I always like to keep things interesting, not just for the people who come with me on my tours, but also for me. If things get a bit routine, then this comes across in the delivery and that’s the last thing I want. So for this seasons tours I sat down and looked at each one in the portfolio and referenced it against the feedback it had received and decided to make a few changes. It wasn’t easy, two of the tours that I replaced were in fact the first two I had ever written. As firstborns I had a bit of a soft spot for them, but decided it was the right thing to do. They’re now having a well earned rest in the archive and I’ll probably start working on their updates later in the year.
Putting a tour together is quite a long process. I’d say from concept to launch takes on average about three to four months dependant on my current workload. There’s always a lot of fact checking to be done once the locations are in place, just because something appears in Wikipedia doesn’t make it the truth! But after that then the only thing that remains before it goes live is to learn it off by heart, forwards, backwards, even sideways if needs be. I usually use mental pictures, but occasionally also add mnemonics for names, dates etc. Then I try to compile a list of questions that people on the tour might ask me. I love to be asked questions, it shows that the tour is catching peoples imagination. A tour without questions is a tour where people haven’t engaged with you. It happens occasionally, but I’m pleased that they are very few and far between.
I’ve written a little piece below about the two new tours for this year and a how they came about. So after all the trials and tribulations of the last couple of years, here’s to a busy 2022 and I do hope to meet you at some time in the future on one of my tours.
EAST OF EDEN
The East of Eden tour came about when I discovered the pastime of “Mudlarking”. That is looking around the Thames foreshore at low tide for the things be they very old or relatively new that the river has decided to give up for the duration of low tide. When walking to my chosen destinations I started to build a picture of the history and lives of the inhabitants of the area. This left me with about ten separate pieces of research. The tricky thing was to know what to keep and what not to use, but after a few weeks I had them in some sort of order and began the test walks. The thing with test walking is that while you’re following your script and directions most times you see something new that just shouts to be included in the tour, so each test walk usually adds more points of interest. With this tour I test walked it twelve times in all and then a final walk with a party of friends who are not known for holding back on their criticisms. I’m really pleased about how the finished tour has turned out and can’t wait to have the opportunity to take people on it.
SHOP ‘TILL YOU DROP
I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve walked along Cheapside in the City of London. Occasionally I’d think to myself, Cheapside, yes the medieval market area and continue on my way to where I was going without a second thought. I knew a few anecdotal things about the area, but had never managed to put them all together. That is until a recent strike on the Tube. A mixture of no trains, roadworks and the extra traffic made commuting around London a nightmare. I was by the Bank of England trying to go north to Euston. Due to diversions a lot of busses weren’t going that far and those that did were packed with like minded commuters. There were no time constraints as I had several hours in hand and I hate standing on overcrowded busses, so I decided to have a stroll round the area until the madness eased a little bit, so I started to walk up to Cheapside. Access to the internet which allows you to research on the hoof is one of my favourite ways of putting a tour together and as I progressed up Cheapside I realised that I was going to have a lot of material to work with. In fact it took three hours of walking, stopping and finding information about a location and in the end I had to jump in a cab for fear of being late for my train. It was probably another two weeks of sifting through what I had, putting what I wanted to keep in order, making the tour flow and then finally checking and rechecking the information. This one was a little easier to test walk and I managed to get it done over the course of two days, walking it four times each day. I find it a really interesting tour and I hope that you will feel the same.