Many years ago I visited Bekonscot model village in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire with some family friends, and about the same time my boyfriend has also visited with his family. Whilst in the area recently, we decided to revisit one weekend, to see if our happy childhood memories could be matched by the current reality
The model village is signposted from the M40 (junction 2) , so pretty easy to find as long as you follow the brown tourist signs. You can park for free just across the road. It is not a large car park, and could easily get filled at peak times, so you may have to park elsewhere. There is a Waitrose car park adjacent, but I believe it is for customers only. We walked across the road and entered the park area and were interested to read that all profits go to charity. The first reality check was the price - £9 for an adult. Children (2-15) are £5.50, concessions (£5.25), families 2+2 (£26). Under 2s are free and there are group rates are also available.
Entering the village we were behind a large family group but we managed to lose them quite quickly. The park was opened in 1929 and this appeared to be the era it is based in, there are no mini modern cars or model internet cafés. The first bit we saw was the zoo complete with animals, and a cute penguin pool. There were a range of little shops and houses, a marketplace, fort, windmill and cricket green amongst many others. As well as a farm, Bekonscot is an industrial village with it's own coal mine. At one of the two (miniature) lakes, they had a pier with a theatre which was advertising appearances by Max Miller and Arthur Askey. There is also a version of Enid Blyton's house who is a famous local.
There is a country club type hotel with swimming pool, guests made to scale are catching some rays or having a swim. In some places the models are animated, such as funfair rides or a see-saw on a village green. In one window we saw a woman 'moving' as she washed the window, her dog turning his head. These movements aren't continuous, they pause at times so you may miss them if you walk past at the wrong time. There is evening a 'burning' house that smokes with a model fire engine in attendance. Also reflecting the era is the village hunt, the red-coated riders and their horses are jumping the fence behind the hounds, but don't worry - the fox is a long way out in front.
One thing the kids all love in the model railway - suitable for any adult model train fan too, no doubt. There are a number of stations around the route and you can spot both passenger and freight trains traversing the village. There is a big life size signal box manned by a human, no doubt keeping the little services running (apparently it runs in the winter months, even when the life size ones can't). Other transport includes a moving cable car, and a model airfield. I would also like to mention that the whole village area is beautifully landscaped and laid out, the people who care for the gardens obviously take a great deal of pride in their work.
As well as a model village there is a play area, tea rooms and picnic area, which we had no cause to visit, but I do like to see family attractions offering picnic areas, as days out can get expensive. For an extra charge (£1) you can play on the remote controlled boats or ride on the kiddie train - the latter being for the really young kids. There are also 'Fun Photos' where they super impose your picture onto a model village scene so it looks like you are at the funfair for example. This isn't really for me, and it seemed the enthusiastic staff were having a hard job selling it to visitors. There is a small gift shop within a railway carriage. I was pleased to note that prices were modest and there were plenty of pocket money toys for kids, so junior members of the family can take home a little souvenir without their parents having to re-mortgage the house.
We were here about an hour, if we had been with kids I suspect we could have stayed longer as there was a playground for them to run about in. If you are going without children you may choose to go off-peak. Our visit was peppered with a backing track of "Jakey darling, come here please!" and "Look Hugo, it's a train!" Fortunately the kids were enjoying themselves so tantrum opportunities appeared to be minimised. However you may want to re-consider the timing of your visit if you have a low toddler-tolerance or an allergy to small children squealing. However, if you actually have children, then they are likely to enjoy it and it opens up lots of opportunity for discussion as to the purpose of various buildings and what may be happening in each 'scene'. Thus I do recommend this attraction.
