The tourists are coming...but how long do they stay?
It won’t be long before the coaches begin to draw up outside the Polly Tea Rooms and disgorge tourists into our lovely High Street. An hour or so later they will congregate outside Lloyds Bank and be on their way.
I can’t be alone in wishing many could stay longer. Visitors don’t have to travel far to discover the peace of Savernake Forest, with its ancient oaks that could – if they were able – tell stories going back to William the Conqueror. The historically curious could search for the legacy of Wolf Hall near Burbage, or remind themselves of our technological heritage at the Crofton Beam Engines and Wilton Windmill. Avebury, of course, casts a spell all of its own.
But many visitors spend such little time here that they cannot explore beyond the confines of the town. It is up to us, the people of Marlborough, to make them welcome. This is especially true now the town no longer has a tourist information point for them.
I can only speak for myself, of course, but many of my travelling memories are shaped by people I met. The young man in Havana who spotted me struggling to cross the road, and took my arm to steer me through the traffic to the safety of the other side.
The young woman on the bus in Kerala who stood up for me, asked where I was going and took me there although it was well out of her way. The man who spotted me staring at a map at the side of the road in Hue – that was during the Chinese New Year and the streets were deserted. He took me home to his family and I joined their celebrations and though his only words of English were, ‘What is your name?’
I’d like to think that those who pass through Marlborough look back on their time here with similar pleasure. I’ve seen visitors wander as far as Patten Alley, needing nothing but a word of encouragement to explore delights of The Green, just two minutes away. At the other end of the High Street others may be unaware of the treasures to be found in St Peter’s Church.
It is up to us, the people of Marlborough, to make them welcome. To spot those lingering by the roadside and ask if they are looking for somewhere historical like The Merchant's House or the peace and quiet of Priory Gardens. To point out some of our independent cafés for those in need of coffee.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they left with stories about the kindness of Marlborough’s strangers.
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