Bletchley Park, Home of the Codebreakers, at Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB, and the most secret of secrets during World War Two, provides a magnificent family day out.
At my arrival I thought they were still maintaining the secrets but it had more to do with my inability to multi-task than Ultra secrets. I drove straight past as I negotiated some roadworks right on the Park's entrance and totally missed the really big sign that read, BLETCHLEY PARK on the footpath. After checking the satnav and verifying the address, I did a U-turn and drove back. Driving through the roadworks again I glanced to the right and saw that huge sign and swung into the driveway.
I was directed to the parking area and, what a wonderful surprise, parking was plentiful and FREE. Once the Yaris was parked I headed to the Visitors' Centre. There I was relieved of £15.75 plus £5 for the guidebook – a most worthwhile investment. The purchase of my standard admission ticket gives me unlimited free returns for an entire year from the date of my visit.
I also received a complimentary Multimedia Guide plus an optional 1 hour, outdoor walking tour with a tour guide, subject to availability.
As not everybody has the advantage of advanced age other admission prices have been set to cover all comers. These are: Adults: £17.75 Concessions (Over 60s and students with valid ID): £15.75 Children (12 – 17): £10.50 Children (Under 12) FREE Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children aged 12 to 17): £46.25 Friends: FREE
Tickets can be booked online up to 24 hours in advance and purchased at the admissions desk on arrival. Discounts for groups of 12 or more adults and/or children are available by pre-booking. For more information on group bookings click here.
Visiting times depend on the seasons. During Summer, 1 March to 31 October, entry is from:
9.30am to 5.00pm with the latest admission time being 4.00pm.
Then, during Winter, 1 November to 28 February, from:
9.30am to 4.00pm with the latest admission time being 3.00pm.
I must say what a most interesting place is Bletchley Park!
After completing admission formalities the tour begins in the Visitors' Centre. Set in the working areas used by the codebreakers during the war are some of the actual books and documents from the time, lots of code breaking machines and some very interesting quotations from people who worked there during the war. I spent a good deal of time looking at, and reading, these most fascinating artefacts. But this was only the beginning.
Outside the Visitors' Centre (and other work stations), Bletchley Park takes on a whole different identity. From the intense hustle and bustle of the former working area the outside is quite serene. A lake with a fountain and swans sits in front of the beautiful Bletchley Park Mansion. The equanimity of the grounds seems a perfect juxtaposition to the intensity of the work taking place elsewhere.
A short stroll around the lake brought me up to the mansion. The original grandeur of the Mansion is evident. On entry there is a beautiful area off to the right. It seemed to be a type of staging area with no definition. Its beauty was covered in a most wonderful coloured glass ceiling. I tried to take a photograph but, unfortunately, my phone camera and I were not up to the challenge.
I spoke to one of the guides about this little antechamber and the beautiful ceiling and he advised me to 'look up' wherever I went in the mansion because every ceiling is unique. All attempts to record the different styles failed with the exception of the Ballroom. Check it out; it's beautiful.
Calling the Mansion salubrious is a relative term – relative to the conditions in the huts. You would not call it that compared to other great houses. The displays in the Mansion are as they were during the war; offices and staff areas. For realistic war-time atmosphere the rooms are bathed in almost no light at all so I couldn't record much on my phone camera.
I found it incredible to be walking in the areas once the domain of such significant people as Alan Turing, Bill Tutte and Alastair Denniston.
Afterwards, I wandered the grounds and really enjoyed how each of the 'Huts' has been refurbished to create them as they were at the time. Audio-visuals are played, with scenes appearing on various walls and other places throughout showing actual footage of the time (or more likely after the war). The Bletchley Park Veterans' Memorial stands in a prominent place along the walk.
The Museum was fascinating, showing living conditions for staff as well as German and some Japanese memorabilia. There were also actual Enigma and Lorenz (Hitler's unbreakable cipher machine which was broken at Bletchley) machines. It was so interesting I forgot to take any photos – sorry about that.
Before heading back home I had some rather simple fare at the café.
This is a great day out. Its displays will significantly interest war buffs, computer geeks, social historians, cryptic crossword fans and any lateral thinker who would like to see where the embodiment of lateral thinking occurred.
For more information on this brilliant day out check out the Bletchley Park web site and Facebook page. Direct contact can be made by phoning 44 (0) 1908 640404 and/or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Where:Bletchley Park, Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB
Cost:Adults: £17.75; Concessional (Over 60s and students with valid ID): £15.75; Children (12 – 17): £10.50; Children (Under 12) FREE; Family (2 adults and 2 children aged 12 to 17): £46.25 Friends FREE.