Model villages can be great fun to visit with quaint village life depicted in an intricate, miniature format allowing you to walk around like a god with the ability to extinguish life and cause mass destruction with the simple stepping of a foot. Thrilling stuff. England, and more precisely Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, has the honour of housing the oldest model village in the entire world. Built by a rich accountant named Roland Callingham in the 1920s, this model village (named Bekonscot by combining Callingham's new home of Beaconsfield with his old home of Ascot) was purely there for aesthetic reasons for entertaining guests but became known to the public after 1930. As of 1978, 17 years after Callingham's death, the Church Army began to run the model village and, as you'd expect with such an organisation, a large proportion of the profits go to charity (some £5 million to date).
==The Layout of Bekonscot==
Bekonscot is divided into 6 villages across 1.5 acres of land - Bekonscot, Greenhaily, Southpool, Hanton, Splashying and Evenlode and there is a Gauge One model railway that winds its way around all the villages in a realistic and complex railway network system involving up to 11 passenger and goods trains. The system is probably of great interest to railway enthusiasts as it is one of the largest public garden railways in the UK using a block signalling system and also incorporating some manual lever frames undoubtedly pilfered from the London Underground and British Rail. Some of the railway stations will probably be recognisable as local examples and the locomotives themselves are worthy of historical merit with some of them having been running for 50 years. There is a great video on the official website that gives a driver's view of one of the trains as it completes a circuit of the villages which is fascinating as it gives the models a life size perspective:
Although, rather worryingly, when I visited Bekonscot there was a tiny, minute, miniscule part of me that hoped there could be a train collision or derailment that would cause a train to burst into flames. Let's not dwell on that too much though...
Onto the villages themselves. There are many different routes to take following white arrows on stone walkways and bridges so you can make your way round at your leisure. There are a wonderful array of models that certainly capture a typical 1930s village lifestyle with, in addition to some wonderful old fashioned homes some most pleasingly in a Tudor style, such things as polo, cricket and rugby fields/pitches, a golf course (which does look like the only club you would need is a putter), a cattle market, a fox hunt (boo) scene, a fairground with fully functioning rides such as a daredevil motorcyclist going round a giant drum (though somehow he defies gravity and remains stationary for a good couple of minutes before resuming where he left off), a zoo (with some animals I embarrassingly couldn't identify) and some windmills. In some of the villages there are also a lot of old fashioned and different shops (some named with terrible puns for example Dan D Lyon the Florists) to explore also in the style of the 1930s such as a fish monger, green grocer, solicitors, window cleaner, a fair few pubs, Marks & Spencers, a fish and chips shop, a motor garage to name but a few as well as community buildings such as a cinema, schools, churches, a nunnery complete with scary looking Catholic nuns dotted about and some impressive castles.
There are some standout attractions as well, including recreations of Enid Blyton's house, the Hampton (Hanton) Court maze and Ascot racecourse, a canoe club which has a waterfall and a working cable car system, a yacht race, a coal mine, a harbour complete with boats and piers, a rather grandiose hospital with some hospital staff and patients inside (though too small to see any potentially nasty looking afflictions) as well as a larger than life Tudor house which, unlike most of the houses has pieces of intrigue within its walls for you to peer in and marvel at. There is also a standing platform at one end of the complex which allows you to gain an overview of the villages which is nice, although means you are unable to see a lot of the detail.
The gardens and the surrounding greenery that all the models reside in are also a thing of beauty. Bonsai like plants are used to create trees and bushes but have to be constantly trimmed to prevent growth akin to that from a Science Fiction movie terrorising the residents. Also, albeit that they are unavoidably life size, there are a lot of colourful plants creating borders around the villages which really brighten the place up and look especially spectacular when they are all in bloom. Cleverly, there is also a system of small, hidden, sprinklers set up to keep the plants watered which apparently can produce an eerie hazy mist if you go at the right time.
Overall I would say the attention to detail and diversity of these models is wonderful and I think adults and kids would find plenty to enjoy here, though I would think it is aimed slightly more at kids' imaginations. One amusing thing for me are the inhabitants of the villages as they are all incredibly dexterous and have no difficulty standing at angles of 45 degrees or more whilst once again defying gravity. Perhaps these villages are displaced fractionally from our universe and find themselves in a low gravity parallel universe - there can be no other explanation.
