The day dawned wet, very wet. I had decided to put numbers corresponding to the walk map around the village to reassure punters that they were, literally, on the right track. Trying to outwit the village bad boys I had decided to leave putting up the signs until day 1 – bad mistake! After half an hour cycling round the village with my signs, my string and my stapler, the signs were up but I was drenched. At 10 o’clock my first customer arrived, a friend who was tackling the walk alone. Duly briefed about safety, the kit and “the process”, Maggie set off in the drizzle whilst I baked a batch of buns for refreshments.
1300 hours and my first customer had not returned. Maybe she had stopped to dry off, as the drizzle became a downpour during the morning. However as I knew that she had been very ill 18 months ago, I decided to check her home
“Hi David, it’s Sue Rowe here – is Maggie at home?”
“Isn’t she with you?” asked her husband
Alarm bells started ringing! Maggie’s husband was trying to get her on her mobile whilst my husband sprinted across the road to the cemetery – had she collapsed there, fallen down a rabbit hole? Five minutes later he returned with Maggie looking fit and well, she had been home for a cup of tea but clearly her husband didn’t see her! By the time we’d had a laugh about it and she’d completed the feedback form – Maggie made the point that you could not do the walk unless you were able-bodied – the 2 o’clock bookings were arriving – 2 couples and a lady on her own. Having briefed each party separately I tried to write a letter only to be constantly interrupted by the ‘phone – thanks Guardian! Letter half-written and the afternoon crowd arrived back full of it! Tea and cakes all round whilst they filled out the feedback forms. The bits in the church and the cemetery had worked the best for them.
“I found myself singing along with ‘Abide with me’”
“We went wrong and came out through the school grounds”
“We went wrong there as well because the footpath has a sign in each direction”
Map reading, it seems, is not a universal skill!
As soon as they all left I dashed off and did an extra sign – a large white arrow on a handbill. I just got it laminated when the 1730 couple arrived. Duly briefed they started listening to the play whilst I hurried to the field with the ambiguous signs and stuck up my big arrow and got back in time for the 1830 people. By 7 o’clock everyone was out and I was just about to get some dinner when the 1730 couple returned. No, they hadn’t enjoyed it, it made them feel miserable and it was muddy – didn’t expect it to be so muddy…and I didn’t expect anyone to turn up to do a country walk in white shoes! They turned down the offer of a drink, quickly filled in the feedback form and went home to Bottesford for their meal – was that the problem, low blood sugar? On the feedback form one of them had noted that their village was nothing like. I don’t think that they really know their village, they just reside there!
At last, we eat the fastest omelette and salad ever before the remaining 6 customers, all locals, return. Cynthia had listened to the first bit in my garden then paused the play until she got to the next location, finding her error – because the others told her – she tried to catch up with them but somehow managed to get to the UEFA football!! Eventually, with the help of others she was back on track!!
They had all enjoyed it and much discussion followed helped along with a couple of bottles of wine, eventually leaving me exhausted – can I keep this up for 5 days?!
Lessons from today:
- The sandwich board helped people locate my house but a larger poster would have helped even more.
- Should the route be accessible to the less-able and wheelchair users?
- Do NOT assume that people can read even a simple map, even when you’ve been through the route with them at the briefing. There is a need to make the route foolproof – people seem to go off the marked route onto other footpaths because they’re there! More arrows?
- You need to tell people to keep the play going when they are walking and tell them NOT TO PRESS “BACK” in any circumstance – that’s how Cynthia got the football match!
- No-one accepted the offer of a high-visibility vest because they make you stand out too much.
- Feedback sessions with people you know quickly become parties when there is wine on offer!
Offering the flexibility within sessions ties you to the house totally and a 1000 to 2130 hours day is very long.