Taking Your First Tour With Anglia

Anglia Tours followed the full tour planning process with St Peter’s Collegiate School. Here’s how Daniel Sheriff’s first guided history tour with Anglia Tours went …..

After the pre-tour meetings with parents and Anglia Tours consultants, it was finally time for him to pack a bag and get ready to explore the battlefields of France and Flanders.

Daniel remembers “we left school fairly early on the Friday morning as I wanted the students to have as much time in France and Belgium as possible. The coach was spacious and Mark, the coach driver, was fantastic. Our guides, Rick and Andy, were unbelievable. At the pre-tour presentation it had been mentioned that if we were able to provide details we should be able to include personal pilgrimages in our tour. I was so pleased that, even though we were not able to give Rick and Andy this information until they joined the coach in Kent a couple of hours later, they were only too happy to change the programme so as to make sure we included as many personal visits as possible.”

Anyone who has been on an organised tour will know, the ability of a guide to interact with a group and to retain their attention can make or break the tour. It is certainly the case that they need to have a detailed knowledge of the subject matter but having the skill, and also the desire, to communicate this knowledge in a way which engages a group’s interest is equally, if not more important. As Alain Chissel, Chairman of Anglia Tours, explains “the role of the guide is not just to talk to students and pass on information. It is to engage with them,  to enthuse them, to inspire them to ask questions and go beyond simply what they are looking at at that time.”

There is another vitally important facet to the role of Anglia’s guides, that of being able to ensure the safety of the group at all times – something Alain’s team are ideally equipped to do. “Many of our guides have held positions of considerable responsibility in the military, the police or as teachers. All are used to dealing with difficult situations, often in times of great stress, and this helps to provide reassurance to both parents and teachers. It is comforting for them to know that the children are in safe hands.”

In just 3 days the staff and pupils of St Peter’s Collegiate School had a chance to explore many places which will be familiar to those who have visited the battlefields: Hill 60, Langemarck, Newfoundland Memorial Park and Lochnagar Crater to name but a few. They also had an opportunity to visit some which do not appear on the itinerary for most school tours. Places such as Spoilbank Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, roughly 5 kilometres south of the Belgium town of Ypres. Visits to locations, like Spoilbank, which lie away from well-worn routes are often a welcome addition to a school tour. Not only do they provide some peace and tranquillity but they also afford pupils a chance to reflect and to marshal their own thoughts – something which can all too often be overlooked.

In the case of St Peter’s Collegiate School the visit to Spoilbank was included to provide one of the pupils with the chance to visit the grave of a relative who had been buried there just short of a century before. Daniel recalls that “the whole group were made up – it was the personal touch. They loved the local link our guides provided. They had even researched street names.” 

Reflecting on the tour a couple of months later, Daniel was still impressed with the impact it had on his pupils. “Nothing compares to going out there walking around and getting a real sense of the ground. The kids have come back filled with knowledge and a real passion for World War One, and this is all down to Andy and Rick’s enthusiasm and their manner with the pupils.”

So the next question we asked Daniel is “Would you do it all again?” See Daniel’s summary of the trip….