Written by: Jon Balaam
The project aimed to significantly increase the profile of the Greensand Country brand and identity, and make it easy for anyone to adopt it.
The project brought several existing trail-related projects together under a single approach to signage for routes within the Greensand Country, and added two ‘flagship’ elements (Website & Sense of Place Toolkit and Village Gateway Signage) to create a strong and consistent approach to raising the Greensand Country’s profile and identity.
The Sense of Place Toolkit has created a wealth of information and images, freely available to Greensand Country Charter members, which they can use to promote the area and their business/organization within it. It also developed a significant amount of content for the website, which also includes an interactive map featuring all of the trails plus a range of other attractions.
The trail signage project created a plaque-based mechanism for signing trails (often multiple trails along single routes) which carried the Greensand Country identity and helped reduce signage clutter. Over 45 miles of walking routes, 41 miles of horse riding routes and 150 miles of cycling routes have been signed, giving extensive coverage to the brand.
The Village Gateways project created a standard Greensand Country village welcome road sign, which have been adopted at 55 locations across Greensand Country, significantly raising the profile of the GC brand and identity.
The project was a considerable success in terms of raising the profile of the Greensand Country brand and identity. The route signage system, created by GC Board Member Andy Knight, has proven successful and has begun to be adopted by CBC with their other circular trails in the area, with 2 further trails already being signed.
The Village Gateways have potentially made the greatest impact of all GC projects in terms of profile raising, being seen by thousands of people every day. The fact that half of the parishes in GC adopted this system at the first chance demonstrates the value of being able to offer at zero cost.
The website and toolkit have also been very successful, with the popular interactive map, strong images and well-written, accurate text that celebrates the area.
Benefits to People
The website is accessible to anyone with access to the internet, giving clear, understandable messages and information about the heritage of Greensand Country, and promoting accessing it (through trails, sites etc) and learning more – the website is able to offer ‘layered’ information so that people can access simple details and information easily, but also ‘dig under the surface’ to find out more’.
Did your project help groups traditionally excluded to engage with the heritage? Which groups? How?
Not specifically, but the website has been designed to be as accessible as possible. Engaging a wider range of users with routes would be a very positive next step.
What difference has the project made to you personally?
Wherever I walk or cycle in Greensand Country I see signage to remind me, and people using and enjoying the trails.
Benefits to Heritage & Landscape
The website and toolkit have proven excellent tools for communicating the importance of the heritage and how to access it. We do not have specific data relating to how successful it has been, or even whether the website is directly responsible.
This was not a specific aim of the trails and gateways, other than to raise the profile of Greensand Country as a ‘special area’, which the projects have done.
Although the project hasn’t directly improved any of the routes, the signage and website information has made it significantly more accessible, encouraging people to visit and making them more confident. By combining trail projects under one ‘umbrella’, consistency is improved (many of the trails also use the same leaflet and mapping format) and with this comes confidence within users.
Challenges & Lessons Learnt
The project faced many challenges! Initially the project was being developed and managed by the Programme Manager, but they were unable to continue with this and the Greensand Trust stepped in at short notice to develop and submit the LEADER funding bid and carry out the required development/background work.
The costs were based on estimates, and we had to devise a system for auditing routes to establish true signage requirements. We then had to train/support people in using the auditing system, including contractors erecting the signage. The initial contractor on the signage installation suffered a catalogue of problems, including stolen equipment and a broken foot (not specifically while carrying out this project), and a replacement had to be found at short notice!
The sheer number and length of routes, and number of signs, meant this element alone was very complex. Unfortunately not all of the essential rights of way infrastructure was in place, or was badly damaged/in need of replacement – this was often only discovered when signage was being installed, which made signage inefficient and left routes (initially) incompletely signed.
It is absolutely fair to say that this project would not have been successful if it were not for the many hours of planning and implementation work carried out by volunteers, especially Andy Knight (GCLP Board Member) who supported us throughout.
If we ran this project again we would have audited all routes before submitting a funding bid – but this would have required a much longer lead-in. This would have identified more exact signage requirements, and would have identified rights of way infrastructure issues in advance of installation – ensuring a more efficient process and quicker delivery.
The project has been remarkably successful in raising awareness of Greensand Country across the whole landscape.
-JB, Project Manager
The LEADER funding has enabled the creation of a consistent, Greensand Country branded, waymarking system for the labyrinth of interconnected trails for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
AK, GCLP Board Member