Having been over to Brooklands Museum for various work events and for the filming of James May’s Toy Stories (the Scalextric episode, you can even see me jumping out of the way at 4:29 in this clip, making Husband and I world record holders, along side about 3000 other people…), last autumn I figured it was probably about time we actually took Weasel and my big fat pregnant self along. As you can see, she wasn’t quite sure at first. On our return trip last weekend, accompanied by our friend Roo and his baby sister from London with a Toddler, Weasel’s friend M (best get chatting soon M, Weasel was desperate to talk to you at snack time!) and a multitude of others, Weasel was much more assured of herself, showing off her turf.
What’s to see?
Cars! Being the world’s first purpose built car racing track (1907), unsurprisingly there are a lot of old cars. We’re not talking 1950’s hot rods, we’re talking the turn the crank, goggles on, bone-shaker kind of cars. Weasel liked running around them, but it’s not the sort of thing she’s into. Not that I know much, but it seems like a really impressive collection. Weasel chose the one with the largest ‘Do Not Touch!’ sign possible to rub Gravel all over.
Airplanes! (No I am not going to spell that in the English way, thank you spellcheck) According to the website they built 18,500 planes here. Although since the building of Mercedes Benz World next door, the runway has gone and who knows what they’ll do if they ever want to get any planes in or out of this place.
Weasel loves planes, and this place was heaven for her. Unlike going to the airport, here they let you climb up the steps, climb on (some of) the seats, climb in fake planes and swing along the aisles. This time Weasel and Baby Sister got to briefly sit in the cockpit and put the fear of life into the man looking after the plane. Bliss for a 2 year old. They even have a Concorde (additional fee and time-allocated entry) complete with its own first-class waiting area (i.e. a bus), which we’ve never been particularly bothered about paying extra for. The one at Duxford is much cooler – it comes with parachutes and escape hatches.
Buses! According to the website they have the world’s largest collection of working historic London buses in the world (I think ‘working’ is the key word, they’re very keen on the engineering side of things here), and it certainly looks impressive. The best part is of course that Weasel gets to climb on them and pretend she’s riding on a bus, thrilling stuff for her. They have proper Routemasters with stairs to climb and a £1 donation will let you sit in one of the driver’s seats.
Food – The prevalent smell of caster oil and grime didn’t fill me with hope, but the cafe is surprisingly nice actually. They did kids’ portions of mains (any of the mains, which makes a nice change) for reduced prices or your typical box with 4 items deal. Back in the autumn, Weasel was on a no-eating marathon, so we just gave her a bit of sandwich to ignore. Eating was very much not on her agenda that day – standing on Husband and raaaarrring was much more what she had in mind. This time round she is in an eating phase (hallelujah!) so had the kids box. The food generally is a bit weird though. The cold sandwiches, beverages and cakes look lovely (apart from the fact that it’s machine coffee), but the hot food is distinctly under-seasoned and of the sausage and chips variety. If this is what you’re going for, please Great British cafes out there, please cook your chips properly. I’d rather eat a crumbling, soaked biscuit of dubious origins that Weasel’s been clutching for hours than undercooked chips. There is a small soft play area (under 4’s, enforced) to let the crawlers burn off some energy too.
Accessibility: It’s not too bad to take a pushchair around. There is space to abandon it at the stairs of all the planes and everywhere seemed accessible albeit with a tiny step here and there.
Changing Facilities – There is baby changing, in the ladies loos only though. M’s dad was told by a member of staff just to use it anyways as it’s in the very entrance to the ‘ladies’ powder room’. We only used it for Baby Sister this time, but it would have difficult to fit Weasel on. There’s plenty of space in there if you were to have to change them on the floor, although it was a bit chilly.
Ready for take-off!
Verdict: An awesome place to take kids. There aren’t as many kids or tourists as you’d get somewhere like the London Transport Museum (it’s more of the anorak variety of visitor here) but that does mean while most people will be craning their neck to see the restoration of some engine part, you can be climbing the steps of the plane (clearly the best bit!).