A bit late this week, but here’s a photo of the boys at the Transport Museum in Coventry. I’ll blog more about that at some point after I’ve blogged about our birthday activities this weekend.
“Happy Christmas!” is what we said to the boys’ four grandparents as we stood queuing to get in to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford on the late May bank holiday last weekend. A day out at Duxford with the boys, the toddler among them being very into planes, was our Christmas present to all of them. We never know what to get them, so these days this kind of present is one of the easiest to do because we know everyone will enjoy it.
We just needed to find a day when all of use were free and the grandparents were available to come to Cambridge, and we’re glad that we waited until now because the weather was amazing – beautiful blue skies, even if there was quite a blustery wind that was particularly acute on the big open airfield that is Duxford Air Museum.
The fairly substantial queue to enter moved very quickly, so we were soon in and faced with the tough decision of what to look at first – there was so much to choose from, with several hangars full of planes and other exhibitions and war-time memorabilia as well as static planes outside and of course plenty of planes taking off and landing on the runway. As it was such a nice day and Andrew was very excitable seeing all the planes outside, we decided to walk outside with the runway on our left. Of course Andrew ran rather than walked, but he had four grandparents happy to chase after him and keep an eye on him.
One of the first planes we came across positioned on the ‘parking’ strip parallel to the runway, was being prepared for taking off later. It was a plane that had been used in the second World War, and the sign in front of it explained that it would be taking off in about half an hour with several other little planes (Spitfires and Mustangs) to do a fly by over Duxford and continue over other parts of Cambridgeshire before coming back and landing at Duxford. We knew that this would be spectacular and a real treat for Andrew, and we weren’t disappointed when the display happened.
Further along the airfield were some old planes that were set up to allow visitors to look inside. Unfortunately only one of these was open due to a lack of volunteers to man them, but Andrew (and we) were fascinated by the interior, especially the cockpit where the ‘driver’ sits. It was a Monarch passenger plane from the 1960s. I had to laugh at the baby crib hanging from the overhead storage above the seats – don’t think health and safety would allow that these days!
Near the end of the airfield, once we’d walked most of it’s length outside, we entered an indoor display of American fighter planes including a B-52 bomber. There was a ramp that went up and down around the edge of the hangar, which Andrew used for a game of ‘make the grandparent chase me’ – it wasn’t very busy. This ramp with a see-through barrier was perfect for allowing little people (and big people) to get very close up to the top of the planes and see inside the cockpits from the outside, as well as seeing the planes from underneath by walking on the ground floor. In fact I would say that the set up of the museum in general is fantastic – you can get so close to the planes, walk right underneath them and almost (but of course not) touch them, and for many of them you get higher up views or even interior views.
Then it was time for a lovely picnic lunch. We sat on one of the many picnic benches that are there and had brilliant views of the planes that were taking off and landing – most were little bi-planes that were flying around locally, some with visitors that had paid to have a short flight in one, and we also saw the planes lands that had taken part in the fly-by. All this while we were eating our sandwiches was pretty impressive.
After lunch we headed back along the airfield and stopped to look at a few planes on the way. Of course we couldn’t miss one of Andrew’s favourite planes – the playground in the shape of a plane – this had to be the icing on the cake for him! He loved climbing in and out and running through it, and sitting on the plane shaped bouncers.
We were aware that he was getting tired, so suggested that we saw one last building with planes in before heading home. I really wanted to see it because that building housed a real Concorde plane and I felt like that was a bit of aviation history that I can personally remember. After I’d translated for a group of French school pupils who were visiting and trying to fill in activity sheets with facts about Concorde, we all took a look inside it – a very long narrow metal tube really, but fascinating nonetheless.
That concluded our plane-filled day out and we all went home tired but happy, especially our little plane spotter!
