Jeremy York at the top of St Peter's Tower

Hello Great West Way Ambassador! Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jeremy York. I was born in London during the war and spent my early childhood in Wiltshire. I read modern languages at Jesus College, Oxford and then served in the regular army for 28 years - a period which included military intelligence gathering in former East Germany and Poland during the latter part of the Cold War. My wife and I came to live in Marlborough in 2003.

What do you do on the Great West Way?

I am Tower Constable of St Peter’s (redundant) Church in Marlborough – my main role is giving tour guides to visitors who venture up the 137 steps to the top of St Peter’s Tower.

What do you enjoy most about it?

I love meeting the wide variety of visitors of all ages and from all over the world. I also love the physical exercise, which keeps me in reasonably good shape, aged 78!

How did you get started?

Seventeen years ago, on first arriving in Marlborough, I was introduced to members of St Peter’s and St Paul’s Marlborough Trust. They easily persuaded me to join their friendly team and soon afterwards to take on the job of volunteer Tower Constable from the retiring “incumbent”.

What is a typical day like for you?

I am responsible for keeping the Tower clock wound and adjusted, and for raising and lowering any one of the 24 flags on the appropriate flag-flying day. I also keep the levels within the Tower clean, tidy and safe for visitors. Most importantly, I guide visitors up and down the Tower.

I am greatly assisted in this role by a small but dedicated team of fellow volunteer tour guides. We are open to the public every Saturday between Easter weekend and the second Marlborough Mop Fair in October, also on Bank Holidays and at any time during the week on request.

Jeremy York winding the clock

Can you tell us some more about the Tours?

Tours last about 40 minutes and include some anecdotal highlights on local history, a brief presentation on the former Marlborough Castle, a demonstration in the Clock Room and, finally, a leisurely spell on the Tower roof. Here our visitors have a breathtaking view of the splendid wide High Street, Marlborough College, St John’s Academy, the late Neolithic Mound akin to Silbury Hill and Marlborough’s very own White Horse. Children particularly enjoy the tour, being given a chance to guess the number of steps, ring a small bell, help wind the clock and answer a few amusing questions put to them by the tour guide.

Can you tell us more about the team you work with?

I am just one member of the team of St Peter’s and St Paul’s Marlborough Trustees, under the chairmanship of Mr David Du Croz. We are responsible for organizing a wide variety of cultural and social events within the church, including an annual season of recitals by talented young musicians. The Trust Council also liaise closely with the licencees who run the very successful coffee shop in the church.

What do you find inspiring day-to-day?

The kind of people who are adventurous enough to climb the Tower are invariably enthusiastic and extrovert. Their enthusiasm and friendliness are a constant source of inspiration to me.

Do you have any anecdotes from your time running the tours?

On one occasion a team of Morris dancers, festooned with ribbons and bells, actually performed a series of dances on the roof of the Tower. On a more sinister note, I once had to haul back a tourist who leaned so far over the safety cabling in an attempt to look at the clock face from above that his feet came off the decking and he was about to pitch over the edge to certain death!

What does slow travel mean to you?

Taking the time to explore different areas individually and with a sense of curiosity.

What would be your perfect adventure on the Great West Way?

My perfect adventure on the Great West Way is the 7-mile walk from Marlborough to Avebury, over the downs, along the gallops and national cycle paths and through the field of some 20,000 Sarsen stones. Then over the Ridgeway and down into Avebury, where, at the summer or winter solstice, I could well meet up with King Arthur Pendragon and his congregation of Druidic devotees!

Do you have any insider tips for travelers exploring the Great West Way?

While in Marlborough, as well as visiting the famous Merchant’s House and attractive shops you should also explore the many interesting side streets and mews. Take a look at our 9 blue plaques and learn some intriguing history. Enjoy a delightful walk along the River Kennet and along Treacle Bolly (beneath the White Horse) until you arrive at peaceful St George’s Preshute Church, with its massive and magnificent 12th century font. Those of you prepared to travel further afield should not miss the opportunity to visit the ancient Savernake Forest, the West Kennet Long Barrow, Avebury with its historic manor house and enigmatic multiple stone circles where, in contrast to Stonehenge, visitors can wander freely.

Are there any secret, lesser-visited spots you’d like to recommend?

The Salisbury Plain Military Training Area, some 10 miles south of Marlborough covers 97,000 acres between Tidworth and Warminster. By denying their last remaining grasslands to developers and intrusive agriculture, the Ministry of Defence has, almost by default, been a key conservator of rare fauna and flora as well as almost 3,000 archaeological sites. From Sidbury Hill near Tidworth visitors (ideally in 4-wheel drive vehicles) can drive west along quite well maintained tracks, open to the public, for some five miles into open areas of grassland where they will probably enjoy more butterflies and wild flowers than they have seen in years. And they will come across a wide variety of burial mounds, barrows and prehistoric field systems. Those interested in Second World War history can enjoy long walks along the Avon and Kennet canal, where they will come across a series of concrete pillboxes which were built to cover fields of fire along what was to be a long line of defence against German invasion forces. One remote archaeological feature some 2 miles east of the Ridgeway is the Devil’s Den (OS grid reference 152696), a rare megalithic tomb, or dolmen, which is well worth a visit by good mapreaders.

What about recommendations for somewhere to eat?

Here in Marlborough I can strongly recommend the Polly Tearooms for breakfast, St Peter’s Coffee shop for lunch and Pino’s for an evening meal

If you could choose one must-visit attraction along the Great West Way, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose one must visit attraction along the Great West Way it would have to be the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Marlborough, with its long history, sophisticated cultural events and first-class lunches which can then be walked off by a guided trip up the Tower!

How would you prefer to travel the Great West Way?

My preferred mode of transport for local excursions is the bus. Perhaps the most pleasant way to explore the canal is by narrowboat. On quiet country roads, I like to use my old Army collapsible bike which has 3 gears and a bell.

Thank you so much for talking to us! Do you have any exciting plans for the future you would like to share?

Our Marlborough White Horse has not been scoured for some while and is nigh on invisible, even from the top of the Tower. The restoration could be a challenging and fun project perhaps for a local Scout group or a team of Army cadets.

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