Thursday, 25 August 2011

Bekonscot Model Village

All the fun of the fair
Bekonscot is probably the place I first went on school trips. As a child, we visited several times as it's a short drive from where I grew up. I fond memories of visits there and as a child, I found it captivating.

For all the times we've visited family "back home", we've never taken the children there. We never seem to have the time to go in short trips down to my mother's but she mentioned it a few times in our last visits but they never came off. This time though, we planned to take them there if the weather was right and thankfully, the weather forecast for today was good - although it started badly as it was raining a little at 9am but sunny by 11am when we set off.

Missy Woo gets up close and personal
All the way there, the children were obviously struggling with a concept of what a model village was and what they could do there. I explained that the houses were much smaller than normal and Monkey said "but how can there be shops?" (Guess who had just been given a shiny £2 coin by my mum's neighbour that was burning a hole in his pocket?) I tried to explain that the buildings were so small that noone could go inside them, and they couldn't really see the point of the place!

Monkey stops long enough for me to take a pic!
After a bit of driving round, we found a suitable parking place. (I'll come back to that). We arrived just after 12 which seemed to be when a lot of people arrived. Bekonscot accept Clubcard rewards so we got in for a lot less than the full price (a family ticket is £26.00). The children had their photograph taken and then we took them into the village and once they could actually see the models, they got what a model village really was. And they were captivated as I was when I was a small child. Their eyes shone with excitement and I had to contain them from running around (they have signs announcing "No running please" around the place). For every turn of the path, they discovered new things. And to Monkey's delight, there were model trains running around the place. Our visit was punctured with "Mummy, look at this!", "Look, a train!", "What's that, Mummy?" as they passed from scene to scene. I was so thrilled that they too were taking enjoyment from something I remember so clearly enjoying from my own childhood.

When we stopped for lunch at the tea room / picnic area, the children decided to spend some of their shiny new coins on ice lollies and they learned a lesson in queueing after they hung around the front and the lady sent them to the back of the queue.  And they nearly forgot to pay!

After a quick run round the children's playground, they were off again around the rest of the village, climbing the viewing platform that allows you to look across the whole of the model village. The village is well organised throughout with a one way system in operation for most of it but it can get clogged up in places as the paths are narrow - if you are going with a buggy, I would recommend taking the smallest and narrowest one you own! Towards the end are remote controlled boats, and a light railway which costs a pound each and takes you on a short trip round the garden area. All of this was of course topped off with a visit to the souvenir shop, where I got off lightly - Monkey found a model plane (not totally relevant apart from the planes flying overhead in and out of Heathrow) and Missy Woo a fetching purple wallet which will actually have use when she has toast money to take to school.

From the viewing gallery
Our visit took us about two hours although you could stay longer if you went round again. Beyond the village, everything does seem pretty organised and well thought out (apart from the ticket office, which seemed pretty slow). They have a shed where you can store your picnics, the picnic area has a sheltered part to shade from rain or sun and there is even a glasshouse style shed for indoor picnics in case that doesn't provide enough shelter. You don't feel ripped off anywhere at all - I like that they give all their profits to charity too.

If you ever go, these would be my tips:

- There is limited free parking just beyond and opposite the entrance which is likely to fill up quickly.
- If that is full, do NOT park in Waitrose car park just beyond it.There were signs up saying you are likely to get fined. There is a 2 hour limit for parking there but I guess you could avoid by visiting the shop. Possibly.
- If you don't get there early enough to bag a space, I would suggest arriving after 12. There is on street parking on the roads beyond Warwick Road on yellow lines where you can't park between 11am and 12 noon and that's only a few minutes walk away. No need to park in pay and display car parks.
- Don't fret if you don't fancy doing a picnic. The tea room looked pretty decent and the prices weren't extortionate. We bought 4 drinks and a sandwich which came to £8. I spied pieces of pizza for 99p.  I didn't tell the children, bad mummy!

Today felt like I stepped back in time and I saw Bekonscot through the children's eyes again. It has an enduring, timeless quality to it where it feels like it harks back to a forgotten age that perhaps lives on only in Enid Blyton books but it still delights children with its variety and feels familiar to them. It's changed and moved with the times but essentially, it's still the same as it was when I was small, a very very long time ago.

I have not been paid to write this post - I just wrote it because I wanted to!
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