Ready, Steady, Go Make it Happen!

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Over the past four months, four Blue Badge Guides and two Blue Badge Guides in the making have been training hard and preparing for The Vitality British 10K London Charity Run which took place on the morning of Sunday 10th July.

This was all in aid of the brilliant charity Go Make it Happen, established by Blue Badge Guide Keith Harding in memory of Sam Harding which aims to help young people to achieve their dreams and ambitions in the tourism industry.

After several training sessions that took place in Hyde Park and which started off underneath the gaze of the suitably athletic statue of Achilles, the team was ready to take to the streets of London.

It was eerily quiet and traffic free in central London on the morning of the race (if only all coach panos could be like this!). The team gathered together for our Mr. Motivator style warm up at Waterloo Place right next to the Crimean War Memorial. It was a familiar and reassuring sight especially with the symbolic figure of Victory on top generously handing out the laurel wreaths before the race had even begun.

After the warm up, it was time to head to the start line which was on Piccadilly. The music was pumping, the pace runners were in position, a last minute stretch here and there and we were off! The weather was mercifully cool and the mid-race smattering of rain couldn’t have come at a better time.

It was a huge turnout with an estimated 20,000 runners in all attracted by the chance to run one of the most unique routes in the world and to take in the sights of this amazing city including Nelson’s Column, London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The final stretch took us over Westminster Bridge and back again, a loop round Parliament Square and then onto the home straight down Whitehall with a finish line outside the magnificent Banqueting House.

It was a great day and a stellar effort was put in by all including our lovely partners whose critical support was really appreciated! Thanks to the fundraising work and all of the amazingly generous donations given, the GMIH team managed to raise over £3,000 for this fantastic cause!

Dominic Burris-North, London BBTG

5 New Things I learned at the Tower London

Hi! I’m Katie, one of the beneficiaries of Go Make It Happen’s bursary towards the Blue Badge Guide Course.

I’m a London walking tour guide and history blogger so feel like I know (or at least should know!) London pretty well, but it’s often born and bred Londoners – like myself – that NEVER go to the ‘touristy’ places like Tower of London.

Tower of London

Tower of London

All that’s about to change though, because for the Blue Badge Course (the highest accreditation in tour guiding) I will have to know landmarks like this, as well as *gulp* places outside the M25, inside out.

So here’s five things I learned from my first ever* trip inside the Tower of London…

1. The Chapel Royal Is Pretty Romantic

The Chapel Royal, while probably most famous as the final resting place of Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard along with Lady Jane Grey, is also a site of great romance.

You just have to look up…

Chape Royal Tower of London - Church of England

Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

The ceiling was installed in 1520 under Henry VIII’s direction and is made from Spanish Chestnut as a poignant gift to his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon. We often forget, what with the five others that followed her, that Catherine and Henry were very much in love and this ceiling was placed there so while in prayer here, they could both gaze up at this symbol of their love. Well, at least until 1527 when Henry became infatuated with Anne Boleyn.

2. There Was A Pet Polar Bear

You may have heard that the Tower of London, amongst many things, was a Royal Menagerie. In fact the animals only left the tower for their new home in Regent’s Park (which became London Zoo) in 1832 while the first recorded animals given to the Tower were three lions in 1235.

Polar Bear

One of the most exciting was a polar bear, a gift from the King Haakon I of Norway in 1252. The bear probably got the best deal, he arrived with his own trained Norwegian keeper and was allowed to go fishing in the Thames. There are records of crowds gathering on London Bridge to watch this daily display; the bear bounding into the Thames to feast, almost dragging the his keeper in with him!

Not to be outdone, King Louis IX gave an Elephant 3 years later;

“An elephant was sent to England by the French king as a present to the king of England … the people flocked to see the novel sight … The beast is about ten years old possessing a rough hide rather than fur, has small eyes at the top of its head, and eats and drinks with a trunk.”
– Matthew Paris, monk of St Albans Abbey 1255

Today the animals are remembered by ghostly wire sculpture dotted around the grounds.

Elephant

More animal facts:

  • Kings James I has a nipple designed so sick lion cubs could be bottle fed.
  • Snakes were wrapped in blankets and kept on a stove to keep them warm.
  • An ostrich died after swallowing a large nail. Apparently visitors – believing the birds ate iron – used to feed them pieces of metal.

3. Executioners Should’ve Had A No-Alcohol Policy

It’s an irony of the Tower that it’s most famous for something it was never designed for; a prison. Originally a fortress for keeping people out, it became the most notorious jail in London, possibly the world, and being ‘sent to the Tower’ was tantamount to a death sentence.

