Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Bekonscot Model Village, Buckinghamshire.

I always like taking children to Bekonscot model village. It is basically a huge railway layout which runs through various typically English settings. It was originally created in the 1930s and is run in aid of charity. It's not far from London and if you're staying in London and are tired of the city, it makes a good day trip.  Just take a train from sleepy old Marylebone station to Beaconsfield, and the village is a five minute walk away.

One of my favourite bits of the village is the airport, which has recently been redesigned. Now, it shows an airport in the 1930s. Previously, they had 1970s models which I hope they have kept in store against the time when they too start to look ridiculously quaint.

In another favourite scene, one cottage "catches on fire" periodically, billowing out clouds of smoke. Note the old-fashioned fire engines which come along to "put the fire out."

Bekonscot's buildings were created at various periods from the 1930s to now. Some of the scenes must have seemed like daily life in the 1930s, but look reassuringly retro now. 

I don't THINK they've got rid of the chimps' tea party in Bekonscot Zoo.  Chimps' tea parties were once very popular in real life zoos.    The chimps would sit at a genteel tea table and everyone would laugh at their antics as they turned teapots upside down on their heads and pelted each other with cakes and plates.  

Now, of course, you're supposed to view them in their natural habitat, although I have to say that from the chimps' point of view, an occasional tea party might be a welcome diversion from simply swinging round and round the same old compound from dawn to dusk.   Anyway, the village is constantly being updated and changed, so every time I go I see slightly different things.  The grandstand, below, is new, and I think awfully fine for a village racecourse.

There's a livestock market, too- note the beehives on the right.

In some cases,  realism has been sacrificed for interest - it's wonderful being able to see inside the old fashioned cottage hospital

Bekonscot has a canal system with an wharf. on which the barge people unload the goods - coal from the little coal mine, perhaps. It could be that holidaymakers also tie up their canal boats here to fill up with water and get some fish and chips in the shop.

And the lock keeper has his own cottage.

 For obvious reasons, most White Horses and hill decorations are to be found in areas where the soil is chalky, and therefore shows through white. The county of Wiltshire is famous for its White Horses.  But Bekonscot's horse is charming, all the same.  

It wouldn't be an English village without a castle

 It's beautifully maintained, a real labour of love, I think.  For the lover of garden design, it's interesting. The owners have chosen plants which not only enhance the miniature quality of the landscape, but also look appropriate. 

There is also an Alpine aspect to Bekonscot. Canoeists in the river are not distracted by the old-school cable car which sails  back and forth above their heads.

Life isn't all play in Bekonscot. It has its own coal mine, complete with little Welsh style village and conveyor belt moving the coal. Here you can see them loading trucks up in the yard .

Trains thread their way through this miniature landscape. I haven't really tried to take any photos of those, although you can glimpse one here, coming into the station

Take a virtual ride through the Bekonscot's railway, just here

For train fans, there's also a little ride-on train (not too  exciting to the over-3s, perhaps). And the gift shop is in a genuine old railway carriage.

There's such a lot to see, and these few photos hardly do it justice.  I notice I haven't put in a picture of the nuns gardening in their convent - or the beautiful lighthouse - or the windmill.  They do have an excellent website which shows a lot more.

The village is open daily from mid February to November 1st, and for selected weekends after that.   If you're interested in visiting, you'll find up to date details on the excellent website (and while you're on the website, have a go at creating your own virtual model village in the "Games" section).

One of my future projects will be to go and see more model villages elsewhere in Europe. There's actually a federation of model villages - I wonder what they talk about at their meetings!


  1. I don't know Bekonscot, but I do remember the model village days with our children. This seems way up the list, I wish I had known it then.

  2. That is quite a remarkable little model village. They have really put a lot of time and effort into it.

    Thanks for the tour!

  3. Lovely images and an awesome blog. Do visit my blog and leave your footprints by posting comments

  4. Amazing! I've never heard of model villages let alone been to see one. It looks like a whole lot of fun.


  5. I used to go to this when I was young. It's changed a lot but seems just as good as it always was

  6. I must confess I rather like these model towns

  7. That looks so nice and beautifully kept - though I don't think my 12-year old would be too impressed if I took him there ;-) xo

  8. There is a a similar village in The Netherlands called Maduradam...Nice pictures

  9. Madurodam is on my list of places to go!

  10. Bekonscot is such a pretty village!


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