On January 25th we visited several sites to conduct more user research and examine the sites to see what we could possibly make. We visited Carlton Marshes just outside of Lowestoft (a nature reserve owned by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust), Oulton Broad and the remains of the old brick factory at Somerleyton.

Overview of the project so far

I recorded a 15 minute Google Earth tour of the sites that we have visited so far. For further reading, please read this post about the Great Yarmouth and Burgh Castle site visit. The video shows exactly where each location is, what’s around it, what looks promising for us and also mentions any potential disadvantages of each site.

Carlton Marshes

I conducted ethnographic user research at Carlton Marshes with three people from Great Yarmouth with different backgrounds, but all from the Yarmouth area which this project aims to reach out to. I walked with the focus group and made conversation with them on the walk we did and got the answers to the questions posed to find out what kind of things they’d want from an app focused on this area.

A back street in Great Yarmouth, not far from where we met our focus group. The people this project aims to reach out to are from places like this.

To see an overview of my findings watch the video below which I recorded straight after I had completed the walk with the focus group.

Note: the video below has been edited to protect the identities of the focus group members.

This is what was concluded from the research:

  • The focus group members all enjoyed visiting the site.
  • Two of the three members did not often do walks like the one we did, one of them did and really enjoyed them but said that a map app would be helpful as sometimes walks can be hard to follow.
  • The focus group members all agreed that audio interaction would be ideal and one even said that audio books were great because ‘you can close your eyes and imagine the story better than you could reading words on a page.’ Another member said that audio books were preferable because they find reading text difficult.
  • The focus group were generally quite interested in the wildlife and thought that something to identify the wildlife by the noises they make would be good.
  • The focus group loved the landscape and were really interested in this. They all said they’d be interested in finding out about the landscape heritage and how the landscapes were formed.
  • Social/cultural history was also a common interest amongst the focus group who are also conducting a history project of the Great Yarmouth area separate to this project. The project they are working on is an animation project.
  • Two of the three members use technology fairly regularly, with one using their phone for everything because it’s always on them. The third member uses a tablet only for social media and doesn’t use technology a lot, but said that they’d probably use an app or service like this.
The walk we went on goes along many of the Broads drainage channels by the Waveney river. These channels relate to the cultural and landscape heritage aspects of the project.

There was also the opportunity to speak to the staff at the Carlton Marshes nature reserve who told us that:

  • They plan to expand the site from the current 100 acre size to something bigger.
  • They currently attract a lot of wildlife photographers and enthusiasts.
  • They’d like to turn Carlton Marshes into a reserve a little like Minsmere, which is a much bigger nature reserve, popular with birders, on the Suffolk coast between Southwold and Aldeburgh, about 40 miles south of Carlton Marshes.
  • They’d like to attract at least 150,000 visitors per annum in the next few years and are hoping that being involved with the Broads Authority’s Waterways and Marshes project could help them achieve this.
  • The site is popular with local schools and youth organisations (such as the Girl Guides and Scouts) who come here to do activities related to conservation and pond-dippings.
The walk we went on goes along many of the Broads drainage channels by the Waveney river. These channels relate to the cultural and landscape heritage aspects of the project.

During our discussion with the focus group and the staff and a historian that we are working with we came up with some possible formative ideas for an app idea here:

  • The historian noted that we had just all been out on a walk and engaged in good conversations and that a phone app or digital service shouldn’t be allowed to ruin this. So, we started talking about communities who could benefit from a digital service in this location:
    • Walking communities – people could meet up at Carlton Marshes and use the app together whilst walking. It could encourage people to work or give them tasks to do whilst walking, or perhaps help identify wildlife and landmarks on the walk and explain heritage.
    • Fitness groups – the app could encourage to meet here and do gentle walks for fitness. There has been plenty of evidence to suggest that walking is sufficient exercise, including this information from the NHS.
    • History groups – people could meet to find out about the local history of the area and how these landforms were formed.
  • It was suggested that people could share their experiences on some form of social media to open discussion about what they found.
  • The usual ‘AR history’ and wildlife identification and mapping app ideas came up – very similar to what was envisioned at Burgh Castle last week.
The walk we went on goes along many of the Broads drainage channels by the Waveney river. These channels relate to the cultural and landscape heritage aspects of the project.

