Evaluating the impact of active projects within Calderdale plays a vital role in the whole systems approach employed by Active Calderdale. To achieve this goal, certain projects are given support on a local level (e.g., surveys, workshops, focus groups) to understand how these projects are having an impact on Calderdale residents. Other projects such as our collaborative work with Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group (CBWG) receive a much lighter touch and are more self-led when it comes to gathering data. Evaluating the impact of these projects can be difficult, however, the importance of doing so should not be underestimated.
As part of plans to improve accessibility to Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve (CBNR), Active Calderdale and CBWG last year installed new signage on the A6025, and developed two self-guided walk booklets for visitors, including shorter, accessible routes. You can find out more information about the site by reading our blog A Visit to Cromwell Bottom or watch our video below for an idea of what to expect on a visit.
Community Project Manager Anthony Whittaker recently spoke with Simon Day of CBWG to gather insights into how the partnership has been working and what the potential impact has been for Cromwell Bottom.
How did you find the process of working with Active Calderdale?
We found the process immensely useful and rewarding as it put us in touch with a number of local organisations who, like us, are committed to encouraging the community to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of enjoying the natural outdoor environment.
We are grateful for the opportunities to promote, not ourselves, but the amazing outdoor space which is Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve. We are also exceedingly grateful for the funding we have received, which, in turn, has enabled us to increase our offer to the local community, promoting the reserve as a green space, plus supplementing our outdoor sessions with greater resources.
How do you feel the involvement with Active Calderdale has impacted the reserve?
It's been a very positive impact for a number of reasons: -
Meetings have enabled networking opportunities eg. securing funding from RBL via a small grant, some of which paid for transport for a class from Longroyde Primary School to spend a fantastic day at the reserve.
New signposts have definitely put us on the map (even more) as evidenced via our ‘First Time Visitor Board’. We continue to have regular first-time visitors who were simply passing by car and decided to turn in to discover us. Such visits occur more during school holidays as families seek to find somewhere to have a day/half day out!
We have had so many opportunities to give out our ‘Self-Guided’ booklets, we’re going to have to order more copies, such is the level of new (and regular) visitors.
As a rule of thumb, we meet 2 to 3 new visitors on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have done so for the last year. I can only assume there are many others who discover us on Sundays, even when the Tuesday and Thursday work volunteers aren’t there. Our Open Day in August saw around 10 new visitors.
Have you had any feedback on the signage or the walking booklets?
Several visitors in wheelchairs have been delighted to discover that the access version of the booklet enables them to explore almost all the site with relative ease. Some have since returned to explore the site further.
One of our more recent visitors Kevin, has also provided his experience of discovering the site.
Kevin started visiting CBNR in February 2022. He is a keen walker and had previously enjoyed walking around Ogden Water. Kevin had been on the lookout for another similar spot in Calderdale when he discovered Cromwell Bottom.
I was driving towards Elland from Brighouse when I saw the large tourism sign pointing down to the nature reserve. As there were several vehicles parked, I felt it safe to leave my car and explore the reserve.Kevin - Reserve Visitor
Following a medical episode, Kevin was determined not to let it prevent him from regular walks and now, he walks around Cromwell Bottom at least twice a week.
The benefits for me are keeping fit and active, and there are also the social benefits. I enjoy visiting the Visitor Centre to share a laugh and a cuppa with the regulars. Everyone is just so friendly!Kevin - Reserve Visitor
Kevin always looks forward to his regular hot drink and the camaraderie!
Over several months, Simon posed a series of questions on a whiteboard to new visitors at the cabin. Responses could be left anonymously, an approach which did not require monitoring, and data was then collected by CBWG volunteers.
Data from the New Visitor Board has shown that the number of new visitors to the site continues to rise. People are travelling from a large geographical area (Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield) but the highest number of new visitors came from Huddersfield (39%). Specifically, the HD6 area (Rastrick) was the largest single contributor to new visitors, making up 14% of the total over the time period. The majority of visitors were aged between 60 and 70 years old. The data collected also clearly showed that word of mouth was the main reason (69%) people were visiting.
While this is only a snapshot of activity at Cromwell Bottom, it is a good indication that many of the residents in our target groups and target area of Rastrick not only continue to discover CBNR on a weekly basis but also continue to use the site as a place to be active.
Moving forward Community Project Manager Anthony Whittaker believes the focus must continue to be on enabling more people to access the site. Raising awareness of the benefits of physical activity, whilst continuing to forge new partnerships within the community, remains key to providing services that the local residents require in terms of access and support.
When we first contacted Simon and the volunteers, we wanted to explore how we would support more local people to access the reserve whilst respecting the current feel and heritage of the site. It’s great to see more of Active Calderdale’s priority groups are now aware that the reserve exists and are regularly experiencing the benefits of being physically active at the reserve.
We know that developing partnerships is important for many things, including the sustainability of any interventions. The Lower Valley Active Partnership meetings have connected Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group to a range of local organisations and services. Services that are now able to support more local people with their health and signpost them to the fantastic asset that is Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve.Anthony Whittaker - Active Calderdale Community Project Manager
Planning on visiting Cromwell Bottom for the first time or are you a regular visitor? Tag us in your pictures on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) and let us know how you've used the site to be active.