Winchester's Official Tourist Guides' Rural Coach Training Success

Never ones to rest on their laurels, Winchester's official tourist guides have been working very hard recently to complete a rural coach guiding training course, jointly provided by Winchester City Council and Winchester Area Tourist Guides Association with financial support from the South Downs Sustainable Development Fund.

Ten of the recently qualified green badge guides have completed the course, which involved attending a mixture of lectures and practice coach tours covering subjects from the history of the market towns of Wickham, Bishop's Waltham and Alresford, the historic churches of the Meon and Itchen Valleys, to learning about the flora and fauna of this unique stretch of chalk downland and the more practical aspect of learning how to use a microphone on the move. The course will enable the guides to lead tours around the area promoted in the City Council's Meon Valley Churches leaflet which was published last year.

The guides were invited to attend a presentation by the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Sue Nelmes, at Abbey House where they each received a certificate in the presence of the Mayor, the Leader of the Council, Cllr George Beckett, whose portfolio is economy and tourism, and Cllr Patricia Stallard, the council's portfolio holder for culture, heritage and sport. All the Winchester Tourist Guides were invited and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet in the Mayor's official residence.

The Mayor was keen to host the event and said, "I am delighted that the guides will be able to open up so many more beautiful and interesting places in the Winchester district. I am also looking forward to going on one of the tours myself, as I am sure they will be able to introduce me to places I have never been!"

The training has been provided with the help of Winchester City Council's heritage services team in order to enable the guides to operate guided coach tours, which will offer both residents and visitors the opportunity to learn more about the often undiscovered - yet beautiful - rural areas of the Winchester district.  Initially, the tours will be bookable on demand by groups, and featured for public booking on special occasions such as the Winchester Open Weekend which takes place each September.    

For the more energetic, these valleys can be discovered on a series of self-guided walks and cycle trails, which have been developed by Winchester City Council's museums and heritage service thanks to a generous grant from the South Downs Sustainable Development Fund.  The first leaflet - Meon Valley Churches - is already widely available. The second - The Itchen Valley Churches - is currently in production and should be available during April. Both contain a selection of walks and cycle rides suitable for all abilities, along with suggestions for places to stay or take refreshment.

Sue Coles, Chair of Winchester Area Tourist Guides added, "We are grateful to Winchester City Council for providing this training, as prior to this, many of the guides had not previously used a microphone - and there is a lot of skill involved, believe it or not. As a keen cyclist I think the leaflets are a wonderful opportunity to discover the hidden wonders of the Meon and Itchen Valleys."

Contact Winchester Tourist Information Centre on 01962 840 500 to register your interest for the coach tours or the forthcoming Itchen Valley Churches leaflet, or to receive a copy of the Meon Valley Churches leaflet. This can also be requested by going to