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Last week, I wrote about Calendar Girls, both as a film and a radio play featuring the cast of The Archers, the oldest running soap-opera in the world. Sim continued her fantasy walk of the London Underground by exploring Peckham Rye, the area where her great-grandmother lived.
As we’re dreaming about a return trip to England, Bletchley Park keeps popping to the top of the list. Our day trip from Birmingham to visit the site where World War II code breakers worked was one of our favorite excursions of our whole trip in 2014. Parts of Imitation Game, the film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, were filmed on site — I loved seeing the places we visited.
Bletchley Park makes a good day trip from either London or Birmingham because it is easily reached by train from both. The train service was one of the reasons that Bletchley was selected as the location for the code breaking complex. From the National Railway Enquiries site, I learned that trains run frequently between London Euston station to Bletchley and take less than hour (some with fewer calling points take just over half an hour). From Birmingham’s New Street station to Bletchley, a train trip will take over an hour and may require a train change. As I recall, we took a train that required a change at Milton Keynes which is very near Bletchley so our last segment lasted only four minutes. London, then, is more convenient but Birmingham has cheaper accommodations so we may do it that way again.
From the train station it’s a short walk to the gate of Bletchley Park. Imagine arriving as a young Wren, a member of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, to an assignment far from the sea for which you know no particulars. The train drops you off at the edge of a rural village but you’re directed to head the other way to a country estate.
The modern visitor will be directed to the Visitor Center to pay the admission fee of £16.75. Admission is free to members of the Friends of Bletchley Park. That membership is unlikely to save you money unless you visit twice (which we might), but it does get you a couple issues of their print magazine. You don’t need to be a member to get the e-newsletter — it’s free from this page.
The Visitor’s Center contains modern displays that give an overview of Bletchley Park. We were kind of anxious to see the real thing so probably didn’t spend as much time here as we might have. Before you leave, be sure to pick up the Multimedia Guide — it definitely adds some depth and richness to the visitor experience.
From the Visitor’s Center, the options open up. We got the most from The Museum in Block B and just from wandering through the Huts and imagining the people who worked there. The exhibits make it easy since many of the desks look as if someone will be back any minute after taking a break.
We want to go back to see the new exhibit about World War I code breaking and to visit the adjacent National Museum of Computing which houses some of the earliest computers, including a rebuild of the Colossus.
Have you been to Bletchley Park? What suggestions do you have for visitors?