Silver anniversary for Robin Hood’s tourist centre at Ollerton

It’s a quarter of a century this week since the award-winning Sherwood Tourist Information Centre opened its doors to the public in Robin Hood Country.

It was the year of the Black Monday market crash, the Great Storm and Richards Branson’s Altantic balloon crossing and, on June 22nd 1987, at Sherwood Heath on the outskirts of Ollerton, Sherwood TIC first opened to the public. Just a year later it won the East Midlands Tourist Board’s Tourist Information Centre of the Year award.

25 years later they’ve welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors from all over the world, all with varying needs and questions about what they can do or where they can stay or eat in the area, as well as some more unusual requests.

Tourist Information Officer Debbie Hibbert, who has been at the centre for 21 years, said: “One of the first questions I was asked when I started was a lady wanting to know where she could hire a camel. It was before the days of the internet so people called us because they figured we could help them, regardless of their question.

“We still get strange questions - a lady called recently asking for help with filling in her self-assessment tax return!”

The centre boasts an array of information for tourists visiting Newark and Sherwood. Maps, guides, souvenirs, mementoes and local produce are all available. It has continually received praise for offering a top service and won top tourism accolades several times over the years, the most recent being the Silver Award at the East Midlands TIC of the Year in 2010.

You can also book your accommodation through the centre, as well as tickets for local concerts and events.

The age of the internet has undoubtedly had an impact on the role of the TIC in modern tourism, enabling us all to have access to a lot more information. Debbie said people could now easily book their own accommodation on-line, but said she felt they still offered a valuable service to many who preferred speaking to someone face-to-face.

Debbie added: “Just the other day two Australian ladies driving through the area to the south needed overnight accommodation at short notice. Everywhere we tried was booked but we eventually found them a room in nearby. What would they have done without our help?”

Being situated on the edge of Sherwood Forest and in the middle of the new proposed Sherwood Forest Regional Park, not only makes the centre ideally-placed for tourists, it also means they have to contend with some rather more ‘unusual’ visitors.

Debbie said: “In our time we’ve had to rescue injured swans, lost dogs and cats, and we even have to usher out lizards which occasionally find their way into the centre from nearby Sherwood Heath. Never a dull moment!”

The abundance and availability of information has changed over the years but the quality of the service has not. Apart from six months in 2004 when the centre temporarily moved to Sherwood Forest Art and Crafts Centre in Edwinstowe while the building was extended, Debbie and her colleagues Gail Perry and Jill Clifton have amassed more than 60 years’ experience together at the centre since 1990.

‘’I really enjoy my job,’’ added Debbie. ‘’We live in a wonderful part of the country and it’s a great feeling introducing people to our area, helping them get the most out of their stay and seeing everything that we have to offer.‘’

To mark the 25-year anniversary, local author Jane Broomhead from Edwinstowe will be signing copies of her book, ‘Nottinghamshire - A Dog Walker’s Guide’, at the centre on Tuesday, 26th June from 11am. Cakes and drinks will also be served.

For further information go to www.newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk/tics