This project set out to review the various methods and tools that are used by forest managers and practitioners to estimate visitor, visit and total numbers of visits to woodlands. This builds on existing guidance on visitor monitoring produced by the Forestry Commission.
Research summary (PDF-653K)
The objectives of the work were to:
- Identify the range of methods and tools that have and are being used to estimate and monitor visitor, visit and total visit numbers.
- Outline the advantages and disadvantages of these different methods and tools.
- Provide examples of approaches taken by the Forestry Commission and Forest Research to estimate and monitor numbers
- Provide links for practitioners to useful information and advice.
Reliable estimates of visitor and visit numbers at national and regional levels are needed by policy makers so that they can make a case for investment by highlighting how people use and enjoy woodlands and by showing where potential future investment might be needed. Knowing visitor, visit and total visit numbers is also important for staff operating at a forest management level to consider how best to manage both staff and resources.
Surveys, observation and counters can be used to estimate visitor, visit and total visit numbers. Surveys can be undertaken at specific woodland sites with site users. They can also be undertaken at a population level, nationally, regionally or within site ‘catchments’ (the area within a given distance of a particular site). Population and catchment surveys will include both people who use woodlands as well as those who do not. As such, they can be important in gaining an understanding of the barriers that may prevent people from accessing woodlands.
There are a range of people and vehicle counters available, such as electronic and mechanical counting devices. Manual counting methods can also be applied by site staff or contractors. Sites that are new, growing or changing may need more frequent scheduling of monitoring than older more stable sites where change is more gradual.
Having clear objectives and knowing how any data that is collected can contribute to national, regional or site strategy targets is particularly important.
Funders and partners
This research was funded by the Forestry Commission Social Research for Forestry in Sustainable Society programme.