With that, one of the most famous executioners was a man called Jack Ketch; Part-time Butcher, part-time executioner and full-time alcoholic. He is remembered as one of the most incompetent figures in history for reasons about to become clear…

James_Scott,_Duke_of_Monmouth_and_Buccleuch_by_William_Wissing

Credit: James Scott by William Wissing, 1683

Our story starts with James Scott, the 1st Duke of Monmouth, who is more famous for his death than anything he achieved in life. On 15 July 1685 having the misfortune of being sentenced to death (for trying to depose his Uncle King James II) he also was unlucky enough to have Jack Ketch as his executioner.
Mr Ketch was barely able to mount the steps of the scaffold he was so drunk, so despite receiving a big bag of coins and a request to “strike true Sir, strike true.” from the Duke, when the axe came down it missed his head, falling between his shoulder blades. It took a further 4 strokes with the Duke screaming in pain, his right arm hanging off, and the crowd looking on in abject horror before Jack finally finished off the Duke with his butchers knife in his pocket.

James Scott is also the only known person to have had his head sewn back on, his body (complete with head nearby) was found under the alter in the Chapel Royal, next to the three Queens.

4. The Cray Twins Dropped By

Kray twins

The infamous East London gangsters were held briefly in the Tower when they were called up for military National Service in 1952 and failed to report for duty. They were locked in the twin turrets of Waterloo Barracks overnight, it doesn’t appear to have frightened any sense or compassion into them…

5. Yeomen Wardens Have Great Craic 

Free with an admission ticket, the Yeomen Guided Tour is definitely the highlight of the visit.

Yeoman

Our guide, Matt Pryme (pictured above with his trademark withering stare), was entertaining, very knowledgeable and managed our group of around 60 incredibly well. I have to admit his one-liners had me chuckling along with the American tourists;

Matt – “Let’s have a vote, who wanted to hear about torture?”
Audience  – *roar of approval*
Matt – “and who wants to hear about unicorns and kittens?”
Audience – *deathly silence. A sheepish child raises their hand*
Matt – “Torture it is then! To be fair, I only know one story about unicorns and kittens. It’s about a unicorn. That tramples a kitten.”

*Small child looks horrified*

 

Find out more about visiting the Tower here.

Admission is £25, but you can pre-book online for £23.10

Also if you happen to live in the borough of Tower Hamlets and have a library card, you can visit for £1! More info here.

*I went on a school trip aged 6 once. I don’t think that counts.

 

Entry 1: Countdown/Kenwood House

I’m about to embark on the two year marathon that is the “London Blue Badge Training Course.” No I’m not spending two years solely learning about the blue plaques (although this info is important to know) and neither at the end of the course will I be able to park wherever I like (unfortunately!) Having not yet started the course the only way I can describe it to my friends is that it’s kind of like doing a super intense history degree of Britain but instead of long arduous dissertations, you are tested on your delivery skills and the enormous amounts of facts and figures – for some this would be worse than the      10, 000 word essays but for me, I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Apparently I am the youngest ever trainee on the course, so I have a lot to prove! I graduated last summer from the University of Manchester having studied French and Italian and after a year of doing all kinds of things (volunteering, interning etc), I’m excited to get back into the world of learning.

Over the next two years and possibly onwards, I plan to document the different facts I learn along the way.

Like I said, I thought I’d do a little taster one to see how I fared putting pen to paper (quite literally).

They say you should write about what you know and what I know is KENWOOD HOUSE, an absolute gem tucked away on the edge of Hampstead Heath. The reason I know and love Kenwood is that I’ve been volunteering there for about 10 months almost every friday. In the mornings I help out with an under 5s activity group and in the afternoon I’m a room steward – so bring your kids/friends and come and look around (shameless advertising, sorry not sorry). Add another “sorry” for that….

I divulge. Back to Kenwood.

You may forgive me for my blatant promotion when I tell you that one of the best and unique things about this English Heritage site is that it’s FREE ENTRY. Now the reason it is free  is **Historical fact alert** : the house was bought in 1925 by Lord Iveagh who was a member of the Guiness Family empire, so as you can imagine, he was doing pretty well for himself. So well that he bought this house not to live in but to hang his amazing art collection (as you do). We have art of old masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner and the list goes on! However, unfortunately, he died two years later but he  bequeathed the house and 60 or so of his paintings to the nation. Amazing right!? Next time you meet someone new you could say that you own one of Rembrandt’s  Self portraits. Now that’s a conversation starter..!