The one downside I would say, and I'm sure that this is purely down to the age of the models, is that a few of them do look like they could do with a bit of sprucing up as are beginning to fall slightly into a state of disrepair, but I guess much of the profits go to maintaining these models so it's probably a never ending battle. My one final criticism is the price that I paid of £9 did seem a little steep for me, especially since I had completed the tour of the villages in under 40 mins, but taking into account the fact that much of the profits goes to charity, and much goes to the maintenance it's a little hard to really complain without feeling like a jerk.
Recommended as a family day out since kids will certainly marvel at the models, but I'm not sure that there is enough here to really entertain adults visiting alone considering the £9 entry fee.
*For an extra £1 kids and adults can hop aboard the Bekonscot Light Railway and enjoy a ride behind the model village, crossing some gardens and circling a pond. The train seems slow enough that if you were to throw yourself off for some reason the only damage you'd do is probably to the nearby geraniums. The railway is open every day from 11am-4:30pm - no need for booking.
*For an added distraction to wayward children there is a small playground with the usual suspects such as slides etc and the chance to pretend drive a boat or sail a train, or they could be more traditional and sail the boat or drive the train - whatever - as well as remote controlled boats which for a small fee can give children (or adults if they are so inclined) a chance for a few minutes to be at the helm of some boats and to avoid or intentionally try sinking them depending on the mood.
*For refreshments there is a sheltered picnic area which also has some storage space if you did bring a load of gear with you that you don't want to cart around as well as a tearoom which offers hot and cold drinks and meals, a special children's menu, simple snacks and ice cream - I never managed to try the tearoom out so can't really comment on the prices or quality of food unfortunately.
*There are toilets available but again I didn't get a chance to try them out so cannot comment on their general state of cleanliness.
*The villages are mostly pushchair and wheelchair (2 wheelchairs are available for hire) friendly, although some of the walkways are not quite wide enough and the elevated walkways has stair access only.
*Dogs are not allowed with the exception of service dogs.
*The shop is housed in a full sized railway carriage and is chock full of great toys for kids including many a Thomas the Tank Engine model, books, stationery etc but not really much for adults. The shop also cannot have too many visitors at any one time as space is an issue and it gets horribly cramped very quickly.
Warwick Road, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, HP9 2PL
Tel: 01494 672919
===How to Get There===
By car you can come off Junction 2 of the M40 or via the M4 along the A404, A355 and A40 and follow the brown signs for the village and parking. You can get free parking just opposite Bekonscot by the church (there is an adjoining Waitrose car park but you'd have to pay) and there are clear signs that permit you to park there. Alternatively there are pay and display car parks further in the town centre.
By rail you can come in at the Beaconsfield railway station using the Chilterns Railway service from London Marylebone, Aylesbury, Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon and High Wycombe to name a few, which is a 5 minute walk away.
Apparently there are several bus routes which will get you within a 10 minute walking distance.
Other options include walking, cycling, skateboarding, paragliding, helicopter.
===Opening Times (2011)===
19th February - 30th October (daily)
10am - 5pm (last admission 4:30pm)
Child (2-15): £5.50
Child under 2: FREE
Family (2 adults and 2 children - extra children pay full price): £26.00
Concessions: £6.25 (Sat-Sun) and £5.25 (Mon-Fri)
Group rates (15 or more):
Concessions: £5.25 (Sat-Sun) and £4.75 (Mon-Fri)
2 Adults: £83
1 Adult + 1 Child: £68
1 Adult + 2 Children: £93
2 Adults + 1 Child: £108
2 Adults + 2 Children: £133
(Each additional child: £25)
Bekonscot Model Village is a tourist attraction in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, & is the oldest model village in the world.
When you first arrive, make sure you go in the model village's own car park (on the other side of the road from the model village entrance), which is free, as opposed to the Pay & Display car park next to the model village.
