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A slice of 1930s history
Bekonscot Model Village (Beaconsfield )
Member Name: Mildew82
Bekonscot Model Village (Beaconsfield )
Advantages: Well made, intricate models, great for railway enthusiasts
Disadvantages: A little pricey for what you get
==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)
Summary: A fun little attraction bringing the past to life probably best enjoyed with a little one in tow