Interesting day out
A substantial investment of lottery funding has been well spent at Bletchley Park. The grounds are great to explore on a nice day and there is plenty of seating (picnic tables and deck chairs). The period sound effects being played in the grounds are evocative but not too intrusive. There are also a few games to entertain the kids and a small lake to relax next to.
The Mansion and Huts
There is plenty to see inside as well if the weather is not great, with visitors able to access the ground floor of the Mansion house, which houses a number of temporary and permanent exhibitions. These include the Office of Alastair Denniston, Head of the Government Code and Cypher School and the Library, laid out as it would have looked during WW2 as a Naval Intelligence office.
There are a number of the original huts, which all have period displays to wander around. The restored Codebreaking Huts 3 and 6 are where Enigma messages sent by the German Army and Air Force were decrypted, translated and analysed for vital intelligence. In these huts, the atmosphere is recreated with rooms recreated to resemble what they once were when codebreakers worked here. You can also “meet” some of the codebreakers and can listen to recordings of the men and women tell the stories of what happened, including sounds, projected images and authentic props.
Hut 11 houses the Turing-Welchman Bombe machines – now restored and refurbished so you can experience the sounds of the wartime Bombe machines and learn what it was like to work on these machines in the original conditions. In Hut 12 you can see historic exhibits relating to Bletchley Park, including original wartime documents, historical artefacts and relevant archaeological items.
Hut 8, as well as being the Codebreaking Hut leading the breaking of German Naval Enigma messages, houses an interactive exhibitions explaining the different methods the codebreakers used to help them with their work. It also displays the real office of Alan Turing, recreated to how it would have looked in World War Two complete with the mug chained to the radiator.
The museum in Block B contains a number of fascinating exhibits relating to the history of Bletchley Park and is well worth a visit. There are also wartime garages, complete with WW2 vehicles.
Everything is well laid out and there is plenty of signage and volunteers if you have any questions. There are a couple of cafes serving reasonably priced refreshments. The entrance fee is not too expensive, especially as the ticket is valid for a year so you can return on another visit, if you don't see everything on the first visit. There is a Visitor Centre in Block C as you enter into Bletchley Park with a coffee shop, gift shop, selling Bletchley Park books etc., and a multimedia, interactive introductory exhibition. I recommend visiting this attraction not only to appreciate its significant historical importance but also for a fun day out. There are also numerous special events held on a regular basis, so check their website.
How to get there
Leave Ampthill heading west along Woburn Street and turn right onto Woburn Road (A507). Stay on the A507 until you see Woburn signposted. Take the route through Woburn and follow signs to A5 – join the A5 heading north. Stay on the A5 until you reach the junction after Kelly's Kitchen Roundabout (signposted MK West & East). At this junction leave A5 and join Bletcham Way (H10) heading west. Stay on Bletcham Way until you reach V7/Saxon Street/B4034 – follow V7 to Bletchley. When you have passed the shopping centre and Bletchley station, you will come to a roundabout where you turn right onto Sherwood Drive – after a short distance turn left into Jemima Way, which is the approach to Bletchley Park. The satnav postcode is MK3 6DS – jouney time is about 30 mins (15 miles) depending on traffic.
The public car parks are signposted and there are plenty of spaces. They are only a short walk from the pay kiosks and the entrance to Bletchley Park. You can book on line and get a discount, the ticket lasts for the year. There is a cafe and a couple of other places to buy food.