Reservoir visitor travel patterns and behaviour investigated to improve the 'visitor experience'


Protel Fieldwork undertook a series of surveys across six reservoirs in England in collaboration with SDG (Steer Davis Gleave).   The objective of the study was to investigate and understand current travel patterns and behaviours in each site looking particularly at travel by car. At each reservoir Protel undertook interview surveys and vehicle occupancy surveys.  As part of the wider study an automatic traffic count (ATC) was also conducted.


The Challenge

The key challenge of the research was to complete over 1500 questionnaires over the Bank Holiday August weekend across the six reservoirs.  This left no allowance for contingency as all fieldwork needed to be completed within a tight timescale. In addition, before the fieldwork was able to start, health and safety briefings were required at each location.  The six reservoirs investigated included - Bewl Water; Carsington Reservoir; Farmoor Reservoir; Grafham Water; Pitsford Water and Rutland Water. 



To provide resourcing for the interviews Protel used a mixture of local interviewers and in-house trained staff with additional resource available if required.  At each site a supervisor was also in place to ensure on time delivery to the highest standard.


A schedule was developed for each location to maximise footfall and included the locating of interviewers at entrance and exit gates throughout the day.  Interviewers conducted a 6-8 minute face-to-face paper questionnaire to collate the data required. Surveyors were also positioned at each reservoir car parks to capture visitor numbers using the car park and visitors passing through the car parks, including those walking and cycling.  Key data collected included:


  • Arrival times of visitors
  • Visitor’s mode of travel
  • Visitor’s trip origin
  • Visitor’s journey length
  • Number of people in visitor’s group
  • Visitor’s length of visit
  • Visitor’s frequency of visits
  • Vehicle occupancy
  • Age/gender/employment status of visitors.



The surveys enabled specific travel pattern and demand data to be extracted and conclusions could be drawn from the findings, these included the following.


  • For all six sites the dominant mode of travel was by car, accounting for 95% of responses.
  • Over half of all responses stated that their journey time was under 30 minutes and 23% between one and one and half hours.
  • Most visitors also travelled in groups of two people, accounting for 39% of responses.
  • The reasons for visiting each reservoir vary slightly according to the activities on offer.  However, walking, cycling and water sports were the most popular reasons for visiting the reservoirs.



“The timescales for the completion of the face to face interviews and occupancy counts were very tight as all interviews had to be completed over the one Bank Holiday weekend.  Protel ensured that enough surveying staff were programmed to work to meet the sample and quotas needed.  Knowing that Protel was managing the survey side of the project certainly helped relieve the pressure!”


Sarah Lewis – Senior Consultant, Steer Davis Gleave