Durlston Park


About the work

The Durlston Pleasure Grounds Parks for People project aimed to enhance the Victorian landscape at Durlston Country Park for nature, history and people.  The project involved the restoration of the landscape and heritage features, alongside a programme of volunteering and community engagement activities that aimed to encourage more young people, older people with disabilities and people who live locally to engage with, explore and learn about the park’s history and wildlife.

What we did

We were initially commissioned to support the development phase of the project. This involved the creation of an evaluation framework and toolkit to establish a baseline, assess the quality and effectiveness of a pilot programme of community engagement activities and establish meaningful measures and targets for the delivery phase of the project.  Much of this was used in the development of the Activity Plan, providing targets and measures for the Action Plan as well as evidence of need for the plans around engaging under-represented groups.

Following their successful Round 2 pass, we were recommissioned to provide evaluation support over the life of the project.  We provided training to staff and volunteers in collecting visitor information and created a suite of tools to collect quantitative and qualitative evidence that tracked progress towards achieving the desired outcomes, but also helped to understand why and how these outcomes were achieved.  We visited a range of activities and carried out interviews with staff, volunteers and partners in order to develop a more indepth understanding of what worked well and less well. We produced annual evaluation reports, outlining what had been achieved and the learning gathered to help inform the following year’s programme.

The Covid-19 pandemic affected the delivery of the project, however we continued to support the project through the pandemic, by designing a short visitor e-survey which was circulated via social media.  The survey sought visitor views on the landscape improvement works as well as helping to understand the value and importance of visiting the park during lockdown.

The difference we made

In late 2022 we produced the final evaluation report for the project, as well as a suite of standalone case studies that highlighted specific areas of success and learning for the project. Dorset Council are using these to showcase the project’s successes, as well as inform future programme design.

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