When you first enter, you will see that the ticket office & gift shop are housed in a refurbished old train carriage, which I thought was very charming. You then walk in to the model village itself, & will be pleasantly surprised at how big it is. The village has been maintained in a mostly 1930s style (it was first opened to the public in 1929) & has many different miniature buildings & other features to see, such as the zoo, fairground, churches, college and so on. Look out for the smoke billowing out of one building & the firemen in attendance! (only a pretend fire of course!) A lot of the buildings are originals from the 1920s, when they were built by the founder (Roland Callingham) as a hobby in his back garden.
The model village actually grew up around Mr Callingham's model railway, which he built in his garden, & the village still has model trains running through it; every so often one will appear through a tunnel or you'll see one stopping at a station. You can look through windows into the room from where they control these trains & all the levers look very interesting and complicated!
There is also a larger train which children (or adults!) can ride on & which goes around the edge of the village. This currently costs an extra 90p.
One of my favourite parts of the model village was the landscaping of the garden, for example trees that are kept small & trimmed to look like large trees but in the scale of the village, & also some nice rockeries. There are also pools with koi carp swimming around in them (giants compared to the village's residents!).
I visited the model village with my boyfriend, & although it was very sweet & interesting to see, I'd say it was much more suitable for visiting with small children, & we wouldn't go again just as a couple. There were plenty of young children there & you could tell that they loved it. You also shouldn't go if you don't like visiting somewhere that's full of small children!
It cost us £8 each to visit the model village, which I felt was quite expensive for what it is, although their profits do all go to charity (distributed to various causes via the Church Army). A child's ticket is currently £4.50 & a family ticket is £23.
The model village is open from 10am-5pm until 1st November, then opens again in February.
There's a small shop with some nice things for children, a small cafe & a picnic area.
Bekonscot Model Village is located in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire (just off the M40 and a few miles from the M25) and is the world's oldest model village. 2009 is Bekonscot's 80th birthday and visiting the village is a real step back in time to a more peaceful 1930s existence with six miniatures towns and villages complete with castles, beaches, stately homes, cricket on the village green and a model railway running through the whole thing.
**Getting There and Prices**
By car, Bekonscot is easily accessible from the M40 and from surrounding areas. There is a car park over the road from the village with free parking, although this is not particularly big so may not be sufficient if the village is busy. It is also possible to get there by train, as it is only 5 minutes walk from Beaconsfield Station on the Chiltern Railways line.
Admission prices are £8.00 for Adults, £4.50 for children between 2 and 15 and £5.00 for OAPs, students and the unemployed. You can also buy a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children for £23.00.At the moment, you can get one free entry using the vouchers that come with Muller Corner yogurts which is what we did when we went a couple of weeks ago.
**The Model Village**
The villages occupy 1.5 acres of land and include houses, shops, pubs, castles, churches, a zoo, a pier, a coal mine, a cable car and many other buildings, all designed and constructed in intricate detail. It is fascinating to wander around the walkways and look into a whole different world, and every time we walk round we spot something we hadn't noticed before. There is also a network of miniature railway lines running through the villages - the trains disappear under bridges and tunnels and then reappear again further on. For my pre-schooler, this is definitely the best bit! There are other moving elements as well such as the boats on the lakes, a watermill, the cable car and the coal mine, so there is plenty to capture the attention of younger visitors. And for the older visitors, there is entertainment in seeing how cheesy the names of the shops are!
At weekends, bank holidays and during local school holidays you can also ride on the narrow gauge railway along a track behind the model village and round the pond. This is very popular with my train-obsessed child but probably not a big deal for most of the older generations. You can also drive remote-controlled boats on the lake, although my husband uses this as an excuse to terrorise the local duck population by chasing them with the boats! For younger children, there is a nice playground at the back of the model village which is a good place for them to burn off a bit of steam.
