Monday, 23 April 2012

A Big Walk Around a Little Village.

Birds eye view.
When I say little village I mean little village.  You might think that Grassmere and Ennerdale are lovely little villages but they are vast empires compared to where I was walking yesterday.  Truth is I wasn't actually in Cumbria yesterday I was in Buckinghamshire visiting the oldest model village in the world; Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield.

If I were to tell you the whole thing was the inspiration of an accountant who was also a model railway enthusiast you may get the impression it's all rather dull, but far from it.  Back in 1928 Roland Callingham set about building the largest Gauge 1 model railway in the UK in his ample back garden; to complement that railway he and his gardener began building model houses and the whole thing kind of grew from there.  Today the 1.5 acre site is crammed with model houses, castles, airports, zoos and pretty much every other type of building you can think of.  In the past they have introduced more modern buildings, but these days the whole place has a 1930's theme.  One of the most striking models is a scale replica of Enid Blyton's house complete with tiny Ms Blyton sat in her back garden working away on another book.  She lived in Beaconsfield but her original home was demolished in 1968 which is a shame, but I guess that's progress for you.

An accountant with a sense of humour!
In the best possible way Mr Callingham was a very creative accountant; the buildings are imaginatively designed and laid out and no matter how many times you visit there will always be something you haven't spotted before.  Take the shops for example, as you wander through the narrow village streets take a moment to stoop down and read the shop names; as well as Marks and Spencers and a few other locally known shops you'll find Ivan Huven the bakers and Evan Leigh Soles the shoe shop, I won't mention any others I shall leave them for you to discover on your next visit.

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cutherbert,
Dibble and Grub.
And it's not static either - stuff moves: the rides on the fairground, the steam roller repairing the road, the man falling off his ladder, the cable cars and, the one that caught me out, the house with the fire brigade outside which actually belches out real smoke.

I hate to use a cliche but this really is an attraction the entire family can enjoy.  The walkways around the village are tarmacked and easy to navigate with little white arrows pointing the main routes through.  There's a high view point which allows you a bird's eye view of the entire village (well, "bird's eye" if the bird is sitting in a large tree rather than flying over the village) and a well thought out children's play area next to a cafe. I suppose if I did have one negative comment it's the fact that at £9 per adult I think the entry prices are a little steep (with usual concessions for children, OAPs etc.) but I'm guessing there are a lot of overheads on a site like this - not least of all the gardeners who keep the all the bonsai trees and surrounding shrubs and bushes in darned near perfect condition.  If you've never been then it's most definitely worth a visit; it's only 10 mins from J2 of the M40 and there's decent parking nearby.  If you've already been there then maybe it's time you popped back to see what's changed and spot how many things you missed seeing last time around.