Before getting deeper into the art, I just wanted to talk about a couple of the films that have been filmed here:

  1. For the rom-com buffs among you, you probably recognise the back of the house (although often mistaken as the front) from the 1999 film “Notting Hill” when Hugh Grant’s character Will Thacker goes to meet his love interest Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) while she is filming a Henry James novel. Just when you think the couple will be reunited once again, a misunderstood remark tears the pair away from each other again. Yet more heartbreak.
  2. Another film to have been filmed here is the 2013 film “Belle” which although includes romance,has a little more historical substance (despite not being entirely accurate at times). The film follows Dido Belle who was born to an enslaved black mother and a aristocratic naval officer. What makes this film location even more exciting is that the the film’s protagonist actually lived here in the late 18th century! She was brought to Kenwood to live under the care of her uncle William Murray who later became the 1st Earl of Mansfield and Lord Chief of Justice. I personally loved the film because it balances between the (of course) “hollywood-ified” love story and the more historically accurate account of the the 18th century when the idea of human slavery started to be questioned. (Look up the Zong case and the Somerset vs Stewart case for more info.)

For those of you still reading, CONGRATULATIONS. Sorry I seem to have blubbered on for quite a bit and I haven’t even talked much about the art work. I think for now I’d better stop but hopefully I’ve enticed you enough to go and visit Kenwood anyway! But if not, I’ll talk about the paintings next time…

 

 

My journey begins.

Hey all.

It’s been 3 months since I found out I’d been accepted onto the 2016 blue badge guiding course and thanks to ‘Go make it happen’  I was able to accept without financial worry on my shoulders. I had heard about this wonderful organisation through friends and the blue badge course itself and was told how enthusiastic the founders were in pushing under 30’s to reach their goals and full potential. The help comes in the way of financial and verbal support, which I have been hugely greatful for.

After recieving a few emails from the head of the organisation Keith Harding, I knew how open and friendly GMIH were going to be. Keith told me how keen they are in helping young entrepreneurs in the tourism sector and awarded me a grant with a sincere proposition to want to help.

This grant has enabled me to make purchases such as books, electronical equipment and course fees that without would of been a struggle. The blue badge course will help me achieve my tour guiding goals and take me to where I want to be and I owe GMIH a huge thanks for believing in my potential and allowing me to aim high.

I will be blogging my adventure and explaining in detail how GMIH have been helping me along the way.

Very excited.

Emily D

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing in Spain!

A dream of mine is to travel the world and experience many cultures, places and people so that I can create many memories for the future. With the help of Dynamic Adventures CIC, my abroad travels have began, starting with Spain! We flew into Alicante airport with many hopes for the week to come! Our aim was to go sport climbing in Costa Blanca, in areas such as Echo Valley, Guadalest, Marin and Sierra de Toix and we successfully climbed in all of the above areas. 

Sport climbing is where there are bolts already in the rock face, so all you have to do is place quick draws into these, and not place your own gear. The week was amazing and the climbing, views and experience was extraordinary!! There was one particularly hard climb (6a+ lead,) in Guadalest which I’m proud to say that I achieved after much perseverance. I felt that I continued to improve my climbing technique daily, but by the end of the trip, my arms could barely lift a drinks bottle aha!

In the middle of the week, at the end of a hard days climbing, we also got to go down to Benidorm and play football on the beach and splash around in the sea. The temperature was perfect and I wasn’t expecting to be wearing shorts and T shirt in November that’s for sure! All of the team had an amazing time and we are all buzzing for our next Adventure to Poland!

My adventure so far…

Thanks to the generosity of Go Make it Happen, I have commenced my years Lychee Trainee Scheme with Dynamic Adventures CIC.  They are a non profit making company that are based in Dartington, near Totnes, Devon and  are an Outdoor Adventure Company who specialise in Expeditions. I started with them on the 31st August 2015 and since then  I have had many fantastic experiences and opportunities come my way! I recently completed my Climbing Wall Award Assessment  which now means I am a qualified indoor Climbing Wall Instructor and have also completed my Cave Leader Training up in the Mendips! I have also completed my 16 hour Outdoor First Aid Course which is one of the fundamental qualifications to allow further progression within the Outdoor Industry. Amongst all of the hard work we have also visited the Peak District and the Breacon Beacons in South Wales to accumulate quality mountain days for my Mountain Leader training and also practice traditional climbing in a new and beautiful environment. I have made many new friends on the course and I’m really looking forward to the next stage in my adventure!!

