Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Our First Guided Walk

Full image credit Owen Humphreys@OwenHumphreys1
If you’ve followed this blog for a while then you’ll know that we’ve been toying with the idea of offering guided walks in Cumbria.  To be honest we’ve been so busy that we haven’t really had time to do much about it, so it was a bit of a surprise when we received a phone call one day to say that a lovely young couple from London wanted us to guide them on a short walk around the Lake District. I remember it well; it was May Bank holiday Monday (the second one) and we were indulging in that most British of Bank Holiday pastimes, painting and decorating. 

(UPDATE: We've since launched our guided walks and you can learn more HERE)

I’m a messy painter and was covered head to toe in a fetching shade of ‘Rustic Sage’ which, despite what it says on the tin, looks more like ‘Chip Shop Mushy Pea’, but I digress.  Stephen Trotter, Chief Exec of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, was busy telling me that Kensington Palace had asked for us by name, as representatives of Cumbria Wildlife Trust,  to guide the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a short walk around Cumbria.  It had never crossed my mind that we’d have to address our first ever customers as “Your Royal Highness”, but that’s what I love about life; you really do never know what’s about to come around the corner.
Full image credit Kensington Palace

We were sworn to secrecy – although the majority of the day was publicised well in advance this walk to was to be a low key and relaxed affair, plus the remote location really wasn’t geared up for thousands of visitors to descend en masse, so we didn’t tell a soul.  I’m not good with secrets; if you’ve ever watched Big Bang Theory, I’m a little like Sheldon when it comes to keeping things a secret and during the final few days avoided replying to my friends or posting things on social media for fear that something would slip out.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
As we made plans with the palace I was keen to reassure them that I’d recently attended my outdoor first aid course and, should the need arise, would be able to whittle up a splint, create a sling from a fleecy jumper and apply sphagnum moss to any and all wounds.  At this point they may have been questioning my guiding abilities. 



Ullswater (Steve Pipe)
The run up to the day passed in a rather surreal haze and before we knew it we were lining up on a farm track ready to meet the Duke and Duchess.  Of course we were nervous, we were about to spend 30 minutes as alone as mere mortals get with two of the most recognisable people on the planet.  From the moment they stepped out of the car it was clear we had nothing at all to worry about; they were both every bit as friendly and down to earth as they appear on TV and within a few minutes I found myself chatting to the Duke of Cambridge as we led them up the first section of the walk.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
Well, when I say I was chatting, what I mean is that I was doing my level best not to hyperventilate while trying to say something of interest about the landscape.  In an effort to make the most of the short amount of time we had available we’d opted for a short but very sharp climb to our first viewpoint; a brilliant plan in many respects but it ruled out coherent sentences on my part for a minute or two.
Patterdale (Steve Pipe)
From there it was another short but more gentle climb to an incredibly picturesque bench, thankfully with plenty of pauses along the way to admire the view.  The Duke and Duchess were incredibly knowledgeable and clearly very fond of the landscape but they also showed a keen interest and asked plenty of questions and I was very glad that we had David Harpley with us – David is the Conservation Manager for Cumbria Wildlife Trust and he was able to tell them about the fantastic work that the trust do to maintain, preserve and improve the landscape.

Full image credit Owen Humphreys @OwenHumphreys1
I’m not going to spill the beans on exactly where the bench is – if you know the area then you know the bench – I’ve never been involved in a Royal visit before and I wouldn’t want to encourage hundreds of people to descend on a small, remote, area to follow in Royal footsteps. I’m also not going to go into detail about what we discussed; there were some lovely moments and some comments which really made me smile.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
That said, they were both absolutely lovely – very natural and very ‘real’, with no airs and graces.  It was especially lovely to see them with the group of children from a local school who we met half way around our route.  Both the Duke and the Duchess got down to their level to chat about nature and wildlife and they readily joined in the short session delivered by Jamie Normington, Education Officer for CumbriaWildlife Trust.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
All too soon the walk was over and we were back to their waiting cars.  Just time for a few gifts – we gave them a bag containing three of our books (Gin, Cake and Rucksacks, Cumbria in Photographs and The Old Ways of Cumbria), together with a bottle of locally made Shed 1 Gin and a personally carved Twigpen (by The Twigpen People) for them and their children, plus a beautiful card by Sam Martin Art. Jamie gave them a copy of The Lost Words (click here to see how he’s raising money to provide 200 schools in Cumbria with a copy of the book) and David gave them a family membership to Cumbria Wildlife Trust . (If you want to download the free wildlife walks we wrote for Cumbria Wildlife Trust then you can find them all here.)


After a final round of goodbyes they were whisked away, ending their day visiting Cumbria, and we were left with many happy memories of the afternoon.  Of course we’re being realistic about our future plans for guided walks and we know that not everyone we guide will be a future heir to the throne.  With that in mind I want to make it quite clear that you do not have to be a Duke or a Duchess to engage our guiding services, other royal titles will also be considered...

The Bench (Steve Pipe)
(And I don’t think I put my foot in it on the walk, but I’ve not ruled out “Life inside the Tower of London” as the title for my next blog!)


PS As we're HUGE supporters of Cumbrian businesses here are a few of the other folks involved in the day.  Mine & Steve's boots came from the lovely folks at Keswick Boot Company, my bright orange scarf was from the Herdy Co (who do a LOT to support the local farming community) and my necklace (which sadly didn't make it into any photos) was from Go Your Own Way .

10 comments:

  1. Wow! You kept that quiet at the course in Kendal last week! Good luck with the guided walks...can you put 'By Royal Appointment' on your marketing now ������?!

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    1. Funny you should say that - not breathing a word or even dropping a hint was one of the toughest parts of keeping the secret! :-D

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  2. Wow! That is fantastic guys. Who'd have thought it....asked for by name by Royalty. I take it you can proudly put on any guide paraphanalia: By Royal Appointment. [Cancel that, I've just checked, you have to have been doing this for five years. Do you know any walks that long in the Lakes?] Well done. Radio, Royalty and you are both 'in print'...where will it end? Congratulations, an excellent article, very funny.

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    1. Thanks Steve - I have offered my services as Royal Blogger...

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  3. <3...beautiful place and you are so lucky to meet them too..

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  4. I know, we feel very fortunate. 🙂

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  5. That's amazing. Does that mean you can put 'By Royal Appointment' on your blog

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  6. Well done Beth and Steve. You might meet the Queen next :)

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  7. In 1985/1986 I worked for RSNC now the Wildlife Trusts. I helped arrange the launch of the British Wildlife Appeal at the Natural History Museum. Prince Charles is the patron and Sir David Attenborough was the Chairman of the Appeal.... exciting times.Had to liaise with Buck House. Also met Wils and Kate in St Andrew's on their last public engagement to launch the St Andrew's University 600 Appeal .... they are lovely. So glad I have read the same book as the future King ....��

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