Taking a peek behind the scenes at Rufford Tourist Information Centre
Open around the year, the team at Rufford Tourist Information Centre, run by Newark and Sherwood District Council, deal with a host of visitor enquiries, from where to find the nearest B&B to identifying varieties of leaf found nearby. In our guest blog, centre manager Debbie Hibbert tells us what a typical day might look like.
I thought it would be nice to share a day in the life of the Tourist Information Centre staff who work at Rufford Country Park, so I set about thinking what a typical day entailed, and there I became unstuck. There is no typical day except that we open our doors at 10.30am and try to close at 4.30pm. I say try to close because if the sun is shining visitors do not want to go home and who can blame them? Rufford Abbey Country Park is a beautiful place to visit – and to work although we don’t have much opportunity to actually see the park.
We every day except Christmas Day. Yes, that’s right – we are even open Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. If it’s a sunny day we usually have visitors waiting for the doors to open as the park grounds open about 8.30am. Very often our first customers are requesting to hire out the mobility scooters provided by Rufford for visitor use. This involves us giving a brief lesson on the workings of the scooter with strict instructions to avoid driving into the lake – it hasn’t actually ever happened as the scooters are very slow but a couple of people have come close.
We try to make sure we tweet first thing in the morning about any local events or anything of general interest. We check emails and answerphone messages and then after this our day can go in any direction. For example, this morning I have been dealing with a film crew who are coming to Rufford whilst also unpacking a delivery of 11 boxes of brochures and planning a day’s itinerary for a couple staying near by.
We deal with a wide variety of enquiries throughout the day, both in person and over the phone with the odd email thrown in for good measure. A lot of visitors naturally want to know all about the park and the Cistercian Abbey. Our TIC has only been in the park since 2013 and although we knew all about Rufford as a general attraction, we had no detailed knowledge. Suddenly we found ourselves being asked all sorts of questions including some obscure ones about varieties of leaf and what the name of the tree with the broken branch is.
Other questions usually involve the bird life in the park such as when the swallows arrive. Luckily the park Rangers are often on hand to help out. Other questions about the park may involve types of flower or fungi and we are becoming quite knowledgeable on these subjects.
The TIC is also the lost property collection point and you wouldn’t believe the things people leave behind. We had a car seat handed in that had been left in the car park and we had to wonder how the child had made it home without it! We also get the odd camera, child’s scooter and a variety of clothing.
Many customers are staying at the local holiday parks or B&Bs and they want to take advantage of our knowledge on local attractions, places to eat and even whether or not wellies are needed for walking in certain areas. We can go from giving directions to the nearest farm park to plotting a walking or cycling route. Our other work includes writing articles for local publications and producing a weekly events list which enables visitors and locals to keep up to date with things taking place in the area.
Serving people at the counter and answering two telephones does keep us busy but it usually starts to slow down at around 4pm. After a quick tidy round we re-stock the shelves ready to start all over again the following day.
(Picture credit: Newark and Sherwood District Council)