**Eating, Drinking and Shopping**
There is a small café with a picnic area outside at the back of the model villages selling drinks, sandwiches, cakes and ice-cream. There are also other picnic areas if you take your own food with you. At the exit to the village there is a small shop inside a railway carriage which sells a variety of train-related products - this has a good selection of Thomas the Tank Engine stuff.
We have been to Bekonscot a couple of times now and it has been an enjoyable day out. Sometimes it's slightly frustrating to have to do it all at pre-schooler speed - my son loves the trains and looking at the village, but he likes to do it at his own very fast pace. There are definitely times when I wish we could slow down and look at things properly. I would recommend it as a place to visit with younger children as the trains do seem to fascinate them, or with more senior members of the family who may enjoy reminiscing about old times as they wander through the village at a more sedate pace. It only takes us a couple of hours for a visit, including stopping for a sandwich and a play in the playground, but it's well worth it if you live locally enough.
For more information - http://www.bekonscot.co.uk
Bekonscot Model Village is to be found at Beaconsfield, a short distance from Junction 2 of the M40, and is a truly magical place. It is in fact the World's oldest Model village, celebrating 80 years of existing in 2009. It is a place that I have visited with my children many times at various stages of their childhood, and each time we go both they and I find something new to look at, and spot a new miniature person or house. What is refreshing about this village is that it is a little step back in time with no concessions to the modern age, the village is set in the 1930's, if it is not how England was then perhaps it is how it should have been. The village is not a corporate money making exercise - all the profits go to charity,(administered by the Church Army) so again, a visitor attraction with a difference.
Full details can be found on the Model village website - the satnav postcode is HP9 2PL and the village is 5 mins on foot from the station. When you arrive be sure to park in the free carpark opposite the village in the church grounds - perhaps blinded by having to negotiate Beaconsfield the first few times I went there I didn't realise there was a free carpark and stumped up for the pay and display.
2009 rates are:
Child (age 2 - 15 yrs) £4.50
OAP, Students, Unemployed £5.00
Family Tickets (2+2) £23.00
Children under 2 yrs FREE
There are season tickets too, I reckon you could spend a half day here easily at child speed so it is good value.
What is there to see?
As already mentioned the village which was built mainly in the 1920's onwards by a Roland Callingham (an accountant with imagination it appears), and is steeped in that time. Some of the buildings are based on neighbouring Beaconsfield, whilst some are from the imagination of the creator - who was apparently aided by his "staff" in creating his utopian village.
The scale is 1:12 and there are six little villages all with various buildings and people and all beautifully constructed by hand. You wander around and everything is at child height - for us the absolute highlight is the maze of train track with trains running over bridges, to stations and through the streets of houses. The children love spotting the trains and other moving items in the little 1930's village such as the fairground, the coal pit with its moving conveyor belt and also the little port with moving boats. It is all very very charming and twee in the nicest possible way. When we go we enjoy spotting the animals in the zoo, looking at the little farms and seeing all the mini people. There are streams too with rather huge fish in them, it is all just lovely!
Apart from the village there is a small sit on train ride for an extra fee (£1 last time I went), and a small playground for the children with plenty of slides and things to climb on - not the most up to date of playgrounds but in keeping with the overall feel of the village!
There is provision for picnics, indoor and out, we normally take a picnic and eat in a small covered area next to the train ride. The cafe serves pleasant and affordable fare.
There is a small shop in an old train carriage at the exit - this has reasonably priced souvenirs and toys in it - plenty of Thomas items for train fans.
This is an excellent place to visit if you have children, it is open every day 10-5pm in high season, it does close for the Winter but is generally open for half term.
Check opening times before you go on http://www.bekonscot.com/
I think going to Bekonscot is really great fun - you can spend a surprising amount of time wandering around and marvelling at the craftmanship of the village. It really is a little attraction that is big on enjoyment - I thoroughly recommend it!
Come see a unique piece of England's heritage. There are six little villages in a 1½ acre miniature landscape of farms and fields, castles and churches, woods, lakes and rolling hills.