The surprise hit day out of last summer was a visit to the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey. It was the one day out that the kids were still enthusiastically talking about weeks later when anyone asked them what they did during the summer.
Brooklands was the first ever purpose-built racing track in the world, used for motor racing, cycling and motorcycling. Later Brooklands became the leading centre for British aviation, aircraft design and manufacture, and it is this joint heritage of racing and flying that are celebrated at Brooklands Museum.
Our visit had a particular purpose; since visiting the Heathrow Visitor Centre earlier in the year, the children had been desperate to see a Concorde, a state amplified by their parents waxing lyrical on the beauty of watching a Concorde in flight….. (Translation – Mum wanted to go too).
The first thing to do was to book our tickets for Concorde. Your ‘flight’ lasts half an hour, and although we booked early we still had an hour to wait, so plenty of time to start looking at the other exhibits – original cars that had raced at Brooklands as well as more recent examples of motor racing history. There were also motor bikes, and cycles, including a display of Raleigh bikes which may inspire a cry of ‘I had one of them!’ in parents of a certain age!
Finally the waiting was over and we were able to board Concorde itself.The excitement was palpable – most of our fellow passengers were truly excited at the prospect of finally stepping onto a Concorde, albeit static. The tour was conducted by a knowledgeable guide and included displays of Concorde memorabilia, tableware, uniforms and video documentaries on Concorde’s development and history as a commercial aircraft. Finally you take your seat for your flight – a simulated flight which includes a film of the cockpit, some iconic footage of Concorde in flight and the famous wall display informing you when you reach Mach2.
After disembarking from Concorde we visited more of the displays – a hanger full of historic aircraft. But not just any ordinary hanger, the hanger in which Barnes Wallis designed the Wellington aircraft, with a Wellington on display which had been pulled out of Loch Ness.
Next came more excitement, this time a ride in a vintage car along the remaining section of the original Brooklands racing track. It was only when we went to look at the track later that we realised where we had been at the top of the track was almost at right angles to the ground.
And still there was more to see, including decommissioned aircraft such as the VC-10 previously owned by the Sultan of Oman with its sumptuous decor.
Brooklands Museum is that rare thing, a museum that the kids did not want to leave.