On our doorstep is something of a legendary destination, albeit in miniature. Bekonscot, taking its name in part from its home town of Beaconsfield, is regarded as the grandfather of miniature villages, having opened in the 1920s. It regularly features on television and we keeping spotting it on the CBeebies series ‘Show me show me’. Pretty much anyone who grew up in this part of the world will have visited as a child. Having moved to the area, however, it was to be a new experience both for me and toddler Tilly.
Bekonscot is actually a collection of villages, mostly based on an England of the early decades of the twentieth century. At the heart of this is a rather extensive model railway. It’s an immediate draw for the little ones, although we heard some comment that it’s perhaps more a maxed-up model railway than a model town with a railway. However you look at it, it’s a rather impressive place and is filled with tiny details for children to discover.
As well as watching the trains come and go, Tilly loved spotting the animals at the zoo and peering into the tiny shops to see the wares on sale. There is an enjoyable quirkiness to the presentation with shops ranging from a local chain of estate agents to names from yesteryear and some rather pun-ful names of old-fashioned tradespeople.
Beyond the model village itself, there is a narrow gauge railway that makes use of ingenious figure-eight tracks to provide a good length journey around part of the site. There’s plenty to spot from the train and at £1 per person it’s an essential part of a visit.
When it’s time to take a breather, there’s a playground and seating area with a cafe. The playground has a range of climbing and slide options to suit different ages as well as some paid-for rides. Tilly wanted to ride on Thomas and £2 for 3 rides offers a really decent ride time, although we had quite a queue of small boys impatiently waiting for their turn by the time we’d finished!
It all makes for an enjoyable half-day out. The one-way arrangement of the path around the model village takes you past all of the main sights, although we ended up walking around twice as there are different routes to take and there was no problem with holding Tilly’s interest. This said, at two, Tilly is just old enough to have the concentration to enjoy it. Older children would get more out of it still, taking along the quiz and applying their imagination to the small world before them.
It’s an affordably priced day out too, at just under £10 for adults, which reduces to £5 if you visit after 3.30pm. Children are £5.80 or £3 later and family tickets are available. All profits go to charity too.
Bekonscot is easily reached off the M40 motorway and is a short walk from Beaconsfield train station, served by Chiltern Railways from London Marylebone. Parking is limited due to the museum’s suburban situation; we got there shortly before opening time to avoid any issues but on busy days it may require parking in nearby pay-and-display car parks.
Being on our doorstep I can easily see that we’ll be visiting Bekonscot again in years to come. Model villages are a relatively rarity these days but Bekonscot is undoubtedly a world-class gem that’s worth making the trip for.