Call for new Tourist Guides in England's Ancient Capital

There are plenty of people, residents and visitors alike, who fall in love with Winchester. Among these, there cannot be many people more devoted to the city than its loyal band of official tourist guides.

But to become a qualified guide in Winchester takes more than a passion for Winchester's special history and heritage: it takes time, commitment, hard work and weatherproofing. This week, the call has gone out to find the latest recruits who wish to take up the challenge of becoming a Winchester Guide.

Winchester Area Tourist Guides Association (WATGA) is working with Winchester City Council's tourism service to provide a long-awaited training course for new guides, accredited by the national Institute of Tourist Guiding. Consisting of a rigorous academic programme of lectures, site visits and project work, the course requires students to take both written and practical examinations. It also includes elements such as disability awareness, customer care and communications skills. The course is due to start in September this year, but the recruitment and interviewing process is now beginning.

Winchester's Blue Badge Guides - who celebrated their 25th anniversary at a mayoral reception in 2003 - are currently around 30-strong. They take turns on the rota for regular city tours and for seasonal and themed tours which can all be booked at the Tourist Information Centre. They also escort special interest groups, foreign language students and coach tours.

Chairman Elizabeth Proudman said: "Guiding is a very rewarding job. We all love Winchester, and it is a great pleasure to show round the many visitors who come, and to help them appreciate our city by explaining the history and wonderful buildings we have here. There are some good stories to tell, too, which makes the history come to life!"

Programme Director Pamela Boyes added: "Lectures and exams have been arranged to take place on Saturdays, so we hope to welcome plenty of applications from all age groups - from those with other employment and those with families at home to those who are retired. Foreign language speakers are particularly welcome, with German high on the list of requests. Although this entails an additional language examination, the scope for private bookings definitely increases."

Those who pass the examinations are awarded the prestigious red and gold badge depicting the crest of the City of Winchester. For those whose enthusiasm has only just been whetted, there is always the opportunity to become a full Blue Badge Guide by taking a regional course.

Winchester City Council's Head of Tourism Eloise Appleby said: "Although we currently have a good team of guides in place, we like to plan ahead and ensure that there is a healthy number of new recruits in training. New faces bring new approaches and new ideas, which means more choice for our visitors, and for the local people who also enjoy these tours."

Cllr Therese Evans, Winchester City Council's Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said that during her year as Mayor of Winchester she found the services of the Blue Badge Guides invaluable. "I learnt many little-known facts and stories about the District which were fun to share with others - both local people and visitors to the area. I am quite sure that there are many residents who will rise to the challenge of becoming a guide in our splendid city," she added.

For an informal chat about the training course or to request a prospectus, contact Elizabeth Proudman on tel 01264 810308 or e-mail Pamela Boyes on

For full details of the guided tours in Winchester this year, pick up a free leaflet at the Tourist Information Centre on Broadway, e-mail or call 01962 840500.