Thursday, 9 June 2016

Streets Ahead: Make Sure You Get A Great Guide

Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker

Make Sure You Get a Great Guide

AKA how to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Here's how we - London Walks - do it.

You have to be a grown-up to guide for London Walks. Being a London Walks guide isn't a summer job for a college student.

What's behind that policy and practice? Only [only?] this: the human brain isn't fully developed until you're in your mid-twenties. Not to put too fine a point on it, guiding of this calibre - London Walks standard - requires a fully developed brain. It's not just us, it's also our walkers, our market - they don't want to be taken around by a 90 percenter, with all that that  entails. [See below.] Some of those kids might turn out to be gifted guides in a few years' time but they're not there yet. There are a lot of fundamental building blocks and the most fundamental of all of them is having a fully developed brain.

Part and parcel of this "age and maturity requirement" is that this craft is accumulative. You have to know a lot, have to have read a lot, have to have learned the ropes, have to have been a grownup for at least a few years and done grownup things, been a real professional. Have to have accumulated experience, nous, know-how and knowledge. A 20-year-old hasn't had the time to have built up those stores, those reserves, that depth and breadth of knowledge, that fund of stories.

It doesn't mean an experienced guide's walks get longer - it  means they've got much richer pickings to draw on, to edit and  select when they're shaping and colouring a walk. It's a much richer palette they've got recourse to.

Here's a good tip. Sink a few minutes into looking at the one star reviews on Trip  Advisor. If one of the complaints that comes up again and again is: "the tour was threadbare, thin on facts and hard, solid information - mostly she just talked about herself and the bars she's been to, etc. [or words to that effect]" - that's a giveaway. She (or he) will be a youngster, is pumping that stuff out because the well is extremely shallow, that's all she's got to talk about. Hasn't lived long enough to have read much, to have got more than a Wikipedia swot-up of the history, institutions and goings-on of the city she (or he) is "guiding."

If you're fine with that in a guide, well, you know where you can find them. But if you want something a lot meatier - want substance and mastery - those reviews  are your DEW (Distant Early Warning) system.

You don't have to have a guide whose basic grasp of facts is shaky, who knows precious little and talks mostly about herself.

See you on a London Walk with an accomplished, assured, professional, top flight London Walks guide.

You're right for us and we're right for  you.

Ok, this is Number One in a series on this topic. There are several other ways you can "tell." I'll set them out in various and sundry follow-up posts.

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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