Mobile broadband speeds at Carlton Marshes were acceptable, but not as strong as it was at the sites investigated last week. Using a Samsung Galaxy S8 with the Samsung ClearView Case attached on Vodafone UK, I managed to achieve 3.83mbps download and just 0.14mbps upload. It was apparent that downloading content would be OK, but uploading not so good.

Mobile broadband speeds at Carlton Marshes weren’t amazing but acceptable.

Oulton Broad

We headed into the Lowestoft suburb of Oulton Broad after having completed the research with the focus group at Carlton Marshes to see what it was like there. Oulton Broad isn’t really a location we are looking to make an app for, but it is on the Angles Way and more importantly for us on the day – it had a cafe for lunch! The visit to Oulton Broad was useful though because I was able to see how much better the access to the Angles Way was at Oulton Broad compared to Great Yarmouth which I had criticised last week.

  • Oulton Broad has more parking.
  • There are more facilities available, such as cafes, shops, toilets, tourist information and even attractions such as boat rides into Lowestoft.
  • There is hard-standing access to the Angles Way.
  • The area is much more attractive and safer.
  • There’s no need for a long walk to the beginning of the Angles Way – from the broad at Oulton Broad just keep walking along the edge of the broad.
Boats moored on Oulton Broad. To reach the Angles Way just walk along this hard-standing path along the south side of the broad.

Somerleyton Brick Factory remains

After we had looked at Oulton Broad, we went to Somerleyton to observe the remains of the brick factory with our historian and the focus group. It was interesting to see these remains as I have done some research into this now-defunct brick industry for my moodboard, but did not find out a lot of information on it. Our historian said that not a lot of information exists about it and that what I have been able to find out about it as about all we know. Below is some information from the Broads Authority about the Somerleyton brick factory.

Between the conservation area and the river is a small area of slightly higher density development. This is comprised of a group of terraced workers’ cottages, which were built for employees of Lucas Brothers’ brickworks in the 1860s and a small discreet 1980s housing development on Marsh Lane. Somerleyton Brickworks, a large former industrial site now reclaimed by nature, lies within this area and was once served by a short length of canal which is now used for other purposes.

Industry in Somerleyton reached its height in the mid nineteenth century before declining rapidly in the early twentieth. The thriving brickworks closed in 1939, and today despite its popularity with tourists the village is a quiet tranquil place.

Also within this area are the remains of the brickworks itself which thrived here from c.1790 until 1939. The land surrounding Somerleyton contains deposits of glacial clay suitable for brick making. This is making hard white bricks with deposits of red clay for lesser quality red bricks beneath.

For more information, look at this PDF document. This is where the quotes above come from.

When I was researching this I also found this to be a good resource. This website has a lot of information about Lucas Brothers on it, who owned the brick factory at Somerleyton in the 1840s. They also had similar factories in Lowestoft, too.

All that’s left are some remains of brick walls and the kiln. It is believed that the factory would have had a curved roof – a little like a military nissen hut – but that is really all we know about it.

The remains of the brick factory at Somerleyton.

 

The remains of the brick factory at Somerleyton.

 

Boats stored at Somerleyton Marina. In the past this was direct acccess from the River Waveney to the brick factory.

 

Looking out towards the Waveney from Somerleyton Marina.

