Between March and June 2013 the Trust that oversees the Whitchurch Meadow ran a public opinion survey. We especially welcomed younger people (below age of 20) as we rarely hear from this age group in spite of their active use of the Meadow.
We received 79 responses: 77 of them from Whitchurch residents and 2 from surrounding villages. All age groups were represented fairly, with the following number of responses: 5-10 years old: 5 responses; 10-20 years old: 10 responses; 20-40 years old: 24 responses; 40-60 years old: 30 responses; and 60+ years old: 13 responses.
Participants of the survey gave nearly equal preference to the following activities: Dog walking, family gathering/picnicking, participating in events, observing wildlife and walking/running with majority of the people visiting the Meadow weekly or monthly. We are thus very pleased that the survey achieved a balanced view with none of the groups being overrepresented.
To the main question of the survey “Would you use the Meadow more frequently if it was better suited to your needs?” 54% responded that the Meadow suits them perfectly well, while 46% suggested that they would use it more frequently if it had other amenities.
The amenities most desired were: Better spaces for children to run around without getting into the stinging nettles; and, more spaces for the ball games.
A small number of survey participants also voted for better fences to make dog walking safer, more public events, better educational information and a better variety of wildlife.
From a list of 15 recent developments at the Meadow, the clear favourites were: 1. Gravel re-enforced footpaths; 2. Trees planted in the woodland; and, 3. Cast iron picnic tables and benches. The least popular (albeit still voted somewhat useful) were: “Can you see the real one” posts; deepening of the ponds and electricity supply.
The survey participants were invited to submit further suggestions for improvements. We were delighted to receive 34 “free- text” comments, some very extensive. Below are the most frequently repeated suggestions:
- Get rid or at least substantially reduce stinging nettles (mentioned by nearly everyone);
- Provide better rubbish bins;
- Provide public BBQs;
- Better access to the stream for children to splash;
- Tree swings ;
- Provide a ‘Welcome’ sign outside, so the entrance to the Meadow does not look as someone’s private mansion; and,
- Don’t “over-manage”, as at present it has a good balance between being a place for wildlife and a place for recreation.
The two most frequently expressed points of view were:
- The Meadow is a place for family gatherings, walking and running in a wonderful natural setting; a place for traditional games like rounders and Frisbee. It should not be confused neither with a playground or a sport field, nor with a botanic garden; and,
- The Meadow should serve everyone in the community, and no one group of users can be discriminated against.
In respect to the point two, we notice the following interesting outcome of the survey: Improving various aspects of wildlife, and running less public events disturbing it, were mentioned as frequently as running more public events (including car boot sales and an ice skating rink) and providing play equipment for children such as e.g. playground or crazy golf.
Protecting privacy and piece of neighbouring houses; presenting more historical information on the water meadows; displaying management plan; removing outdated signs.