Emma

Continuing my development

Its now my 3rd month into my course with Dynamic Adventures, and I recently achieved my Climbing Wall Abseil Award which means that I am now a qualified abseil instructor. My next aim in terms of climbing is to attend my Single Pitch Award training in the new year so that I can start working towards being able to supervise people on a single pitch, outdoor crag, for climbing and abseiling. Aside from qualifications, we have been keeping busy with much group work on a variety of our activities such as high ropes, archery and kayaking. I have been given the responsibility of planning 10 fun, exciting, resourceful and educational kayaking sessions for a group of school children to help me attain my Level 2 paddle sports Coach Award in the near future; and so far all has been successful. Our group aim is to paddle the Dart Loop, which is a section of grade 2/3 white water on the River Dart. With the sessions that the group have undertaken so far, we are on route to fulfil our aim. We are off to Spain on Friday for 6 days to go climbing on the outskirts of Alicante, of which I am really excited for, and I will update you again after this trip!!

Emma

BBG exam finished!

 

Like running a marathon for the recent one month, we have crossed the finishing line this afternoon at 4:30 in British Museum. With one lady in our group bursting into tears and the most of us laughing from our inner heart with slightly wet eyes.

The rest of the team who has finished their final ones at St Paul and British Museum this morning has been waiting for us to join in the pub since one o’clock, and when we arrived there, we were greeted with their huge round of plause and other people’s curious eyes. It was really one of the most emotional moments of my life with lots of hugs, encouragements, warm words and genuine love for each other.

When I look back for the recent one month, we had 6 exams in a row including the most challenging coach exam and London paper. My best friend in the course, a lovely lady from Brazil said that she was going to quit one or two because she thought she was never going to achieve it. Well, I said that at least give a try and she tried with the most effort she could give. And most of the practical sites exams turned out to be the best performance she had ever given! I’m trying to say that future badgers, we have received very sophisticated training and that is going to get us through all the exams. Yes, the exams they are scary but when that moment come, when you standing in front of the Rossetta stone, or Parthenon marbles, however nervous you are, how little sleep you had last night, you are going to be able to say something for five minutes. The solid foundation has already been laid from one or two years ago. The examiners are absolutely lovely people, they are trying to pass us all as they always said at the beginning of the exam. They showed their interest, they nod and laugh when you say the joke they probably have heard about hundreds of times so I would say that they are definitely well qualified blue badge examiners!

When I arrived home today, my fiancée prepared my favorite crab noodle for me at home, so the blue badge course has been a burden for him as well! When I’m focusing my mind at the final stage, he is doing most of the household work and this situation is certainly shared by other badgers. So a big big thanks!

Also when I look back, I would probably had huge difficulty without the help of “ Go and make it happen”. Captain Keith has offered great help not only financially but also a great motive to make me want to try my best to go and make it happen!

The most fascinating course ever?!

Hello,

My name is Danny Parlour and this is my first blog for Go Make It Happen, the charity which has supported me on the 2014/16 London Blue Badge Guide course. The help I’ve received from them has been invaluable and I feel very grateful.

I’m typing now six months into the course and what a six months it’s been!

When I started in September 2014, I was so excited, bright-eyed and eager to start. Now I can safely say I’m still excited, perhaps tired-eyed and eager to finish, and get my blue-oval-shaped-pendant… and start guiding!

Before I had even applied for the course, lots of Blue Badge Guides had told me just how broad the course is, and they weren’t kidding. It covers all areas of British life from our separation from what is now Europe (which occurred about 8,000 years ago) to what’s happening now and what’s due to happen in the future! :O

Two evenings a week (during term) we have a lecture, covering a different topic taught by an expert BBTG in that particular field, which can include anything from art to agriculture, medicine to music… and EVERYTHING in between. This is followed by a ‘practical’ each Saturday which usually involves us traveling to an out of town site, visiting a London site or doing coach/walk practice around the capital!

What I’ve especially enjoyed so far about the course is the people I’ve got to meet. All of the 35 other students come from such different backgrounds and most speak a language! I’m afraid to say I don’t, but If I get round to having the time to learn one then I think I’m in good company!

As the course continues what I’ve come to realise is just how much I love London. There’s really too many things to list, but I just think what’s on offer is just incredible and I feel very proud to be a course such as this one which allows me to explore it completely!

More to follow shortly, watch this space…