The Association of West Country Tourist Guides


There was a good turnout for the Christmas CPD of Kent’s Cavern on 3 December 2016, members enjoyed a very informative tour of the Caves by Nick Powe (owner) followed by mulled wine and mince pies, some members also stayed on for lunch and a catch up. Thanks to Pat Isaac for organising this visit.

On 1st October 2016 a small group of AWCTG Blue Badge Guides had very enjoyable familiarisation tour of Healey’s Cyder Farm, including a trailer ride, tour of processing plant and cider tasting – who knew there were so many varieties of cider! The tour was followed by a proper Cornish cream team. As well as the cider making there is a small farm and shop for visitors to enjoy and some rather interesting vehicles bearing the name of the Healey family – thanks to Viv Robinson for organising the event.



After the AGM in Exeter on 20th February 2016, members enjoyed fascinating visits to Exeter Cathedral and Exeter’s Underground Passages.

Most of Exeter Cathedral was constructed between 1270 and 1342. However, the two towers date from an earlier Norman Cathedral, which was demolished to make way for the present building. These towers date from the early 12th century. The cathedral has the longest unbroken and unsupported Gothic vault in the world. Many animal associations – elephants, spiders, cats, mice (who remembers Hickory Dickory Dock?).

Exeter’s Underground Passages were built in the 14th & 15th centuries to bring a supply of fresh drinking water into the city. Exeter is the only city in the UK to have underground passages of this type. There is an audio visual display and interpretation centre to be explored before the tour of the Passages themselves.

AWCTG members enjoyed a very informative tour of St Austell Brewery recently, learning about the history of the brewery (run by the Hicks family since 1851), the process of brewing beer from hop to glass/bottle, types of hops and barley used and the range of beers produced. As tour guides we all gained a huge amount from the Brewery’s tour guide. A very popular part of the tour was the beer tasting including Tribute, Mena Dhu and Clouded Yellow. After the tour a social lunch was enjoyed in Hicks Bar - lovely food and great service.

AWCTG members enjoyed a very informative and enjoyable tour of the colourful gardens with head gardener Gary Long, who imparted his extensive garden knowledge and anecdotes relating to its history with a twist of Cornish humour.

Trewithen House has many interesting artefacts and furniture, including paintings by Joshua Reynolds and more recent acquisitions by the family including a 'hippo table'. The Great Saloon or Dining Room is a wonderful example of the rococo design so popular in the 1750s and 1760s and is the house’s most impressive room, occupying the full length of the five bays of the south front, it looks out on to the spectacular South lawn which was flanked by colourful rhododendrons and camellias.

Since 2012 Trewithen has worked with the Cornwall Red Squirrel Project to reintroduce the native red squirrel to the county. Two females and a male are being monitored in an enclosure by the Walled Garden, nature would seem to taking its natural course as young have been reared.

The visit gave the tourist guides a wealth of information which will benefit their future visitors to the house and gardens and local area.

A successful AGM was held at the Dartmoor Lodge Hotel, Ashburton, many tourist guiding issues were discussed and a representative from the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides attended, a new committee was elected (see Committee page) and an excellent lunch was enjoyed by AWCTG members. During the afternoon visits were made to Buckfast Abbey where we were welcomed by Abbot David, who gave a fascinating talk and tour of the Abbey; The Valiant Soldier in Buckfastleigh - the pub where time stood still, well worth a visit to see a pub that has not changed since it closed in 1965. Additionally the Valiant hosts a 1914-1918 exhibition and the Buckfastleigh Museum, full of interesting information about the town and its woollen industry. Lastly some members enjoyed a visit to Holy Trinity Church and Cabell's Tomb - thought to be the source of inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles. Although the church is now a ruin due to a fire in 1992, reputedly set by Satanists and Devil Worshippers, the churchyard was full of snowdrops and has a wonderful view of Buckfast Abbey in the valley below.

Held at the Plume of Feathers, Princetown in February, this saw the start of a very busy period. Followed by a hearty pub lunch and visit to Dartmoor Brewery, AWCTG members discovered ‘Legend’, ’Dragon’s Breath’, ‘Three Hares’ and the aptly named ‘Jail Ale’, all brewed on site using the unique ingredient of moorland water– lots of stories to enhance our guiding too!

AWCTG visit to drake's placeYes the AWCTG is 40 years old! In September 2014 we celebrated with a grand day out! We visited the highly recommended World War I exhibition in Plymouth City Museum; afterwards making our way to the recently renovated Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir for a tour. Lunch followed at the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club with fabulous view across Plymouth Sound which included HMS Ocean on her return to port and powerboat racing. The birthday cake made by Pam Freeborn was delicious.

AWCTG conference 2014In March 2014, Falmouth, the town described by The Sunday Times as the 4th best place to live in Britain, played host town to the South West Regional Blue Badge Guide Conference. Cornish tartan, Cornish flags, balloons, Cornish daffodils, and bags full of Cornish goodies greeted over 40 delegates from across the South West on arrival at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Over the weekend delegates enjoyed walks, talks and visits and plenty of good food and drink. At least it will be 6 years before our Association has to arrange another conference! This bi-annual event is be organised next by the Wessex Association in 2016.

The Association currently has 45 members comprised 42 Blue Badge Guides and 3 Friends.