Spiced Roots Restaurant

A Caribbean Delight!

It was a grey cold February morning; snow was falling from the bleak skies above as I ventured into Oxford. However, after my tour that evening I was not rushing home but had dinner booked with some fellow guides. We had decided to try on the Cowley Road.

is a small family run restaurant and about a 15 min walk from the centre of Oxford. To fit in with tour timings, we had decided on an early evening meals so I wandered down to meet my fellow Oxford experts as the restaurant was opening for 5pm. The frontage of the restaurant is small but with the light shining through, we were welcomed inside to a warm and pleasant table in the window. Cocktail menus were presented to start but sadly due to having to drive home, we could not take full advantage of the many options available.

Having never eaten Caribbean food before, I did not know what to expect or really what to order so we opted for the ‘samples menu’. A broad selections of starters was presented on a slate plate – Jerk chicken, Lamb, pitta bread, dips, cod. We delved in with great delight! It was all delicious and so well presented.

Our main course then arrived, another grand selection and by this point we had all fallen in love with the Caribbean delights!

For desert we had a selection of three cakes including the mouth-watering banana bread which I had already read about from the on-line reviews. Simply stunning!

Thank you to Jamo and his team for welcoming Walking Tours of Oxford to Spiced Roots. It defiantly gets the thumbs up from me and I look forward to returning soon!

Harry Potter Tours in Oxford

It has been almost 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in the UK (16th November 2001 to be precise). I was not a Tour Guide at that time, but I know that the popularity of visiting Oxford increased tenfold since the release. The vast impact of these movies continues and visitors flock from all corners of the globe to visit Oxford and the movie locations of ‘Harry Potter’.

Due to the large numbers now wanting to visit Oxford, some of the movie locations have become extremly busy and entry fees have increased.

Walking Tours of Oxford is delighted to offer ‘Harry Potter’ tours in Oxford. If you would like to book a tour with one of our qualified guides then there are a few things to consider: –

Filming Locations and Costs

There are 4 locations within Oxford and these are: –

Duke Humpfrey’s Library
This can only be visited as part of a Bodleian Library Tour Bodleian Library. No children under 11 years of age. This tour will focus on the history of the library and although your guide may mention ‘Harry’, this is likely to be in passing only as this is not a Harry Potter tour. This would need to be booked direct with the library and Walking Tours of Oxford have no affiliation.

The Divinity School
This is located below The Duke Humphrey’s library and is visited as part of the library tour. Alternatively, Walking Tours of Oxford Guides can take you in (subject to opening hours / closures). The charge is £2 per person and can be booked in advance for a large group.

New College
Not new at all – 1379! During the winter months, the college is only open in the afternoons. From March-October, opening hours are from 10.30-5pm. Please see website for further details New College visitors information. Entry charge £7 per person. The college will close for events and can do so at the last minute. Large groups will need to be booked in on-line via their booking portal.

Christ Church
This is a magnificent college to visit and even with Harry Potter aside! However, the entry fee is now £15 per person and you should always book on-line for entry Christ Church visitors information. If you do not pre-book then, during the busy season, you could be faced with queues an hour long! As of 2020, you now receive an audio guide as part of the ticket price so it is advisable to visit this college independently. Please note that the dining hall closes over the lunch period (approx. 11.30-2.15)

All prices correct as of Feb 2020 but subject to change, please check websites.

In Summary
Our Harry Potter tours, which are 1 hours and 45 mins in length usually visit two locations – New College + The Divinity School and we recommend booking Christ Church before or after your walking tour with us to complement our tour. The best time for a Harry Potter tour is around 2pm and we would meet at The Weston Library on Broad Street, visit The Divinity School + New College and then end the tour at Christ Church for 3.45pm and suggest booking Christ Church for entry at 4pm.

Disclaimer
Our Harry Potter tours also cover ‘Classic Oxford’ and ‘Other Film sites’. We cannot guarantee entry to any locations as Oxford is a working university and can close at a moment’s notice. The tour is in no way associated or endorsed by JK Rowling or Warner Bros Inc. This is not an ‘official’ tour.