Thanks to Grandad for the photos of the fly by and to Granny for a couple of photos on the playground
Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog
Hands up – who’s heard of Brum? The little yellow car that is, not the nickname for Birmingham, though that is the point – the play on words that this car is called Brum and he has big adventures in the Big Town which is actually Birmingham. You may not have heard of him, or watched the programme when you were little. I just about remember it, but I think we had more interest in it than most families in the country as we lived near Birmingham and recognised the places it was filmed; it was on CBBC back in the 90s.
Thanks to Grandad, who was born and bred in Brum, Andrew has become a big fan of Brum the car. It’s his favourite DVD and he could sit for hours and watch it if I let him. For Christmas, Granny gave Andrew and Grandad the present of a day out to find the real Brum in person! We decided to wait until the weather was better and Joel was older before we did this, so we took advantage of the bank holiday three-day weekend last week and went on our family day out.
At the beginning of each episode we see Brum leaving his home in a garage full of old cars in a quiet Cotswold village and driving all the way to Birmingham to have an adventure and save the day in some big farcical mishap (often involving ‘naughty men’ or ‘baddies’ in Andrew’s words). It is at this Cotswold home that he now resides full time since he no longer films TV programmes. It is actually the Cotswold Motoring Musuem and Toy Collection run by the CSMA club in Bourton on the Water. As well as housing Brum, there is an amazing collection of old cars and other memorabilia from various decades of the last century. Now I’m not in any way a car enthusiast (as long as mine gets me from A to B I couldn’t care less what it looks like!) but I have to say I found the museum fascinating, I think precisely because it wasn’t just old cars, but old cars placed in context with other items of everyday living from their era.
When we spotted Brum hiding between two bigger cars, just as he does in the opening scene, Andrew was surprised to see him, but after the initial shock he seemed happy enough to have his photo taken (a few times!) next to him, of course with Grandad too! Once we’d hung around and talked to him for a bit, we made our way through the rest of the museum, which I would highly recommend for children of any age from toddlers to teenagers. There were toys to play with along the way that related to the era of each room, for example a toy work bench with tools in the old car workshop and bright coloured star block things in the swinging sixties room with multi-coloured windows! Andrew loved it, and so did we 🙂
Perhaps the best bit for a Brum-obsessed toddler (and his grandad) was the play room at the end – not only were there real old toys including cars to look at but also some new toys to play with and a ride-on Brum! What more could he ask for?! The paintings on the wall of famous portraits, such as the Mona Lisa and The Scream, repainted with Brum characters were particularly entertaining.
After the excitement of finding Brum, we took a wander through the village and then found a lovely cafe for lunch. We weren’t sure if the weather was going to be good enough for a picnic, so didn’t risk it, and even if we had have taken one, we would have been fighting the world and his wife for a spot by the river in this idyllic Cotswold village that gets rather busy (read: rammed) on a sunny Sunday afternoon!
As it had turned out so nice and sunny after a cloudy start, we decided to make the most of being out and go to Birdland in the village. I remember going there a few times as a child, so it was lovely to go back with my own kids and se how it has changed and also how it’s still the same place. As we arrived we were just in time to see the penguin feeding session. There’s a bit of a penguin theme in our family, as Tom has been into collecting all things penguin since he was little, and the boys seem to have been given quite a lot of stuff to carry on the tradition. So we were all impressed with seeing some real live penguins enjoying their fishy snack!
Once feeding time was over we headed off around the park to see lots of other birds. There was everything from small canaries to owls to storks to large ostriches. Andrew was very good but was clearly starting to get tired, so after a wander we sat outside at the cafe and had a nice cool drink, until he spotted a play park nearby and insisted on having a go, the Duracell bunny that he is! So Grandad (was) volunteered to go with him. Meanwhile, Joel was very contented to spend most of the day being worn in the sling, either asleep or having a good old look around at all the new sights, and also getting out and feeding/eating with us when we sat down.
A quick dash back to the cars when we remembered that the time on the ticket was running out and we were on our way home again. A thoroughly enjoyed day to remember for years to come and some worn out boys were what we were left with.
Linking up with Country Kids at Coombe Mill blog again today 🙂