Do you come here often?

And what would you say if someone asked you to give the main reason for your visit to a Trust site? During the summer last year a number of Trust volunteers kindly dedicated some of their time to carrying out visitor surveys which sought the answers to these kinds of questions.

The survey, which was carried out at St Benet’s Abbey, Burgh Castle and Caistor Roman Town, is designed to gather information about our visitors, and consists of thirteen questions including those above. Most of the questions are multiple choice, but there is also room for more qualitative responses to the site visited.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been collating the data. The sample so far is only small – 118 responses – and we will need to collect many more before making general assertions about the character of our audience. Nevertheless, it has been interesting to glean some initial insights into the way our sites are experienced.

Some of these are practical. A few people at Burgh Castle Fort pointed out that there is a 5-10 minute walk from the car park before the fort comes into view and it’s easy to start worrying that you’ve gone the wrong way. There are suggestions for providing more information on sites about livestock and dog management, and on how to find out about volunteering, and there are also the inevitable requests for loos and somewhere to have a cup of tea.

The data so far has confirmed that a high proportion of visitors to Caistor and Burgh Castle are there to take their dogs for a walk. But I was pleasantly surprised to read how many other visitors said it was their interest in history that inspired them to come.

What is the point of collecting such information? I feel strongly that a better understanding of our audience will facilitate greater public benefit from the Trust’s work, as it will help us to develop activities and events which make our sites accessible, inviting and meaningful to our existing audience and which will also reach out to groups who haven’t visited yet. This will help us to fulfil our conservation aims because, as the Heritage Lottery Fund points out, ‘engaging more people with their heritage and developing a broad base of understanding and support will help ensure that our heritage is valued and protected in the future.’ (1)

If you would like to help with visitor surveys at a Trust site near you this summer, please get in touch. Training will be provided – just an hour or two of your time would really help! carolinedavison@norfarchtrust.org.uk

Notes

(1)'Thinking about audience development' Heritage Lottery Fund (2010)  https://www.hlf.org.uk/audience-development

News in brief

Wednesday 3rd February and 6th April St Benet's Abbey: The newly-formed Bure Valley Conservation Group will be undertaking weed clearance at St Benet’s Abbey along the perimeter wall and would welcome additional volunteers. If you are interested in helping please contact Steve Pinnington Tel: 07539 391194 or email burevcg@gmail.com.

Monday 21st March 2016 at 2:00pm Norfolk Gardens Trust Annual Tate Talk: Military Gardens: The Duke of Marlborough and His Generals.  An illustrated talk by Richard Wheeler. Venue: John Innes Conference Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UH. Tickets: £5 for Members and £6 for Guests, to include refreshments. Booking: Please purchase your tickets in advance. Telephone: 01328 700313 E-mail: moore.karen@icloud.com. More information: www.norfolkgt.org.uk/Resources/Tate%20Talk.pdf

Saturday 6th February 2.30pm The Norfolk & Norwich Archaeological Society: What the Victorians threw away Dr Tom Licence, University of East Anglia. Location: Town Close Auditorium, Castle Museum, Norwich. Lectures are free to members; non-members are most welcome and are asked to leave a small donation.

Saturday February 20th 2.30 pm The Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group. Family Fortunes : Jacobean Merchants in King’s Lynn Alan Metters (Honorary Research Fellow, School of History, UEA) Location: UEA Congregation Hall, near the main car park). Non-members are welcome to try one or two lectures before joining.

Fridays from 5th February 2016: The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) FREE conservation volunteering programme, giving people the chance to learn new skills, meet new people, and enjoy helping wildlife and the countryside in the heart of Norfolk. Free minibus transport from the centre of East Dereham or Norwich.  There will be a mixture of practical tasks (such as tree care and restoring ponds) with learning to identify local wild plants and animals. Call 07843 069 567 or email: m.webster@tcv.org.uk for further information