I’ve done quite a very varied guided walks around North Pembrokeshire but the other day a was thrown a challenge which needed an imaginative solution – and quickly. Now many have told me along the way that a business needs to evolve and I never doubted them, but at the same time I did not really know what they meant – and I usually just nodded and changed the subject. But now I can also offer that sage advice to others and know what it means!
We had a really great family staying with us at our country cottages and I was really delighted when they asked me to lay on a family friendly guided walk for a day to show them around North Pembrokeshire. No problem there because their ‘theme’ was one of my ‘banker’s’ – show us the best of North Pembrokeshire! – and I could wax lyrical about North Pembrokeshire for days at a time!
No, the challenge was that they wanted a full day but they had two, very outdoorsy, young children. Now I have to say that I have not met two who, for their ages, were such fantastic walkers. Both bounded with energy and it was really great to see them running round the cottages at every opportunity and both were wonderfully engaging every time we met in the gardens or the car park. But what I saw as the challenge was how to keep them interested for the full day while trying to tell their parents about Pembrokeshire’s National Park and its geology, pre-history, culture, the importance of tourism and, of course a large dollop of Preseli blue stone theories!
Now, some may know it’s the Year of Legends over here in Wales and in a flash of inspiration I remembered that stories about myths and legends and folklore are great levellers – something that adults and children can all enjoy: that was how I would keep the day both enjoyable and interesting for the whole family. And I would sneak in a load of interesting facts and figures for the parents whenever the children roared off ahead to conquer the next rocky outcrop in generally the right direction.
I talked through some ideas questions with the parents in the days leading up to the guided walk regarding distances, locations, terrain and places of interest and that ticked all the boxes (we always create bespoke routes to give everyone using our guided walks the best experience possible). And so, with the basics in place, I dived into the various books and references in our map room and pulled together a small ‘library’ of short and longer tales – of knights and dragons, of the ‘fair folk’, of strange creatures of the night and of mermaids and pirates – some were funny and some no so!
They say that you shouldn’t work with children or animals and come the day, whilst well prepared, I knew that I still had a tough challenge – was I up to telling the stories as well as the Welsh storytellers whom I had heard recite some of them? Time would tell.
The day for the guided walk arrived and off we went …….. and several hours later, the day ended: with profuse thanks for such a great time. Was that just being polite? What had they really thought? I had not seen anyone yawn(!) but the children had been brought up to be as polite as they were naturally outdoorsy and full of energy so I was not absolutely sure. But I had tried my best ….
A few days later their family holiday came to an end and, as usual, Carol and I waved goodbye to them and wished them a good and safe journey home. And when we read the Comments Book in the cottage we received a real indication of how the family friendly guided walking day had really gone. And I quote: ‘… and this was amazing! We can thoroughly recommend doing this. The children were enthralled with Ian’s tales of the local area and climbing during the walk. When we asked them what the best bit of the holiday was, it was “the stories”.’
And so, as I come to the end of this story, I can now say with assurance that our business has evolved – we can now tell stories as well as the facts and figures and we can appeal to all family ages. And the best part of all, it was really great fun and hugely satisfying to know that, like bardic story-tellers of old, I can pass on the legends that are Pembrokeshire!
As a parting comment, the guests were a really great family and the children were a massive credit to their parents. I hope we can see them again one day ….. I have some more stories to tell them ….!!!!