In August 2021, a new signposted walking route was installed in Delapre Park, Northampton to help visitors explore the urban park in the town centre.
This project was delivered as a research study by the University of Northampton, Delapré Abbey Preservation Trust, and Northamptonshire Sport. Footfall along the footpaths were monitored pre and post signage installation for over a year. Although there were no significant increases in footfall following the installation of the signposted walking route, there were still observable benefits. During in-person footpath monitoring, 23% of footpath users were following the new signposted walking route and the intercept survey suggested that 60% of respondents were new or infrequent visitors to the park. Therefore, it seemed the signs were helping less frequent visitors explore the park. This is particularly important in the context of the UK, where it is being advocated that park managers tackle inequalities in park-use, so those who do not visit parks regularly start visiting more regularly and hopefully experience the health and well-being benefits associated with exposure to greenspace and physical activity.
During the research, the community engagement brought out many learnings that can facilitate new signposted walking route projects. Briefly, these learnings were:
- People visit greenspaces to escape urban living, therefore, signs should be in-keeping with the natural environment, which could be achieved by using natural materials.
- Walking routes and signs should be co-produced with the local community, to ensure they complement how local residents currently perceive and interact with their local park.
- Awareness of footpath surface, distance, barriers, and benches were highlighted as important details to include on signs, particularly for visitors with limited mobility.
- Directional arrows, total distance of the route, consistent colours and fonts, a map of the route, local information of interest, and emergency contact information were identified as the most important information to include on signs by the 266 online survey respondents at the start of the research.
- Notably, survey respondents disagreed at the inclusion of any motivational statements or suggestions of competition on walking route signs.
- Finally, the park was a mental health resource for many people that we interviewed and they valued the sense of community and ownership that the park provided.
The full toolbox from the project can be read here
Please contact Dr Declan Ryan for further insight: Declan.email@example.com
This research project was part of the new Active Quarter Partnership. The partnership aims to increase access to greenspaces in Northampton to enhance population health and well-being by co-producing with residents to share their voice for their greenspace wants and needs. The partnership consists of West Northamptonshire Council, the University of Northampton, Northamptonshire Sport, Delapré Abbey Preservation Trust, Brackmills Industrial Estate Business Improvement District, and British Cycling.
This [the signposted walking route] has enabled me to safely walk around an area I'm unfamiliar with.
Easier to navigate for first timers like me.
It’ll encourage more people who are unsure about walking in some public places.
Submission authored by Dr Declan RyanDeclan, Northampton University