Investigating route-choice by recreational walkers in the English Lake District

Davies, Nick orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9889-1205 (2016) Investigating route-choice by recreational walkers in the English Lake District. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Please write a brief description of your work, or copy an abstract you have included in the Thesis Walking is the principal outdoor recreation activity in the UK, and a significant part of the tourism offer. However, tourism study has not previously given significant attention to match participation levels. Furthermore, the range of participation in evidence necessitates a closer investigation. Walkers vary widely in the frequency of their walks, how important walking is in their tourism activity, and their motivations and preferences in walking environments.

A combination of data collection methods involved a qualitative programme of 23 interviews with walking practitioners and an extensive survey questionnaire of walkers in the English Lake District (n=518). The study was framed by a grounded theory approach. This research design methodology reflects the exploratory nature of the study. Additionally it addresses the fact that the UK walking market is at present, supplied by a nebulous collection of sectors, which are as yet, not as congruent in their approach to management as they could be.

The study resulted in a number of important findings which add to the body of knowledge on walking in national parks and other rural tourism environments. The range of walking activity can be explained in part by individual levels of confidence in the activity. Participants are either ‘casual’ or ‘serious’ in their approach towards walking; and this distinction enables research to conceptualise an activity which spans more extreme recreational activities such as mountaineering, and the significant part of the market who will walk whilst on holiday, or on day visits, but elsewise not frequently. Route-choice was found to be related to, but not dependent on the casual-serious typology: one individual could be serious in their approach but undertake less demanding, ‘more casual’ walks at certain times. This can be built upon by future research, to understand the motivations of individuals in more depth.

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