diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Would you like to come with me and visit a village so small that you will tower above the houses? Would you like to know what it would be like if you visited Fairyland, and felt like a giant, because everything was so tiny, and the people hardly came up to your ankles? Well, I live quite near to a little village like this - it is so close that I can see it from my bedroom window. Shall I take you there? It's a real village, called Bekonscot, and it is in the town of Beaconsfield. Are you ready to come with me? Let's go, then." (The Enchanted Village, Enid Blyton, 1951)

Generations of children have enjoyed a visit to Bekonscot model village since it opened to the public in 1929. The Queen came aged seven, back when she was merely Princess Elizabeth, whereas I think I first visited aged six. I remember being amazed by the little houses, and the little people, and of course the little railways. I also remember being taken to task by my infant school teacher when I wrote about my weekend visit to "Beconscot" on Monday morning. She said I'd spelt the name wrong, and I insisted I absolutely hadn't, in that way precocious six year-olds do. I've now recovered from the social trauma of that encounter, just about, so I thought it was time I went back as an adult and enjoyed Bekonscot again.

The village entrance lies a short walk from the station, up an unassuming avenue of whopper-priced commuter homes. Bekonscot was built in the back garden of Mr Roland Callingham, a London accountant with a penchant for model railways. When his wife grew tired of the trains he rebuilt his layout outdoors, added some model houses for good measure, then added a pier to his swimming pool. The model village grew inexorably from that point on, more a labour of love than an accurate representation of reality. Roland's friends loved it, and encouraged him to open the place up, and the general public duly flocked in. Bekonscot thrived and grew, but was soon hemmed in by surrounding back gardens and remains one and a half acres in size. It's now run by a charitable trust, who've rolled back certain 'modern' amendments so that everything now reflects a bygone Thirties England. Are you ready to come with me? Let's go, then.

Ah yes, the place looked very much as I remembered aged six, but much smaller. A mini-landscape of diminutive settlements spread out before me, including a windmill on a hill and a lake that used to be Roland's swimming pool. Mostly giant-free, because I'd thought to arrive early in the day before the day's rush arrived. And all very green, courtesy of some immaculate lawn and well-trimmed shrubs. A sprinkling of snowdrops and crocuses brightened the scene - it already feels like spring is here at Bekonscot. First up beside the entrance is Chessnade Zoo, including a now-out-of favour chimp's tea party plus a scale model of Lubetkin's penguin pool. Close by are a castle, a manor house and several rural cottages, plus umpteen roughly-painted little people engaged in everyday activities. The trick is to stop and look closely, not stomp around in 15 minutes flat, else you'll miss all the finer detail.

Bekonscot Town is the original heart of the model, with a warren of tiny streets set alongside the main square. It used to be possible to walk along all the back alleys, but the narrowest are now sealed off to prevent damage. Pause awhile to read and enjoy the punning shop names. The baker is Ivan Huven, the shoe shop is Evan Leigh Soles, and the newsagents is Daley Read. Not everything's fictional - the town boasts Britain's smallest Marks & Spencers, and the furniture removal company is Beaconsfield's own. And there are railways, seemingly everywhere, ducking beneath the footpaths and running round the lakeside. Every minute or so a model train goes by, then rumbles out of sight round a corner or into a tunnel. Small boys are transfixed by the display, and one much larger boy has the job of sitting in the full-sized signal box controlling them all.

Follow the arrows round to enjoy a fairground, an airfield and a circus. One thatched cottage in the central hamlet has a habit of catching fire, with smoke billowing from its roof and the fire brigade in attendance. A tram rattles along the lakeside, while a very successful cablecar ferries passengers down from the scout camp to the canal basin for a ha'penny fare. The best view of the site is from a raised walkway on the far side near the tearooms, so make sure you nip up there at least once. Almost every kind of building is reproduced here - a school, a country house hotel, even Ascot racecourse. There's even a functioning colliery... or at least a series of conveyor belts to shift tiny chunks of coal, overlooked by a series of northern-style stone terraces. And yes, that is indeed a reproduction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, because Bekonscot is nothing if not a unashamed mishmash.

And then the school parties arrived, streaming in from the picnic area. I should have realised that visiting midweek wouldn't be quiet, and soon it was anything but. Bekonscot is a particular favourite for infant class trips, wandering round in small groups led by a parent in a hi-vis tabard. Some had worksheets to fill in ("I've found the church, here it is"), others got to choose which small building they'd like to have their photo taken in front of. Most of the other visitors were families with small children, indeed there were no other single middle-aged men wandering around feeling somewhat conspicuous. But much braver was the group of teenage girls who'd come to model fashionwear for a school project. They hovered suspiciously, then whipped off their onesies to stand shivering beside a variety of buildings - models in a model village, very clever.

Other things to do include riding on a miniature railway, safely tucked round the back so as not to spoil the main illusion. You can peer in at the workshops where all these models are created and repaired - it's a massive job keeping the place in good shape. The gift shop is housed inside a railway carriage and is an Aladdin's Cave of kid-friendly trinkets. Adults should hunt down a copy of the official guide book, which is poorly promoted, but which at £1.50 is quite the best value guide book I've ever come across. If you have time, wander a mile down the road (past the station) to Beaconsfield Old Town, some of whose quainter buildings are reproduced in the model village. But don't pop round to Enid Blyton's old house. She really did live on the other side of the lane for 30 years, in a mock Tudor mansion called Green Hedges, but after her death the land was sold off and a cul-de-sac of unmemorable homes erected instead. Green Hedges survives only as a one-twelfth scale model at Bekonscot - the Enchanted Village.

» Bekonscot website [opening times/prices/directions]
» BBC 'One Foot in the Past'
» eight photos

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards