EDITED – Now named The British Motor Museum
Although it’s less than 10 miles away from us, I’ve not been to the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon for years. In fact, the only time I’ve been was for work meetings and conferences, and even those I’m talking about 8-10 years ago. I hadn’t been too sure whether it would be too old for N, but after hearing how a couple of others with young children got on there, I decided it would be worth a chance.
We decided to go for the 12 days of Christmas trail. I’m a big fan of any children’s activity at museums because I think it makes places much more approachable and enjoyable for children, as well as the adults benefiting. From what I was reading, I think the Heritage Motor Centre is fairly new to the family offer side of things. But from our experience, it has worked.
When we arrived, we paid (it’s a bargain £12 for adults, free for under 5s, and if you can gift aid, you get upgraded to an annual pass), and asked for our 12 days of Christmas trail worksheet. The aim was to find all 12 areas around the hall that the mechanics had been to, collect the coins, and return all 12 to swap for a sweet reward. N was off like a shot with a brief stop to have a look at the car bonnet with drawers in which usually hold activity sheets for children. Really clever how they’ve created all the extras out of cars.
We vaguely followed the exhibition hall round, looking for the numbers. N isn’t really that fussed about car toys, but take him to an exhibition of it where there’s lots of different types and he does get quite excited looking at them.
As well as the classic cars, there’re Monte Carlo mini displays
An amazing display about the landspeed record vehicles
And racing cars including F3 and F1.
The displays also take you through the eras, so we spotted a Sinclair C5, had a go at customising a mini
Stopped at the children’s area where they have colouring spots, building blocks and vehicles
and brilliant dashboards and pedals for children to practice driving their ‘car’. N did spend about 30 minutes in the kids area because there was a good variety of things to do.
I did almost have a bust up with another mum because in one area there were a couple of families playing on the interactive displays, and I noticed some ride on cars for children. I suggested to N that he could have a go on one, but to keep it in the area. As he got in one, a mum nearby said it was theirs. Obviously I pointed out that noone seemed to be using them, and that N would only be a short while. She just kept going on that it was theirs and that they were using them. She didn’t however point out that at the entrance anyone could take one to push their children around the exhibition hall, and that they had taken these ones out. Her husband pointed this out…why she didn’t just say that, or have left something of theirs in it, I would have realised it wasn’t for open use and avoided an argument. Mind you, N probably had a go for all of 30 seconds before getting out. Her children (who were both older) hadn’t even noticed; I’d love to have seen them try and fold themselves into these ride on cars. When we left I couldn’t believe that I’d missed the ‘lockers’ to collect these (and wheelchairs), because it was pretty obvious!
Following round the hall, we spotted vintage buses
old cars and bikes,
movie vehicles. N seemed most taken with FAB1.
There’s also an artist who has a work area (closed when we were there), who paints amazing pictures using car parts. Amazing work, and definitely an idea to take away for painting with children if you’ve got lots of old toy vehicles.
Once we’d collected all of our 12 trail coins, we swapped them for a choice of sweet, then headed out to the exposed playground that N had noticed when we arrived in the car park. Really, the playground is a bit old for N. The climbing frame is lots of ropes and netting which he won’t even try, so he stuck with the toddler springy things. He does still love those, although on this occasion, they were used as a seat while he had a snack.
It was so cold that day, and it does get blowy, but I was able to watch part of the Land Rover off road challenge that was happening on the track at the other side of the car park. Luckily we’d both taken hats and we needed them.
With our entry stickers shown, we headed back inside to do a final mooch on the way to the cafe. There’s some mini displays of a film set – it was spot the famous tv or film vehicles time – and N was taken by the Noddy display. Every way you turned, there was something else to notice.
Although by lunchtime, the hall had got a bit busier, the cafe was still fairly empty and we didn’t have to queue for food or paying. The cakes are really expensive, although there are bargain children’s lunchboxes (£3.95 for drink, sandwich, babybel, crisps and apple) as well as a meal deal for adults (£4.95 for sandwich, drink and crisps – I blanched at the price, but it worked out cheaper to have the crisps that I didn’t really want than to buy without). There were hot meals too, so something for everyone.
All in all we were probably there for almost 3 hours, and we did a fairly quick overview of the displays so there’s plenty more to see if we return on the annual ticket.
I don’t think it’s made N any more interested in toy cars. He’s sticking with tractors.
Are your children car lovers?
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