Award Winning Tours 2020

Award winning Tours

Wow! Once again, Walking Tours of Oxford, is thrilled to announce that we have won the prestigious ‘Gold Service Award’ from Feefo. Throughout 2019, my team has worked tirelessly to ensure that high standards are met on all of our tours. This is a phenomenal achievement. Each guide has been carefully selected to ensure the very best experience adhere to the guiding etiquette in Oxford. All guides are fully qualified – members of The Institute of Tourist Guiding and The Oxford Guild of Tour Guides. This means we have undergone an intense 9-month training course and sat at least 4 exams at the end of that period. We are exceptionally grateful to all clients that choose Walking Tours of Oxford and review on Feefo. In addition, we have also been awarded ‘The Oxfordshire Prestige award’ which is a real honour and speaks volumes about the quality of tours offered by Walking Tours of Oxford. Everyone is special to us. Thank you. Heidi and team

Tolkien movie

Tolkien movie

Having been a Green Badge guide in Oxford for over 6 years, JRR Tolkien has become very much part of my every day life!

I was thrilled when I learnt that there was to be a new movie on his life.  It is always helpful to be able to see something played out on screen!

So last weekend I took myself of to the cinema to see #Tolkienmovie with great excitement!

The movie focuses on Tolkien’s time as a young adult. From the loss of his mother and the time he spent in a boarding house.  During the time he met the love of his life, Edith Bratt.  It also very much focussed on the formation of the ‘TCBS’ (the Tea Club and Barrovian Society’ of which Tolkien was a member.

I enjoyed the movie particularly seeing the Oxford locations (some of which I had seen being filmed back in November 2017) although I do feel it may have stretched the truth on occasion!

During the peak summer months of May, June and July (with possible extension beyond) we are operating CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien tours in Oxford.  These are scheduled to operate every Saturday at 2.30pm.

Starting from The Eagle and Child (the pub strongly associated with The Inklings) and will weave through the streets of Oxford.  At the end the tour will visit inside Magdalen college (entry included but subject to availability).  There was a brief scene from the movie filmed inside Magdalen.

As with the majority of our tours, we keep numbers small to ensure the very best experience.  Book early!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cs-lewis-and-jrr-tolkien-walking-tour-of-oxford-tickets-54793890000

Below are some pictures taken of the filming during November 2017 – come and discover them with us!

#tolkien #tolkienmovie #cslewis #theinklings #tcbs #oxford #walkingtoursofoxford

Tolkien filming

What is a Green Badge Guide?

What is a ‘Green Badge Guide’?

Throughout my website you will find mentions of ‘Green Badge Guide’ but what exactly does that mean?

In theory, anyone can become a guide in Oxford as here in the UK, unlike other countries, Tourist Guides are not regulated.

This means that you could be taking pot luck when you book a tour, with out a regulating body or any official qualifications required.

The governing body for Tour Guides here in the UK is The Institute of Tourist Guiding (https://www.itg.org.uk).

To become a member of The Institute of Tourist Guiding (or ITG for short), there is an admission process to register for one of the course that they offer.  All candidates are interviewed and then selected for various capabilities displayed at that interview.  They would be looking for clarity of speech, presentation skills, calm and customer focussed skilled … to name a few.

Each course is usually run by The Tourist information centre and accredited by the ITG.

There are three levels awarded which are:-

White Badge –

For those thinking of taking up paid or voluntary employment guiding visitors around an attraction such as a stately home, cathedral, museum or theme park, or even a business or industrial estate.

Green Badge –

For those interested in working full or part-time guiding visitors at sites of interest and on walking tours in an area such as a town or city centre or specified countryside area.

Blue Badge –

For those who would like full or part-time work guiding visitors around a region or metropolitan area on walking tours, at sites of interest, and using various methods of transport.

I opted for the Green Badge and this involved an 8 month training programme.  I attended lectures, talk and walks conducted by professional such as academics at The University or other Green / Blue Badge guides. Each week we would have a practice walk where we could demonstrate our knowledge (and marked accordingly).

At the end of the training period, we undertook 4 exams (two walking and three written) and it was only on achieving a high grade at all these examinations that we passed.  Then we were awarded our ‘Green Badge’ in our presentation held at The Town Hall in Oxford and by The Lord Major (patron of The Guild of Oxford Tour Guides).

