If you would like to book a Blue Badge Guide, contact me to discuss your requirements.
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!
Rushton Triangular Lodge is an oddity set in the middle of nowhere. As its name suggests, it’s built in the shape of a triangle. Everything about it relates to the number three: there are three floors, three windows per wall per floor, with three triangular gables on each side.
It only takes a few minutes to look around, and there are no grounds to speak of, so it isn’t worth making a special journey to visit. However, if you happen to be in the general area it is quirky enough to warrant a slight detour to take it in.
As the highest guiding qualification in the UK, the Blue Badge amounts to a quality mark for guides. While guiding styles and personalities differ hugely, the badge shows that the guide has studied the Blue Badge course for their region, and has passed the written and practical examinations. You can be assured that they have a thorough background knowledge of English history, culture, architecture, literature and many other topics, along with very specific knowledge of the region they are qualified to guide in. It also means that they have been trained in guiding techniques – how to present information effectively for different kinds of tours, how to plan and organise a tour, how to research areas and locations, how to manage a group safely on a tour. Equally important, but often overlooked, is that the Blue Badge means the guide has full public liability insurance cover through their membership of professional associations. Other guides may indeed have insurance, but you have no way of knowing unless you specifically ask them to prove it. All in all, by hiring a Blue Badge guide you can be confident that you are in the best and safest possible hands to help you make the most of your trip, combining in-depth knowledge, practical expertise and the reassurance that comes from working with a highly qualified, accredited and insured professional.
There are no hidden costs, but there may be additional ones. If you book a Blue Badge Guide for a tour that involves staying away from home, you will be responsible for the cost of the guide’s accommodation, evening meals and soft drinks. You may also be required to pay the guide’s travel expenses to and from your meeting point, and you will need to pay for their entry ticket to any places that do not offer free entry to Blue Badge Guides.
However, your guide will agree all charges with you beforehand, so there will be no nasty surprises at the end of your tour.
I offer two types of tours: public and private. The public walking tours are run by me and a colleague, Michael, and take place in Birmingham on Saturdays, and anybody is welcome to join these. You will find details of times and prices at Midlands Discovery Tours. Michael and I also offer public ghost walks in Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield and Warwick and details of these can also be found at Midlands Discovery Tours.
Private walks are ones I have been booked for by a particular group or organisation, and these are limited to people that belong to that particular group.
Anyone can book a private tour – I have done tours for tourist groups, corporate incentive schemes, schools, birthday parties, business trips, office nights out, book clubs and music fans, to name just a few examples – so if this is something that would interest you, get in touch
Of course! You can book a Blue Badge Guide for as long or short a time as you like – there is no minimum or maximum time limit. There may be a minimum charge however – if you book a Blue Badge Guide for just a one hour tour, you are likely to pay a half-day rate.
As with all issues regarding pricing, the best advice is to contact the guide and talk to them about your booking.
The price for hiring a Blue Badge Guide varies from region to region, with London being the most expensive. It will also depend how long you require a guide for – booking a Blue Badge Guide for a 10 day tour will work out cheaper per day than booking for just one day. Tours in a language other than English are generally more expensive.
The best way to find out specific prices is to contact the guide, talk to them about what you want and let them give you their price.
The Green badge is the second highest level of guiding qualification and shows that a person is qualified to guide in one particular city. The Blue Badge is the highest level of guiding qualification which covers several counties.
A Green Badge Guide may hold a badge for more than one city, and a Blue Badge Guide may hold a badge for more than one region. The badge will state where the qualification is held for, for example the one shown is for the Heart of England region which covers Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire.
In addition to the badges, guides can train to receive an endorsement, which is for a particular building or place. I have the 2012 Venues endorsement which covers the places used for the London Olympic games.
The Blue Badge is the highest level of qualification there is for guiding in the UK. It takes between one and two years of study to earn. Each badge covers one region, which includes several counties. For example, mine is for the Heart of England which covers the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire.
The course covers guiding techniques for walking tours and coach tours, and how to research and design a tour as well as all the relevant knowledge. Guides are expected to be able to talk about national level topics such as history, education, politics, architecture and art, in addition to having specific local knowledge.
The assessment process is rigorous with 4 written exams, 4 practical exams and coursework. There is also an additional exam for anyone who wishes to guide in a language other than English. I took the language exam for German, so that is also covered by my qualification.