On Friday I headed to one of my favourite UK tourist attractions for the day: Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. The home of the code breakers, Bletchley Park played a vital part in the intelligence effort of the allies in World War II. The problem-solving, translation and cryptography skills of employees are said to have shortened the war by about two years. The historic location was made famous to a wider audience in the 2014 film ‘The Imitation Game’ and has been open to the public since 1994. We first visited the park in 2018 and I have been wanting to head back ever since. This weekend the estate was decorated beautifully in red, white and blue for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and we headed to the museum for the bank holiday weekend celebrations and some of the new exhibits.
Decorations and atmosphere
Inside the ticket hall there was bunting in the colours of the Union Jack. This was a lovely touch and continued outside, with some of the buildings and fences dressed in flags. Hut 12 is located at the edge of the park and home to children’s activities. The light grey hut had a string of union jack bunting in the entranceway and it was a tasteful way to recognise the jubilee celebrations, without allowing the decorations to take over.
The atmosphere at Bletchley was absolutely amazing, with large but manageable crowds of visitors enjoying the holiday weekend and warm weather. Some people even sported red, white and blue outfits to mark the occasion.
Food and drink
At lunchtime the picnic areas were full of people enjoying lunches from home or some of the onsite food. We had brought some snacks with us to enjoy on the lawn, but also wanted to grab sandwiches from the Hut 4 Cafe. We ended up choosing the homemade sausage rolls after seeing how delicious they looked on the counter and also purchased cups of tea. The catering team kindly boxed them up and provided our tea in takeaway cups. We did not want to miss out on spending some time outside on such a gloriously sunny day.
We were not in the mood for pastries or cakes when we visited Hut 4, but the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Cake caught my eye with its confetti-like red and blue decorations on top. If we had visited the tearoom later in the afternoon, I would have definitely ordered a slice and enjoyed the royal-inspired sweet treat.
For the four days of the bank holiday weekend, Bletchley hosted musical acts in the marquee on the lawn. Friday’s guest was The Bailey Dolls: a vintage and swing trio. The group performed two sets in the events tent by the lake and covered wartime tracks such as Vera Lynn’s ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. I caught the first performance of the day from 12:15 – 13:00 and was in awe at their gorgeous harmonies. The Bailey Dolls wore classic vintage outfits and styled their hair to fit in with the times, recreating the bygone era that Bletchley is associated with. You could hear their voices from anywhere on the green and it was wonderful getting to listen to their harmonious vocals over a picnic lunch.
The main reason for our second visit was to view the sections that we missed last time and tour the new exhibitions. There is a brand new exhibition for 2022 called ‘The Intelligence Factory’ and it covers life at Bletchley between 1942 and 1945, specifically how the labour force swiftly grew in size to fulfil the needs of the intelligence efforts. The exhibition is located in Block A and is a brilliant insight into the running and logistics of the wider estate.
In addition, there were the new small exhibitions ‘The Art of Data’ and the multimedia based ‘D-Day: Interception, Intelligence and Invasion’. ‘The Art of Data’ is extremely interactive, with its 3D representations of world data, social media influence diagrams and visitor bucket list maps that are updated each day. The D-Day exhibition details the Bletchley codebreakers’ role in deceiving the enemy ahead of D-Day. The video at the end is extremely interesting, covering every element of the deception plans from the strategic distribution of fake information to receiving confirmation that the enemy believed what had been fed to them. Both smaller exhibitions are fantastic additions to the park and show that the tourist attraction is constantly aspiring to grow and better inform the public of the events at the site in the 1940s.
A fitting place to visit for the jubilee
I am thrilled to have finally made it back to Bletchley Park and what a fabulous weekend to visit, with the jubilee decorations, 1940s music and party-like atmosphere. It is a very important historic attraction that needs to be visited in person to fully appreciate the sheer size and scale of the code breaking operations. Located approximately 50 miles from London, Bletchley is easily accessible by road and rail, with the local train station only a short walk away. It is a great day out for visitors to the UK and staycation tourists, looking to learn more about Alan Turing and his extremely talented colleagues.
What did you get up to over the platinum jubilee weekend? Did you celebrate anywhere special?
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx