Dynamic Dunescapes Dune Engagement Case Study

Nature Tots Activity Group in Purbeck


Sand dune system:

Studland, Purbeck Heaths NNR, Dorset

Case Study Subject:

Nature tots, an outdoor activity group for parents and children in Purbeck

About The Dune System Habitat Management Intervention
What was the issue/change you hoped to make?

When mapping out nature engagement for young people, aged 0-25, we noticed a significant gap when it came to nature ‘connection’ in the 0-5 aged sector. This was a Purbeck wide landscape mapping tool, and while there were other activities happening across the landscape (e.g. monthly nature tots at Arne), there was still a gap for the more local audience of Swanage and a more regular basis, weekly. This also coincided with an ask from the local community for a nature tots session.

What was the suggested intervention?

To develop a local community group that supports one another and their little ones for outdoor play, to build confidence in individuals, and strong connections with nature.

What did you do?

Nature Tots was created with the help of two National Trust Volunteers who develop and lead the sessions. The group meets every Monday morning for activities in the dunes and surrounding habitats.

How did you do it?

The group was advertised through social media, local posters and website listings and pre-existing contacts with schools & community groups were utilised.

Volunteers, supervised by the National Trust team, created session plans and activities, organised equipment and locations and then ran the Nature Tots sessions.

Activities ranged from creating dune art to reading stories and exploring the sounds of nature.

How was the intervention monitored?

NT Volunteers lead each session, and a feedback session was run at the end of the first season. This provided parents with the opportunity to share what they thought was/wasn’t working and ideas for future sessions.

What modifications, if any, did you make to your initial plan and why?

Ideas and improvements from the feedback session were incorporated into subsequent session plans. It was also highlighted that great sessions can happen with little resources allow for adjustment of expectations.

What issues arose and how did you overcome them?

Parents having different opinions of what the content of the sessions should be. We then formed a parent sounding session to discuss all of the concerns/ areas of improvements and developed an action plan to respond.

How much did the intervention cost?

Only National Trust volunteer costs.

What was the scale of the intervention?

Parents predominantly came from the Swanage area.

Did the intervention work?
Please describe how. What has changed?

Yes, the sessions have been booked and well attended. Parents have also said that they are accessing areas of the NNR that they previously felt was too difficult with toddlers.

The social element of the group has also created a space that parents are looking to use in addition the organized activities.

What could be done differently?

Feedback sessions have highlighted a need for more equipment. Communal resources such as welly banks and a borrow box will be created moving forward and equipment including pond dipping nets and magnifying glasses are being sourced. It was also raised that sessions should be shorter in the winter as it becomes colder.

Images from Nature Tots sessions
Two women sit in the dune scrub with a child looking at the plants
A nature tots session
Child's artwork of a face made from sticks, moss and bottle caps
A child's artwork from an art activity
Constructive feedback from parents:

•The sessions have enabled the children and parents to use the National Trust as part of the children’s development and has provided a social meeting place for parents.

•Positive feedback regarding how the sessions are planned and the variety of topics covered.

•Enabled some parents to explore the woods which they would not have felt able to do alone with a toddler.

•Like it when there is a conservation element or ecological focus to the sessions

•Like the way the sessions are facilitated, ie informality with a specific focus