It’s been a fair while since The Ranger led more than the occasional guided tour or walk, but back in the day he was churning out several each week, and learnt a few wrinkles along the way. It’s the sort of thing most rangers – and various others – get to do now and again, and some love it whilst others hate it. So, dusting off his old photographs The Ranger is going to give you the low-down on how you, too, can lead a guided walk. Predictably, his examples will be of countryside walks, but you’ll find that much of the wise advice he dispenses would be useful for tour guides, teachers, and indeed anyone wanting to take people around somewhere indoors or outdoors in an organised way.
He’s been doing this a while: The Ranger leads a guided walk… in about 1989
Part 1 – Before the Event
Choosing a good event
Choosing a good title and subject is essential – rather like blog posts, most people will just read the title and move on. Lots of explanation is wasted on them if they never read it. So be sure that your event is called something good and concerns something that people will want to hear about. Short, easy to understand and interesting titles are good. Here are some good names of events The Ranger has been involved with. Feel free to use them:
- Dormouse hunt
- Ghost walk
- Tree ID (hey, that rhymes! Clever.)
- Fun day (a simple but very effective description of almost any family event)
- Rockets & Alarms
Did you notice the last one? It didn’t follow the rule about being easy to understand. You’ve got no idea what it is, have you? But you want to know… If you want to title a walk with a really intriguing title, then by all means do so, so long as you are confident that people will be interested enough to find out more. Here are some bad names that The Ranger has never used:
- Guided Walk
- Natural History Tour
- Walk followed by a short lecture
- Strenuous hike
All of these are dull and uninformative. One is too long (stick to two or at most three words). Two are pretty unpleasant-sounding as well. Who wants to be ‘lectured’? Most people would rather hear a ‘talk’, or even a ‘show’!
Nobody’s going to turn up if you don’t tell them. So get your event in a schedule of walks, somewhere. Most areas have one. Ask at tourist information centres. If you’re working for a big organisation they almost certainly do something of the sort already – get on the list. This usually requires you to plan your events up to a year in advance but it’s worth the effort, really. It also gives you time to plan. Be sure to check the sunset and sunrise times and/or tides (if relevant) if you are planning well ahead, as these can catch you out. The Ranger once did a walk along a revetment at high tide, and got a party of office workers in their work clothes drenched when a big wave overtopped it. He was not a popular man that lunchtime! If you’ve got the pre-publicity done, the next stage is nearer the time. You need some posters about a fortnight before the day. If you’ve got a designer to help you, great. If not, keep it simple, and check you have all of these on the poster:
- Title (big text)
- Date (big text)
- Time of start and time of finish
- Cost, if any, (small text) or FREE! (big text) if not
- Who’s it suitable for / not suitable for
Print them off on a laser printer, not an inkjet (they run in the wet, or when placed inside windows with condensation), probably about A4 size, and take them round to local shops and organisations, plus erect a few on the site of the walk where regular visitors will get the idea. Send information about your event to the local press – writing a press release is an art in itself (another post, maybe) so get some help if you don’t know how. Remember, newspapers actually want to print interesting stuff, and you won’t normally have to pay to advertise your event if you publicise it properly. That’s enough to start you off. Now get ready for the big day!
In part 2 – starting your walk, what to say, and what not to say!