Guiding is not just about knowledge.  It is also about being able to project your voice but to also know when to lower the volume (when inside a college for example and the students are studying).  It is also about group management and ensuring the safety of the entire group.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be accepted on to the training course and, although there were many times of stress, I look back on it now as a rewarding time.

Training does not simply stop with the presentation of our badges.  It goes on.  Each year, The Oxford Guild of Tour Guides, runs a Winter training programmed to broaden and enhance our knowledge.

Over the 6 years that I have been guiding, I have met many wonderful people from all over the world.  I love my job and and I wear my badge with pride. #choosequalified

Dictionary result for qualified

adjective
  1. 1.
    officially recognised as being trained to perform a particular job; certified.

 

FEEFO GOLD TRUSTED SERVICE AWARD 2018

WALKING TOURS OF OXFORD RECEIVES FEEFO GOLD TRUSTED SERVICE AWARD 2019

30 JANUARY 2019, Walking Tours of Oxford has won the Feefo Gold Service award, an independent seal of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers.

Created by Feefo, Trusted Service is awarded only to those businesses that use Feefo to collect genuine reviews and insights. Those that meet the high standard, based on the number of reviews they have collected, and their average rating, receive the award. A badge of honour, this accreditation remains unique, as it is based purely on the interactions with real customers. As all reviews are verified as genuine, the accreditation is a true reflection of a business’ commitment to outstanding service.

Walking Tours of Oxford met the criteria of collecting at least 50 reviews between January 1st 2018 and December 31st 2018, with a Feefo service rating of between 4.5 and 5.0.

Heidi Boon Rickard, Walking Tours of Oxford commented: “We’re thrilled to receive this award from Feefo. It recognises how hard we’ve been working to give great experiences to all our customers, who are the most important judges of what we do. We’re committed to delivering the highest quality of service, so it’s important for us to listen, understand and respond to all our customers. We are looking forward to another successful year ahead.”

Congratulating Walking Tours of Oxford on winning this year’s award, Matt West, CEO at Feefo, commented: “The Trusted Service award has always been about recognising those companies that excel beyond the norm. This year we’ve seen many remarkable businesses leveraging the full potential of Feefo to provide outstanding levels of experience for their customers – and rightly being awarded our most prestigious accreditation. I’m looking forward to the continual success of the businesses that work in partnership with us throughout 2019.”

Feefo is a reviews and customer insights technology company that provides businesses with the tools to collect real, purchase-verified reviews and insights. Working with over 3,500 clients, Feefo ensures that all feedback is authentic, by matching it to a legitimate transaction, in order to increase consumer confidence and enable businesses to make smarter business decisions.

 

Parking in Oxford

Throughout 2018 we had a few clients who arrived late for tours due to parking problems.  Please do allow plenty of time when travelling to Oxford. Car parking is not plentiful in the centre of Oxford and is discouraged.  The best option is to use one of the 5 park and rides outside Oxford and then hop on the bus into town.  This is how I always travel in.  It will cost you £2 to park the car for up to 12 hours.  Note that you will require the last 3 digits of your car registration when paying at the machine so if you have a hire car – remember to make a note!  Here is the link to the Park and Ride website:

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/directory/8/car_parks_in_oxford/category/56/categoryInfo/13

If you do prefer to drive into Oxford then you could try The Westgate car park:-

https://westgateoxford.co.uk/your-visit/getting-here

Another car park would be Worcester Street:-

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/directory_record/351/worcester_street_car_park/category/53/city_centre_car_parks

Or Gloucester Green:-

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/directory_record/339/gloucester_green_car_park/category/53/city_centre_car_parks

See you soon!

Heidi and team

Morse / Lewis and Endeavour pub tour 2019

Discovering the pubs of Morse / Lewis and Endeavour

It was a glorious day when I set out on an endeavour to find the pubs of Morse & Lewis located outside of Oxford.  Along with me came Phil, a good friend who also happens to be an excellent photographer!

It wasn’t just about a boozy lunch – sadly I was driving, but about locating and getting to know the scenes in preparation our new tour.  It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.!  The tour will be unescorted and the final details are yet to be confirmed. Please check out my website for more information.

