Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre Report. An evaluation report for Suffolk Wildlife Trust 2023.
|Harvey, C. and Holland, F.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust received National Heritage Lottery funding of £4.2 million, with an additional £1 million being raised by the Trust, their partners, local people and businesses. This enabled Suffolk Wildlife Trust to create 1,000 acres of nature reserve to support local wildlife and benefit the local community. The Carlton Marshes visitor centre was officially opened in May 2021, having been delayed by the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The University of Derby Nature Connectedness Research Group was commissioned to evaluate the impact of the Visitor Centre and find out more about how the visitors feel about the reserve.
Data was collected at 3 time points, once before the visitor centre opened, and then again during 2022 after the visitor centre opened and finally during late 2022 and 2023.
Participants completed questionnaires which asked them about their experience of visiting Carlton Marshes, along with measures of nature connectedness and pro-nature conservation behaviours. An open question about what would help them to visit the site more often was also included.
In total 153 participants completed questionnaires.
Overall, participants found the reserve to be very accessible, both in terms of finding it easy to get to, and in moving around the site. They also found it affordable and welcoming.
Participants were asked what would help them to visit Carlton Marshes more often. Prior to the opening of the visitor centre, key themes included improvements to paths and trails, provision of refreshments and a café, seating, maps and signage and more organised activities. After the visitor centre and café had opened, and various improvements had been made, feedback was very positive. Many participants commented on how much they enjoyed visiting the reserve, and on the improvements to the facilities, paths and trails. There were also a number of suggestions for how further improvements to the site, café and visitor centre facilities could be made.
Most people had travelled to Carlton Marshes by car, with only a small percentage arriving on foot or by bicycle and most were visiting with another person or as part of a larger group.
Participants were asked about how confident they felt to visit the reserve again in the future, and in knowing what to do at the reserve and in taking part in organised activities. Overall confidence levels were fairly high, although some participants were a little less confident in taking part in the organised activities.
The nature connectedness levels for participants were high across all three groups, showing that most people taking part in the survey felt very connected to nature. The pro-nature conservation scores were all above the mid-point for this measure, so although participants reported engaging with some pro-nature behaviours there was scope for this to be increased.
Participants also reported high levels of enjoyment from visiting Carlton Marshes.
Several recommendations have been derived from participant responses which relate to the following:
In conclusion, the visitor centre, facilities and accessible paths and trails around Carlton Marshes reserve have had a hugely positive impact for visitors. Many people taking part in this evaluation provided very positive comments about the site and impact of the visitor centre and facilities. They were also asked to provide feedback about what would help them to visit more often, and these comments will prove particularly useful to SWT in considering next steps for the reserve in the future.
|Carlton Marshes; Evaluation report; nature connection; pro-nature conservation behaviour; service improvement
|Centre for Psychological Research, University of Derby
|Place of publication
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
File Access Level
|01 Aug 2023
|Publication process dates
|01 Aug 2023
|14 Aug 2023
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