, we found that this time the number of dogs using our woodland was nearly twice that of the children!
As with the results of the December survey, it is tempting to look at these results and draw conclusions that may be unwarranted. For instance, why might it be that children do not materialise at all before 9 am and it is only during the mid-afternoon that the numbers grow to be anywhere near half of the number of adults? Might there have been more children if the survey had been done on a Sunday? Do people wait until the day has 'warmed up' before coming out for their walk? Why is it that the number of dogs exceeds the number of children so greatly? It may be possible to make inferences from these numbers but we must be careful that we do not treat them as conclusions.
So, what do the numbers tell us? Quite clearly, Tarvin Woodland is a good place to walk dogs and dog-walking is done far more by adults than it is by children. The numbers for dogs show rather less variation than do those for people, which suggests that the woodland is continuing to serve a particular need in giving some of the hounds of Tarvin their daily exercise. Children do not emerge early in the day. The middle of the afternoon is the most popular time for family walks. There are almost double the number of people in this survey than there were in the one in December. The value of this information will increase as the number of surveys undertaken goes up and it will only be after the June and then the September surveys are completed that we will be able to see whether there is useful knowledge to be gleaned from them and whether it could be worthwhile pursuing the surveys further (and more systematically).
Each of the volunteers is likely to have their own stories about the day and I make no apology for not attempting to collate and report them. We must always bear in mind the difference between information and anecdote. However, I am going to recount two conversations that I had with couples enjoying their walk in our woodland, as they do exemplify something that we had realized is increasing. The first was with a couple who had driven over from Ashton. They had first found the woodland by accident while 'exploring' Townfield Lane and it has become a favourite walk. They have particularly enjoyed watching the snowdrops grow and flower. The second conversation was with a couple (plus dog) who come from Chester. They had seen the woodland on a website for the "Ten best dog walks in Cheshire" and it is now one of the places they visit each week. These two encounters point up the fact that increasing numbers of people are travelling some distance in order to walk in our woodland and the 'community' that our Community Woodland is serving is a good deal larger than just that of Tarvin. I think that that is something of which the whole of Tarvin can be proud.
Of course, the sting in the tail of this popularity comes in the combination of larger numbers and social distancing. When the path through the woodland was improved ten years ago, it was deliberately made 1.2 metres wide – it was felt that anything wider would make our woodland feel more like a park. However, for the current social distancing of 2 metres, it is inevitable that, for any pair of passing walkers, one will have to step off the path and, almost certainly, both will do so. The result is that the edges of the path have been worn bare. My feeling is that, even when the pandemic is long past, the notion of staying at a distance from others is likely to persist and so it may be quite some time before folk feel comfortable passing each other while both are sticking to the pathway. Quite how we will try to restore the grassed areas around the pathway remains a problem for the future
Director and Secretary
Tarvin Community Woodland Trust Ltd