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The Poole Harbour Case Study

Find out more about the Poole Harbour Case Study, Questionnaires and Citizens' Panel results

The Case Study Sites

The VALMER project sets out to test methods in how to value ecosystem services at six case study sites, three on the south-west coast of England and three in France. Ecosystem services can be described as direct and indirect benefits gained by humans from the natural environment e.g. food, climate regulation, recreation, tourism and production of oxygen from plants. Each of the six case studies are focusing on different ecosystem services e.g. recreation, shellfish farming effects on seagrasses, and kelp farming to name a few.

The six cases studies include:

  • Poole Harbour
  • North Devon
  • Plymouth Sound - Fowey
  • Gulf of Brittany/Normandy
  • Iroise Sea
  • Gulf of Morbihan

The Poole Harbour Case Study

The Dorset Coast Forum (DCF) are investigating the monetary and non-monetary benefits derived from the ecosystem service 'recreation', and more specifically six recreational activities taking place in Poole Harbour that use the marine environment; kitesurfing, windsurfing, wildlife watching, canoeing/kayaking, jetskiing and waterskiing/wakeboarding. The Dorset Coast Forum has undertaken a series of questionnaires over the spring/summer 2013 with people actively engaging in these six activities in Poole Harbour. The survey was officially launched on 14 May 2013 with our Valmer Survey Press Release (word, 14kb) (opens in a new window) .

Results of the surveys

The results from the survey (pdf, 6Mb) (opens in a new window) were presented at the Open Evening on Wednesday 29 January 2014.

Information about the VALMER project (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window) was also presented. Download the notes from the meeting (pdf, 154kb) (opens in a new window) detailing who attended, the discussions about the results and the feedback from attendees.

It is hoped that the results will have the potential to be used:

  • In the Poole Harbour Aquatic Management Plan review 2016
  • To potentially inform Poole Harbour Commissioner's policies for managing recreation in the harbour
  • By tourism boards, local authorities, national governing bodies

Information about the Surveys and Questionnaires

The Dorset Coast Forum formulated a number of questionnaires with colleagues at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (VALMER project partner). These were designed to capture:

  • Economic information about how much people are spending on their trip to Poole Harbour
  • People's motivations for coming to Poole Harbour compared to alternative sites
  • Management of the site; whether there could be any improvements in how their recreational activity is managed in Poole Harbour and the factors that could affect the frequency of their visit
  • General information about their trip; how long they spend doing the activity, what parts of Poole Harbour they use and how often they visit
  • Background information in order to form a profile for each activity, for example, age, sex, gender etc.

Many thanks to all those who completed our questionnaire. We received 550 responses in total and we have contacted the three lucky prize winners.

Dorset Citizens' Panel survey

Eight questions relating to the VALMER project were included in the 29th edition of the Dorset Citizens' Panel survey sent out in March 2013.

A total of 3,043 Dorset residents responded to questions asking about their reasons for moving into and remaining in their current home, how they rank characteristics of the natural marine environment and how often they participate in outdoor recreational activities along the Dorset coast and specifically in Poole Harbour.


  • Respondents ranked the local natural environment as the second most important reason for moving into their current home in Dorset and the main reason for remaining
  • Overall, respondents ranked wildlife as the most important characteristic of the natural marine environment followed by views across the water and then water quality. Interestingly, when looking at the breakdown of answers within age categories, significantly more respondents aged 25-44 ranked water quality as the most important compared to 45+ year olds, and significantly more respondents aged 75+ ranked the views across the water as the most important compared to 25-64 year olds
  • In the last 12 months, 58% of respondents have been wildlife watching along the Dorset Coast, of which 70% have done so in Poole Harbour
  • 14% have undertaken a watersports activity in the last 12 months along the Dorset coast and/or in Poole Harbour. Kayak/canoeing and sailing were some of the most popular activities, with small numbers of respondents going windsurfing, jetskiing and kitesurfing

Poole Opinion Panel

Six questions relating to the VALMER project were included in the Poole Opinion Panel survey sent out in Autumn 2014.

A total of 856 Poole residents responded to the panel survey asking questions about how often they had visited Poole Harbour, how they rank characteristics of the natural marine environment and how often they participate in outdoor recreational activities along the Dorset coast and specifically in Poole Harbour.


  • 97% had visited Poole Harbour in the past 5 years
  • Most respondents said views across the water and coastline was the most important characteristic, followed by quality of the water then wildlife
  • 69% of respondents had been wildlife watching in the past 12 months in Poole Harbour, with a quarter doing so at least monthly. The figures are slightly less for those going wildlife watching elsewhere along the Dorset Coast
  • 32% have done watersports in the past 12 months in Poole Harbour,  15% at least monthly. Again, the  figures were slightly less for those doing watersports elsewhere along the Dorset Coast
  • Of those that have done watersports in Poole Harbour, 13% sailed, 8% fished, 7% canoe/kayaked, 3% windsurfed, 1% kite surfed and 1%jetskied. The number were very similar for those respondents doing these activities elsewhere along the Dorset Coast
  • Most people had engaged with other activities over the past 12 months rather than watersports, including wildlife watching, walking for pleasure, cycling for pleasure and picnicking

How are these results going to be used?

Results from this survey have helped the Dorset Coast Forum understand the importance of the local natural environment to Dorset and Poole residents. It has also given us an idea of how many Dorset and Poole residents participate in various recreational activities along the coast. The information gained from this survey along with the results gained from the six other questionnaires will help us to understand the value of recreation as part of the VALMER project.

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