Visit Norfolk churches from your sofa!
Sheringham man Paul Brittain has developed a website which enables visitors to look round Norfolk businesses and churches from their computer, and has now introduced high level shots using a drone. Tony Rothe reports.
Following the success Street View, whereby people can “drive” along any road using their computer, Google introduced Google Tours into the UK early in 2013 so that a similar facility became available for businesses and places of interest.
North Norfolk photographer Paul Brittain quickly saw the potential benefits of this, and signed up as a Google Trusted Photographer, enabling him to capture the images necessary for such tours. He set up a website, www.norfolkvirtualtours.co.uk , which is becoming increasingly popular among businesses, especially in North Norfolk.
Paul’s interest in historic church buildings led him to start including these as a labour of love, and this enabled him to develop his techniques and try out new ideas. He has now featured many, mainly North Norfolk, churches as virtual tours - so even if people can't get out, they can visit the buildings.
He is also working on a project with the Diocese of Norwich to link his tours with their interactive map of Norfolk’s churches so that visitors looking for a church on their website will be able to take a tour round it as well!
“Businesses and churches have found that a virtual tour can actually increase footfall to their premises, as people find they are attracted and want to visit in person” Paul explains, “And the images are often brighter than real life, so if the building is gloomy inside, you might see more on a virtual tour than you would if you were there! The tour can also provide a complete record of the contents of these buildings, which can be very useful for insurance purposes, and to work out what has been stolen in the tragic event of a break-in”.
Tours can include the outside as well as the inside of buildings, and people can be included if required. Larger buildings can be split into sections, and overlaid with information panels, and visitors can zoom in to areas or items of particular interest. One church even set up a computerised Easter egg hunt for children using a virtual tour!
Last year, Paul started using a drone so that he could introduce a new dimension to his tours as an option, giving people views they could not get if they were there in person. He is an approved Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) drone pilot, and can provide aerial shots of churches and businesses as well as close up detail high up inside the buildings.
“Owners of historic or listed buildings have found this particularly useful” said Paul; “They can zoom in to study the condition of the buildings and pinpoint possible faults, even down to a simple blockage in a gutter.
One enthusiastic user of Paul’s tours is Rev Andrew Beane, vicar of the Aylsham & District Team Ministry. He said “ We have some amazing 360 virtual tours of a few of our wonderful historic churches. So if you can't go out and explore one of our cultural and spiritual treasures then you can explore them from your desktop, laptop, or mobile phone!”
Paul is happy to discuss with anyone how a virtual tour can benefit their church or business, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01263 634010 or 07808 732636.
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