Reflections of a SE England Blue Badge Guide

Sue King

November 2022

I am often asked by the people I guide, “Where is your favourite place to guide”. It is such a difficult question to answer because I love the immense variety of the fascinating buildings and outstanding landscapes that I am asked to show visitors from this country and abroad.

One favourite place, close to my heart and my home, is Hampton Court Palace. It always makes a great impression on visitors and never ceases to thrill me with its variety of architecture, gardens, and artwork from the Royal Collection.

Hampton Court Palace-Tudor Front

Built by the ‘many hatted’ Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor (until he fell from grace) in red brick Tudor style, it was taken over and extended by Henry and Elizabeth I. You can still see the vast kitchens which fed as many as a thousand people of the Tudor court twice as day.

Our only joint monarchs, William and Mary, then extended the palace in the late 17thc in the Baroque style. As great gardeners and collectors of exotic plants, they also added beautiful formal gardens.  Restored sections of those can be seen today. The Stuarts replaced Henry VIII’s real tennis court (still used for games) and constructed ‘canals’ (long rectangular lakes) in the gardens which are the focal point for Hampton Court Flower Show each July. The Georgian monarchs also left their mark in the eighteenth century, but in the nineteenth century it ceased to be a royal residence and is now classed as an Historic Royal Palace.

Hampton Court Palace- Formal Gardens

Hampton Court Palace will be included in one of the modules for the next South East of England Blue Badge training course. I am one of the joint course directors and am really looking forward to taking students to demonstrate ways of guiding this fascinating complex of buildings and gardens. The Palace is a great hit with groups of all types including families with young children who can let off steam in the Magic Garden or get lost in the Maze.

I have never regretted training as a Blue Badge guide. The cost of my retraining was recouped within a few months of completing the course and the pleasure guiding has since given me has been priceless. One of the other perks is guides often benefit from free admission when visiting heritage sites with clients or when carrying out reconnaissance visits.

So – where is my favourite place to guide? I guide in so many places across the country but Hampton Court Palace is certainly high on the list and never fails to impress my clients beyond their expectations.

Sue King is a Blue Badge Guide qualified for London, Cumbria, South West, Liverpool City Region / Merseyside, South East England, Yorkshire, Heart of England, North East