“ Address: The Old New Inn & Model Village / Bourton-on-the-Water / Gloucestershire / GL54 2AF „
* Prices may differ from that shown
There's something oddly enjoyable about a good model village, whether it be the attention to detail, the obvious skill and painstaking craftsmanship that goes in to making accurate representations of real life villages or the fact that for a little while you get to feel like a giant, evil overlord presiding over your realm with the power to crush your minions at the drop of a hat - quite possibly literally in this case. Anyway, whilst in the neighbourhood of Bourton-on-the-Water I decided to pay their well-advertised Model Village a visit. This village was built over a 5 year period based upon Bourton-on-the-Water itself by a previous landlord of the Old New Inn (I assume at some point it was just a new inn) utilising local craftsmen and was proudly unveiled in 1937 for the Coronation Day of King George VI, so even though it is run separately from the pub the two share a car park and the beer garden adjacent becomes available if you become a paying patron of the pub.
==Address and Travel Stuff==
The Model Village, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2AF
Telephone 01451 820467
There is no train service to Bourton-on-the-Water, with the nearest being 9 miles away at Morton-on-the-Marsh and for public transport it is advised to use their park and ride program If you drive in to Bourton-on-the-Water with the nearest motorway access via either the M40 or M5 depending on your direction but you will have to travel some distance on A and B roads so getting there is no easy feat. You can park in the shared car park with the Old New Inn for a small fee, or you can park a short distance away (a 5 minute walk) in a public car park which starts at 2 hours for £2.50 and works its way through the hours for an ever increasing charge which is in a perfect location if your intention is to explore the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water, for which the model village is just a tiny bit away from.
Children aged 3 to 13: £2.80
Over 60's: £3.20
Under 3's: Free
Rather amazingly this village is open every day barring Christmas Day (or horrendous weather conditions / urgent maintenance requirements) from 10am - 6pm in the Summer and 10am - 4pm for the Winter though I'm not entirely sure where Spring and Autumn fit in - probably the summer category but don't quote me on that.
When I saw the price my expectations were fairly low, which was probably a good thing as the model village stretching before me looked perhaps just a little uninspiring. I wasn't familiar with the village at all, and maybe if you are you can take more pleasure from seeing all the stand out buildings on display, but for me it was hard to work out what most of the buildings were and to be overly enthused by them as they all seemed to be made of the same stone design with added roof tiles, although to be fair this model is supposed to be as it was in the 1930s, so there is definitely some historical value to studying this model. However, the thing I most like about a model village (and I may be a wild thrill seeker so not your stereotypical model village visitor) is the potential to capture an old period of time and have old fashioned shops like haberdashers, green grocers, hat / dressmakers as well as maybe something like a farm, rugby field, or croquet lawn and definitely a railway model system zooming round the buildings and whilst staying true to Bourton-on-the-Water with this model village is a nice tribute to the village, these extra elements that make these kind of attractions so interesting are sadly missing here, but maybe those looking for historical accuracy this is a good thing from that perspective.
Another thing I'd say on the negative side is that these models, whilst originally well made, are clearly now a little run down with bits of wood falling off of some of the models and on the few buildings where there was some serious attention to detail dirty windows impaired the viewing enjoyment which was a bit disappointing, especially on the North's Cotswold Bakery, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, the Post Office and the churches. Obviously, bad weather and the natural elements cause damage to these buildings and the upkeep must be an absolute chore, but honestly, it's called Windolene. However, despite this slight scruffiness and general samey vibe, there were a few standout buildings to inspire interest, including the two churches, where the first one you can enjoy the angelic laments of some religious music filtering through, or peer inside at the neatly lined pews as well as the Old New Inn and rather amusingly a model of the model village itself - I was worried that this might cause some sort of paradoxical vortex to open and cause the model to implode on itself, but it seemed stable enough. But the best part of the model is definitely the beautiful attention to detail on the bonsai trees which were stunningly realistic and well worth taking note of as well as the replica of the River Windrush with the stone bridges which Bourton-on-the-Water is famous for.
You can also get a bird's eye view across the village as a whole with a few cobbled and narrow steps leading up to the viewing platform to get a general feel for the seemingly never changing stonework, but alas not including the star attraction, the large church, which is unfortunately obscured by a giant (normal sized) tree. Wheelchair users won't be able to get up to this platform and whilst the pathways are flat they are not particularly wide so I don't think this village is wheelchair friendly (but a discounted price is offered), and probably not pushchair friendly either (though most model villages suffer from a similar predicament in my experience). Sadly, due to there being little to garner your attention the tour is over pretty quickly, in probably no more than 15-20 minutes, so feeling like I hadn't really gotten my money's worth I decided to fork out more money and popped a £1 coin in a turnstile to enter the sideshow "The Model Makers Exhibition". It turned out to be the best decision I made all day (and that included me joining the Scientologists and getting my hair permed with a blue rinse).
Inside are some of the most intricate and mind-blowing models I have ever seen with such scenes as a schoolroom, a bridal shop, a dressmakers, a green grocers, a jazz band, some naughty bedroom shenanigans with two illicit lovers getting caught in the act to name but a few, but they are all fantastically realistic and beautifully crafted with attention to detail on a whole other level to the outside model village (and in fact all model villages I've ever been to). Apparently this exhibition was dreamt up by model maker Michael Taylor who enlisted the help of over 120 of England's most talented model makers to specially hand make everything during a 3 year period, and still new scenes are being added every year to the original collection. There are also some dynamic models and scenes involving illusions similar to the tricks you see in fairgrounds which you can see if you insert 20p coins into 4 different models, which could cost you up to 80p more to see everything (unless you can get a sneaky peak at some other person's go) which honestly isn't going to break the banks so is worth doing. One pops up characters from Shakespeare plays for you to guess which is quite cool, but the others are maybe not worth it - there was one that was supposed to spook you with ghostly figures appearing but they looked neither ghost-like or spooky so that was a bit of an epic fail in my opinion. However, that one aside all the models are spectacular and you'd be a fool to miss this exhibition.
There are not many facilities here as it is only a small attraction, but there is a small gift shop, toilets available either in the shared car park or the Old New Inn, and if you wanted food or liquid refreshments you would be again looking to seek those at the Old New Inn. So basically this model village has historical interest as it is an exact replica of the village as it would have been in the 1930s, but it is a little uninspiring with repetitive buildings and few standout shops excepting the fabulous bonsai trees, but the real star of the show is the "Model Makers Exhibition" which is a must see just for an extra £1 and probably the only reason I can recommend this attraction. Finally, as a side note it's probably also worth mentioning that if models are your thing there is a toy and game shop (Bourton Model Railway Exhibition and Toyshop) just a 5 minute walk away from the model village in the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water that has an exquisite model railway exhibition on display with trains you can operate around amazingly realistic models so if you have time I'd also suggest popping in. This model village is definitely one if you're making a day of it in Bourton (which has a great range of attractions for such a small village), but I wouldn't necessarily go specifically for it.