What’s the best thing about being a Blue Badge Guide?
There are lots of things I like about it but I’ll pick just a few. Firstly, the opportunity to show off the best of our country to visitors from all over the world. Whether I’m helping local people find out things they never knew about their home city, or taking international guests to famous attractions, sharing my knowledge and the locations themselves with people is something that gives me a real thrill. Secondly, working with all kinds of different people from a huge range of backgrounds. Especially on multi-day tours, you have a chance to talk to them about all kinds of things. Thirdly, it is a job that allows me to pursue my own interest in history, culture and discovering new places. Making a living out of something you love doing and that gives people enjoyment is a privilege that I truly appreciate.
And the worst thing?
Like any freelance job, probably the lack of stability and uncertainty of work is the worst thing. Also if uncontrollable circumstances such as adverse weather, traffic jams or whatever interfere with an itinerary, as this makes me feel bad for the people on the tour, even though it is not my fault.
What’s your favourite countryside in England?
I enjoy getting out into all countryside areas to be honest, and I would recommend rural England to anyone. In fine weather, there is nowhere to match it. But if I had to pick a favourite, it would be the Peak District. It has a great combination of gentle and more dramatic scenery, along with some attractive and interesting towns and villages, such as Matlock and Buxton. There are also excellent places to visit like Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall, both of which I highly recommend, and love taking groups to. Growing up in Nottingham, it was an area that I’ve known since I was a child from school trips, walking and youth hostelling holidays in my teens, and when I learned to drive I spent numerous days cruising around the roads and lanes of the area. I know most of the routes there very well, which leads to some strange looks from coach drivers, when I direct them down an unexpected road during a tour.
For the ultimate English tea?
One of the pleasures of my work is the need to try out local places to eat and drink in locations I’m going to be visiting with groups (purely for research you understand). So I consider myself something of a connoiseur of tea shops. There is something quintessentially English about afternoon tea, especially in rural areas, and they are popular with most visitors. Among many excellent places I have found, my favourite is Juri’s, which is in Winchcome in the Cotswolds. It is run by a Japanese family, and the owner is a fellow Blue Badge Guide who qualified on the same course as I did. You don’t just have to take my word for how good it is, they won the “National Tea Shop of the Year” award from the English Tea Council a couple of years ago!