Skip to main content

Delapré Walk Project research published

Delapré Walk Project research published

This month, the final research publication from the Delapré Walk Project was released. Here’s what we discovered.

Published March 29, 2024

About the research

During the project, researchers placed themselves within Delapré Park and asked passers-by if they would like to go on a walking interview with them. Twenty-eight park visitors took part in the interviews, where they discussed their thoughts about some of the newly installed wayfinding signage. Participants spoke positively about their experiences walking through the park, and interacting with the directional signage installed. They also suggested ways in which their experience could be improved into the future. This included how best to manage on-site facilities and how to encourage people to get outside more frequently:

Walking route signs prevented people getting lost

Participants told researchers that the wayfinding signs could increase outdoor activity because they helped new visitors navigate unfamiliar spaces. Some said, “They [wayfinding signs] have [influenced my behaviour]…because we’re not really sure where we’re going so we need a bit of direction.”

Others mentioned that including key route information on signs (e.g. local terrain) increased their confidence in navigating the route. Having estimated times of walking routes was highlighted as particularly useful for those using the space on lunch breaks from work, so exercise could be fit around busy schedules.

If you knew you weren’t going off course and you knew the length of what you’d got to go so you don’t overstretch yourself. When you are our age it’s alright getting there, you’ve still got to get back. So you’ve got to think of the two ways.


Walking route signs can be useful for locals and new visitors alike

Some participants lived locally to the park, and so relied less upon the new signs – leading to the suggestion that “it’s a great idea, just not a great idea for us.”

However, we also discovered that many local residents were able to discover new areas of the site as a result of the signage. This highlights the importance of good wayfinding methods, even for those who have visited before: one person told interviewers, “I’ve been in Northampton for about thirty years and it took me ages to discover it was even here”

Meanwhile, new visitors found the signage incredibly useful – not just in helping them navigate the route but also in decreasing their reliance on technology (e.g. Google Maps).

I’m really rubbish at orientation unless I’ve got Google Maps open...I find this [signage] is easier. I’d feel more confident about taking a completely different route and not getting lost.


Visiting walking past the newly installed wayfinding signs. Photo by Kirsty Edmonds.

Ideas for improving the wayfinding signs further

Interviewers were able to learn about ways that walking route signs around the park could be improved even more. Some regular visitors told us that they sometimes like to purposefully ‘get lost’, or choose their route based on how they are feeling that day. This highlights the need for wayfinding signs to be created with local residents in mind, and offer a balance between clear information and flexibility. One participant  said, “It’s got wide open spaces and fields, it’s got the woods, it’s got the lake, so you’ve got variety when it comes to walking.”

We just wander all over the place. Miles we seemed to have walked.


Other ideas for encouraging people to get outside

During the research, visitors suggested that other steps could be taken to engage visitors – in addition to the walking route signs. They told interviewers that on-site facilities were important, with on-site cafés, toilets and staffing all providing key resources the park users valued: “It’s nice to have somewhere where you can sit down, have a coffee when you’ve had a walk. And a toilet is always very handy to have.”

Older adults, in particular, referred to accessibility of seating and benches which, if not available, would reduce their access and enjoyment of the park. Two participants told us about their “slight mobility issues” and how, “if it’s slippery underfoot, no point us going there, it’s not good for us.” Another added, “If I knew I could go to a bench, sit down and then come back again it would make me do it more, definitely.”

A clear sense of community ownership was expressed by all participants. This included preserving greenspaces for future generations within the community – but also ensuring a balance between improving the area while avoiding over-commercialisation.

Isn’t it nice to see it being used? We’re not the only people here.


The importance of greenspaces for everyone

Visitors were attracted to the park because they found it aesthetically pleasing, connected them to nature, and in close proximity to home. Participants spoke positively about engaging with peaceful greenspaces, linking the sights and sounds of ‘being outdoors’ to both tranquility and peace. One said, “How beautiful it is. It makes you feel good to be alive.”

The highlights how vital outdoor spaces are for everybody’s wellbeing. In particular, some participants talked about how they visit the park to temporarily step away from more urban areas. From this, researchers understood that future wayfinding signs (and the materials they are made from) should be in-keeping with the natural environment and respond to the need to escape the business of urban life.

And it’s right in the centre of town, on the main road in and out, and you’ve got all this tranquillity. It’s just so nice, somewhere to go.


What next?

This research highlights how important it is to consult local communities when improving local greenspaces – and to give everyone a chance to give feedback on permanent installations like signage. The multiple research studies from the Delapré Walk Project were summarised into a policy brief which was sent to officers within West and North Northamptonshire Council, town and parish councils, and national organisations.

The hope is that this piece of research, and the other research projects included in the ‘policy brief’ can influence future decision-making.

Read the published research paper

Click the button to view the full paper: "Finding your way: exploring urban park users’ engagement with a wayfinding intervention through intercept go-along interviews"

Further information

The research articles and supporting anonymised data can be publicly accessed below.

Guides and Talks

Research Articles

Supporting data