Profile updated 19/08/19
Heart of England
Hello, my name is Phil Halling, I am a professionally qualified Blue Badge Guide in the Heart of England, an area I have lived all my life.
The Heart of England region has a varied landscape which includes the Cotswolds, Shakespeare’s Warwickshire, the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, and Ironbridge, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. The region also includes many interesting towns and cities, including the cathedral cities of Coventry, Gloucester, Hereford, Lichfield and Worcester. The region includes the city of Birmingham, ‘City of a Thousand Trades’. I have spent a lot of time over the years exploring this part of England which has many interesting places, from simple Saxon churches to ornate Cotswold ‘Wool Churches’, from modest houses to grand country houses and even a palace. Being in the centre of England, much blood has been spilt here in battles over the centuries, particularly during major battles in the English Civil War and the Wars of the Roses.
I am available to provide walking tours of towns and cities, or coach panoramic tours of the Heart of England.
I have travelled widely in Europe and beyond and find England and the UK difficult to beat, though a relatively small country it has a wealth of history, heritage and a rich culture.
Re-Gloucester City Tour ( July 2019 )
“Philip Halling provided a thoroughly enjoyable tour of all the key historical points of interest in the city centre. His in depth knowledge covering a wide area was truly amazing. Bringing historical figures to life with interesting stories and facts. His knowledge particularly of Cathedral history was detailed and informative
I would without reservation book him again. He even managed to find a great lunch venue with good food at a reasonable price
Thank you for a real treat.”
I have a background in agriculture having grown up on, and worked on a family farm when I was young.
Architecturally the Heart of England has a lot to offer, including religious buildings from all periods, such as Saxon churches, Norman churches and abbeys, and ornate gothic cathedrals. Houses include modest medieval half-timber cottages, and many grand country houses of differing architectural styles.
|Castles & Palaces||
The region has many castles, spanning the centuries of castle building. The castles are all different, there are simple motte and bailey castles on the Welsh borders in Herefordshire, there are impressive ruins such as Goodrich Castle and Kenilworth Castle as a result of the civil war. Some have survived the centuries, such as Warwick Castle, others are still family homes as is the case with Berkeley Castle which was the site of Edward II’s murder and Sudeley Castle where Katherince Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife is buried.
|Churches & Cathedrals||
There are six cathedrals in the Heart of England region, they are Lichfield, Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester, Birmingham and Coventry. Village churches are one of England's great treasures, I enjoy exploring them, some contain magnificent memorials and stained glass windows. There are many churches of interest, particularly the ‘wool churches’ of the Cotswolds. In Simon Jenkins’* book, six of the seventeen 5 star churches are in the region, they are in Fairford, Cirencester, Tewkesbury, Burford, Ludlow and Warwick. Some are very old, the village of Deerhurst must be unique in having two Anglo-Saxon churches pre-dating the Norman Conquest of 1066.
What could be better than being ‘in England’s green and pleasant land’? I can guide panoramic coach tours in the Heart of England. A region which includes the beautiful Cotswolds, where there are delightful honey-coloured villages, the Wye valley, where early tourists ventured, inspired by William Gilpin in the late 18th century, and Forest of Dean. The west of the region bordering Wales is very rural with the pastoral rolling countryside of Herefordshire and Shropshire.
|History & Prehistory||
History has always been one of my great passions, I enjoy walking in the footsteps of history. just being in a building where a historical person has been. If only buildings could speak! A number of important battles have taken place in the region over the centuries, Evesham, Tewkesbury, Stow and Worcester to name a few. We are the products of history with some events changing history’s course. What if?
Sir Edward Elgar was born just outside Worcester and lived most of his life in Worcestershire, and neighbouring Herefordshire. Walking the Malvern Hills one can almost hear Elgar’s music. The cathedrals of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester, in turn, are the locations each summer for the Three Choirs Festival. The world’s oldest choral music festival.
The tombs of two medieval kings are in cathedrals in the Heart of England. Henry III’s coronation took place in Gloucester. Many other locations have royal connections, particularly during the English Civil War.
|Stately Homes & Country Houses||
There are many fine country houses in the Heart of England, moated manor houses with priest holes such as Baddesley Clinton and Harvington Hall, there are Queen Anne-style houses like Hanbury Hall, and fine Georgian houses, an example being Attingham Park. Some are impressive shells like Witley Court, a victim of fire in the 1930s and allegedly visited one night in the 1960s by Bob Dylan when ‘ghost-hunting’. The region boasts houses of the ‘Arts and Crafts’ period, examples include Wightwick (pronounced Whittick) Manor, and on the Cotswolds, Rodmarton Manor which was built at the beginning of the 20th century.
Walking is the best way to explore. I lead guided walks of towns and cities, including Stratford-upon-Avon, Gloucester, Worcester, Cheltenham, Birmingham to name a few. Even smaller towns can rich histories and are worth exploring, such places include Evesham, Bewdley and Tewkesbury. Often hidden away down an alley or round a corner is something of interest.