The Perch, Binsey

A charming 17thcentury public house with thatched roof.  Binsey is a small hamlet located approximately 2 miles north west of Oxford. It is possible to walk here from the centre of Oxford and is a pleasant stroll along the canal, across Port Meadow and then following the Thames.

The Perch featured in the Morse episode ‘Daughters of Cain’and the area has many other literary connections.  Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote a poem ‘Binsey Poplars’when he found the riverside trees felled.

During the summer months, it is a busy venue and has an enviable large garden out the back.  Continue through the garden and you will come to the Thames which is defiantly worth a stroll to.  One can imagine the various scenes from Morse / Lewis and Endeavour filmed, if not in this exact location, then surely very close by.

 

After taking our photos, we headed to the church – St Margaret of Antioch.  There has been a church on this site since Saxon times.  We were fortunate that the church was open and able to visit inside.  However, the real interest lies outside in the ‘Treacle Well’ which has connections to the patron saint of Oxford – St Frideswide.  It also features in Lewis Carrol Alice in Wonderland stories.  Three dormouse live down the bottom of the well.  When Alice asks why, the reply is ‘because they were sick’.  The word Treacle is an old English word for medicine.  Discover the full hidden meaning of the Alice stories on a specialist tour!

 

The Victoria Arms, Marston

Affectionately known locally as ‘Vicky Arms’ this is a slightly more modern pub. There has been a public house on the site previously, the one before us today was rebuilt in the 1840’s.  Located on the eastern bank of the River Cherwell, this was the pub I was most excited to visit as I had not been before.

Warm and welcoming, we ordered a couple of drinks from the very friendly barman and then headed into their gardens.  Anyone who knows Morse & Lewis will recognise the outside and it was here that they filmed The Remorseful Day; where Morse recited A.E Housman’s poem – The Remorseful Day.  I could just visualise the film crew setting up and John Thaw and Kevin Whatley preparing for their lines.

A wander around the inside brought us to the plaque (see picture) for The Remorseful Day along with another interesting sign to say that this is where Cromwell prepare to invade the city of Oxford during the English civil war.  Although upon speaking to the Manager, and considering the dates, this is probably a little stretched!

After our lunch, I had wanted to visit the third pub – The Trout at Wolvercote used in the filming but it was with dismay that I realised the time.  I had to get back for the school run!  We headed out to the car and made a brief stop just around the corner where you find ‘Cromwell’s  House’and then it was time for the adventure to end and homeward bound.  I will return to visit The Trout at a later date.

Both these pubs are walkable from the city centre or you can, of course, drive yourself.  It is not a great distance between the locations but who wants to drive when fully immersing themselves in the world of Morse!

I am tempted to join a couple of the tours myself and will certainly be bringing friends along at some point.  Any comments on if you think it would benefit from a guide during the tour are welcome. Please leave comments below.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope I have given you a feel for these locations.  They do say that a picture speaks a thousand words and I am grateful to Phil for taking such insightful photos.  All photos are copyright @philknight.

Gift vouchers available

All our tours – public or private – are available to buy as gift vouchers!  Please see home page for the new booking button.  A superb gift that ‘keeps on giving’ as reviewed earlier this year.  Christmas, birthday, anniversary …… Walking Tours of Oxford will ensure the very best experience for that special someone.

 

2019 Morse tours now available to book

I am delighted to advise that the 2019 Morse / Lewis and Endeavour tours are now available to book!  Schedule and booking details as follows:-

All year from Saturday 5th January – Thursday 19th December.  Every Saturday and Thursday @ 2pm.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/morse-lewis-and-endeavour-2019-tickets-49747788976

Plus mid season from 1st April-31st October

Every Tuesday and Friday @ 2pm

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/morse-lewis-and-endeavour-mid-season-2019-tickets-49847180258

Plus peak season from 1st June-30th Sept

Every Monday and Saturday @ 11.30am

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/morse-lewis-and-endeavour-peak-2019-tickets-49847236426

That is 6 glorious tours a week to choose from in peak season.  Tours get booked well in advance so do book early!

New for 2019 and exclusive to Walking Tours of Oxford

Add afternoon tea at The Randolph hotel for the ultimate treat!  Contact me for details.

See you soon!

Heidi, Elizabeth and team!