Winter 2000

Who visits the Sefton Coast?
Some results from recent visitor surveys

Article by Helen Steward - Quality of Coastal Towns Project Officer

The Sefton Coast is one of the richest areas in Merseyside for nature. It is also a vital recreational resource for the people of Sefton, Merseyside and north west England. In 2000, with help from the European Commission's Interreg IIc fund visitor surveys were carried out across Merseyside, the largest survey of its kind ever undertaken. As well as establishing a profile of visitors to sites on the Sefton Coast, surveys have looked at people's attitudes to public transport and asked questions about when people choose to visit the coast. Holidaymakers staying at Willowbank Caravan Site also took part in a survey.

In August traffic counters were used to collect information about daily use of sites. Staff and volunteers also carried out counts of all visitors on selected days. From this information will be a huge body of data of value to land managers, tourism officers and transportation planners and operators. It will also be made available for educational use.

The surveys found that, as expected, most visits to the coast are by car (about 72% of all visitors interviewed), followed by foot (16%), bicycle (5%), train (4%) and bus (less than 1%). The relatively large number of people arriving by bicycle and on foot is a good sign and will hopefully be encouraged in years to come through greater investment in Sefton in walking and cycle routes. The use of public transport is generally low. With Merseytravel as partners in this project we will be actively seeking opportunities to promote the benefits of using public transport to reach coastal sites.

We found that most visits to the coast are with friends and family but a significant number of visits, about a third in total, are people enjoying the peace and quiet of the coast on their own, perhaps with a dog as companion. The survey technique was to record visits and the methodology recognises that any individual can use the coast in different ways, even on the same day. For example, someone could go out jogging in the morning, join the family in the afternoon on the beach and take the dog out for an evening walk.

The surveys confirmed the importance of the coast for local people with over 90% of all visitors having visited the coastal area before and more than half visiting the area at least once a month. This local use supports the finding that about 70% of all visits are of less than two hours. The main reasons for visiting the coast are to walk, to relax, for the scenery, for nature, to walk the dog and to go to the beach.

Support for our main conservation organisations is impressive with over 10% of all visitors being members of RSPB and over 17% being members of the National Trust although at Freshfield this rises to the astonishing figure of about 35% of all visitors being members of the Trust.

pie chart showing visitor distribution on coast The visitor counts carried out in August give some very useful data and will help us try to estimate the total use across the coast in any year. This was the first time that counts had taken place at Crosby, Formby and Ainsdale on the same day and the comparisons are interesting.

On Sunday 20 August the weather was fairly typical of the poor summer, not wet but not a day for the beach. Nevertheless over 15,500 people were counted entering the coastal area with the National Trust at Freshfield coming top with 3600 visitors.