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Bus Tours Head To 'Kate Middleton' Country

GREGORY KATZ   01/11/11 08:04 AM ET   AP

Kate Middleton Engaged

BUCKLEBURY, England — Kate Middleton's picturesque country village of Bucklebury is never going to be the same.

Starting Sunday, tour company operator Adrian Morton plans to send bus tours to Bucklebury, where Middleton was raised in privileged style some 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of London.

He hopes they will be filled with visitors looking to experience what he dubs "Kate Middleton country," figuring the home of a likely future queen of England should provide a draw.

Americans in particular seem transfixed by the upcoming royal spectacle of Middleton's April 29 marriage to Prince William at Westminster Abbey in London.

"There seems to be more interest in the States than in our own country," said Morton, who has long-standing ties to Bucklebury. "I've been contacted by an American tour operator about possible tours. You can see the places where she went to school and where she was christened. And locals are interested too."

The bus tour idea came from Morton's twin brother, who lives in the United States and has seen an explosion of public fascination with the royal wedding.

Adrian Morton anticipated some local resistance to the plan but claimed that none has surfaced.

"I was thinking we might get some bad press, like 'What do you think you're doing sending great big coaches round our little country roads?' but I haven't heard anything negative or positive," he said. "I imagine from a business point of view the pubs and restaurants will probably cash in on it, but as far as locals are concerned, they might not want the intrusion."

He predicted, however, there's nothing Bucklebury can do to avoid the changes.

"It's going to happen. The press is already camped out on their doorstep. We're going to be very much in the background," he said.

Morton may not have asked enough people in this affluent town of 2,000 what they think. The bus tours, which will begin on a small scale but grow as the wedding nears, are just one reminder of how life in this pastoral village is changing now that Middleton is set to join the world's most famous – and famously difficult – royal family.

"I wish they'd leave her in peace," said Sue Fidler, who along with her husband runs the Bladestone Butchery, which features beautifully dressed rabbits and pheasants hanging in the window for sale. "We don't want it."

She said the tour operators, like others, are just trying to cash in on the royal wedding without considering the impact on village life. Her husband, Martin Fidler, raised questions about where the buses will park and what the tourists will actually see.

He said he could not sell his goods for two days after the engagement was announced because so many reporters and live television crews descended on the town from all over the world. Regular customers could not park amid the chaos, he said.

Still, he was no curmudgeon.

"The wedding has put a smile on everyone's face. It's fantastic, not just for the village but for the whole country. It's great to see two young people deeply in love," he said.

Once tranquil Bucklebury – a place where Aston Martins and Jaguars are common – has already seen reporters who think nothing of barging in and sitting down with patrons dining at one of the local pubs and asking probing questions about Middleton's private life. So many have done so that the rustic Old Boot Inn has banned interviews on the premises – anyone brandishing a tape recorder or camera is politely but firmly told to stop so people can eat and drink in peace.

The town is near a major highway and would be a convenient stopping off point for tourists visiting popular tourist attractions like Bath, Windsor and Oxford. But visitors may be disappointed because it is not possible to get a clear view of the Middleton family home, which is on a private drive mostly obscured by trees.

Some locals were unconcerned about the outside world's sudden interest in Bucklebury.

"It won't bother me, the tourists aren't going to come to see the pig farm," said Julian Taylor, who manages the extremely muddy pig division at a sprawling Bucklebury farm.

Simon Kelly, owner of the popular Bladebone pub and restaurant near the Middleton family's home, said most locals are amused rather than upset by the attention.

"It's good because it will bring more trade in, but bad in the sense that people here like a quiet life, that's why they're here," he said.

The pub's phone rang as he spoke – a TV news reporter asking if Middleton would be at the pub that weekend.

Kelly politely said he had no idea, without pointing out that Middleton doesn't clear her schedule with him in advance.

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Filed by Kate Auletta  |