It was suggested that we could produce another ‘AR history’ app for this location, but there are some setbacks:

  • We don’t know enough how the factory would have looked to recreate this. There would need to be extensive (and expensive) research carried out in order to accurately recreate this factory.
  • Since the site is not managed, there is nobody we know of that we could ask to tell us about its history. We’d likely need to find people who have ‘memories’ of parents or possibly grandparents working there or consult local libraries and history groups, but the likelihood is that they won’t know any more than what we have already found online.
  • The factory is located a long way away from Somerleyton village and even the railway station. The Angles Way is signed, but the factory remains themselves aren’t (even though they lie right on the Angles Way). Access is therefore poor and the remains are not known about. The ruins are approximately 1.2 miles (or a 20 minute walk) from Somerleyton Hall, undoubtedly the biggest tourist attraction in the village. This may not seem far, but the ruins are located down muddy tracks and there is no signage. It’s not tourist friendly.
  • Access is actually easiest by boat from the River Waveney. The factory was built close to the river for transportation and what is now Somerleyton Marina was once access to the factory. Not a lot of people will be able to access this.
  • The area is not managed at all and there are no plans to develop this further. This is even less-managed than Breydon Water. There are no plans to increase visitor numbers, so it would likely not be cost-effective to produce an experience here, however interesting or beneficial for teaching local history it may be.
  • The site only really satisfies the ‘cultural heritage’ aspect of this project brief from the Broads Authority – there isn’t as much it can do for landscape heritage and biodiversity.
  • However, it could potentially work as a ‘test site’ for something bigger.

Furthermore, broadband speeds here are very poor as the area is remote and not close to any phone masts.

The mobile broadband speeds are very slow in this remote location.

 

There are some signs mentioning the Angles Way, but like at Breydon Water, these signs only appear once you are actually on the Angles Way and are a long way from the Somerleyton village itself.

Closing thoughts

I felt that I did a good job of the ethnographic research. I was able to get all of the answers to the questions I had wanted to ask just by engaging in conversation whilst on the walk and I didn’t need to sit them down and ask them. It can be hard to start a conversation with strangers whilst walking but I found that pointing out things that relate to the project, such as some swans we saw on the route, were good entry points for starting a conversation to find the answers to the questions. I also remembered that these people had volunteered to come on a walk with us and talk to us about how they what they do in the area and with technology – it wasn’t like the Norwich Market project where we were literally put onto the street and had to approach members of the public whom had no prior knowledge of what we were doing and ask them questions. The people in this focus group knew roughly what we were doing and we did explain to them fully in the car on the way to Carlton Marshes.

The focus group were very relaxed when I spoke to them and were more than happy to talk about their likes, dislikes and interests.

After the walk I immediately recorded the video posted in this article whilst my peers got the focus group around a table and interviewed them. I think this was a good and a bad idea. I had so many ideas and thoughts from the walk in my head after that walk that I needed to record them, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to write this post until a few days after the walk and might forget what had been discussed. However, my peers were able to get some additional information in the table interview and also had the Suffolk Wildlife Trust staff to talk to too and provide even more information. I came in at the end of this conversation – would have been good to get more from it.

I used my original Microsoft Surface Pro (left) to record notes in the table meeting. Its small size and the fact it runs Windows software means that even 6 years after its launch, it is the perfect note-taking machine!

The best sites so far for our app are:

  • Burgh Castle, visited January 18th. For my full opinion on this site please read this post, but generally it is a good location for similar reasons to Carlton Marshes, but could be focused more on history than wildlife and landscape heritage.
  • Carlton Marshes, like Burgh Castle is is a managed site with a team of people maintaining it who have a vision for its future. Like Burgh Castle, it is also a tourist attraction so visitor numbers will be quite high. People with a very specific interest tend to visit sites like this, so the app would be easy to focus.
  • Both sites also feature circular walks, which have gone done well with our focus groups on both site visits.

Breydon Water and the brick factory remains are not so strong because of one or more of the following:

  • They are hard to access or they are in unknown locations.
  • There is not really enough we could do to satisfy all three requirements of the project brief.
  • Visitor numbers are low.
  • The sites are not managed, though this is not necessarily a hindrance if the site is visited by a lot of people and shows potential – our app could be the start of some kind of management or redevelopment.
  • Mobile broadband speeds are too low or it’d be too expensive or not cost-effective to install remote servers.

What’s next?

We’ll likely be evaluating how the visit went in our university session on Tuesday 29th. Then we’ll begin to plan our next, and possibly final, site visit which is likely to be on Beccles on Friday February 1st.