It might have been a damp, chilly October morning when we left home, but we didn’t let the weather deter us from completing our “top-secret” mission for the end of half-term – a visit to Station X, otherwise known as Bletchley Park. The purpose of our weekend away was actually to visit one of my Godmothers in nearby Milton Keynes, but the opportunity to take the children to see the home of unparalleled code-breaking during WWII was too good to miss. It was something of a last-minute plan, but I was confident that M would be fascinated by the history of code-breakers and spies that is so intricately woven into this beautiful Manor House and, what’s more, it fitted wonderfully well with some of the English home-work G had been set over half-term.
From the moment we drove in through the front gates, the children’s interest was piqued as we were questioned at the gate as to the reason for our visit and directed to the nearby car park. Members of staff were on hand to make sure we headed to the entrance and didn’t wander into any areas that are still in use today and not accessible to the general public. We started by picking up our multimedia tour packs, before heading into the grounds of Bletchley Park itself. M was keen to follow the guide exactly and so we started by the lake whilst listening to an introduction to all there was to see there, which believe me, is a lot. Once we had circumnavigated the lake, we were then taken around the rest of the site: starting at the Manor House, around to the garages and cottages, via the memorial to the Polish men and women involved in code-breaking during WWII and on to the restored Huts; all before ending up at the Block B Museum.
The Multimedia guide was absolutely brilliant and I’m really glad we stopped to pick them up despite G’s initial reluctance. Mike, M and I all chose the adult version, whilst G opted for the family friendly one. The map showed the key places for starting the audio recordings and you could then choose how many additional subject areas you wanted to listen to on a variety of different topics. The screens were all interactive and M had great fun “wiping off” the current images to reveal how each location would have looked during the 1940s. G had the added bonus of interactive puzzles to complete and loved working out how to break each code. The guides were included in the price of the entrance ticket and whilst they weren’t integral to our visit, they certainly revealed more of the story than was on display,
I would be hard-pressed to state which was my favourite part or indeed choose which I think the children enjoyed the most. There was just so much to see, so much to read and almost too much to absorb. From the history of Bletchley Park which led to its use during WWII, to the interactive displays of the Bombe machines in Hut 11, the Enigma machines on display in Block B and the children’s corner with puzzles and dressing up supplies, as well as an extensive area showing some of the props and costumes used to film last year’s blockbuster, “The Imitation Game“, there really was something for everyone. Sadly our few hours there simply weren’t long enough and we didn’t manage to explore either the National Radio Centre or the National Museum of Computing and its rebuild of Colossus, both located at the same site. No need to worry however, as it simply means that we will have to try to squeeze a revisit in and, as our entrance tickets give us admission for a full year, I’m sure we’ll manage it one way or another