A World In Miniature
A blog post by Greg
In late-March 2020, our world suddenly shrunk. We went from a life of touring shows around the UK, and building up our travel documentary making around the world, and found ourselves, along with most of the world, in lockdown.
I am actually writing this blog on the 23rd March 2022, exactly two years after the UK officially entered our first lockdown of the pandemic, and it has certainly been a strange two years for everyone!
I am currently booking shows and making plans for my first ‘full season’ of shows since before the pandemic, which is particularly exciting as my ‘Greg Chapman’s Magic Show‘ series has recently been released to stream free on Plex TV and Tubi TV, and as it joins our travel documentaries ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle‘ and ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘ on there, and our marine wildlife charity documentary ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland‘ has recently been released on Prime Video, this year’s shows also give us the opportunity to really share our videos with my live audiences for the first full season, a real chance for us to grow what we do!
One of the big things I look at each year for my shows are what I call my ‘tentpole shows’ for the school summer holidays, as I try to book up a series of shows a few days a week running through those weeks to allow me to really enjoy settling into a venue. In the past these have been at Sudeley Castle and the Black Country Living Museum.
Last summer, and this summer, as the world opens up and gets bigger again, I have kept my world small for these ‘tentpole shows’, performing at a little village in Buckinghamshire, UK. Of course, when I say a small village, I mean a really small village – ‘Bekonscot Model Village & Railway‘ – a beautiful slice of English charm and eccentricity!
You may have been to a model village somewhere around the world – there are wonderful examples in the UK and abroad, and Felicity and I have visited a few of them, including Mini-Europe, a tourist attraction containing miniature versions of buildings and monuments from countries throughout Europe.
When writing about places we’ve been in this blog, we usually focus on places which we have visited on our travels, so why am I focussing this blog post on Bekonscot rather than Mini-Europe?
The simple answer is that Mini-Europe may not exist if it wasn’t for Bekonscot Model Village and a man named Ronald Callingham. This is because Bekonscot lays claim to being the first model village in the world, and the inspiration for so many others, and Ronald Callingham was the man who came up with the idea as something a little different for his back garden back in the 1920s – certainly makes a change from a gnome with a fishing rod sat by a pond!
The story goes that Mr Callingham’s indoor model railway had grown a little too large, and that Mrs Callingham had reached breaking point with it, and that in 1928 she told her husband, in no uncertain terms, that either the railway or her was going to leave the house. Being a sensible man, Mr Callingham realised that it was time for the railway to leave the house, but being a clever man he saw the loophole in his wife’s ultimatum, and instead of getting rid of his model railway altogether, he merely moved it into the garden.
Of course, now that the model railway was in the garden, it gave him even more space to expand, and the model village was born! A swimming pool, only dug out the year before, was repurposed to become a lake in his new village of Bekonscot (apparently an amalgam of Beaconsfield where his current house was, and Ascot, where he had lived before).
I really enjoy this origin story of the world’s first model village, because of the sense of whimsy to it – the fact that it wasn’t built as a business, but ‘just because’.
Trust me, I would not have been a professional juggler if I didn’t have a lot of appreciation of doing things ‘just because’!
Although it is now a tourist attraction, and since it was first opened in 1929 it has had many visitors, including hosting Queen Elizabeth back on her 8th birthday (when she was still Princess Elizabeth) and a number of times since, the village started as a way for Ronald Callingham to continue the fun of expanding his model railway and village, and so the whole model village right up until today is filled with a sense of fun – from the funny (and, I will admit, often delightfully groanworthy) names of the shops, such as ‘Sam & Ella’s meat shop’, the meercats peeking their heads up in the zoo, and the poor fire department who have to put out the same fire several times a day!
When I arrived for my first day of performing at Beconscot – actually back in February 2020, shortly before we set off to Romania to film our documentary about Vlad III Dracula and the first lockdown – I remember what stuck me most about the village was the sense of fun – a sense which goes back to its origins.
One of my favourite parts of the whole village, which may mean more or less to you depending on your age, a model of Enid Blyton’s Beaconsfield home, complete with Noddy and the Famous Five at play in the garden.
I am a big reader, and I always have been, but my earliest memory of a specific book was the day that my father lent me his copy of the Enid Blyton book ‘The Boy Next Door’, which I read many times in my youth, along with the ‘Mystery’ books, ‘The Famous Five’, ‘The Secret Seven’, the ‘Adventure’ books and the ‘Circus’ books. I’m sure that reading all of these instilled some of the early thoughts of adventure, searching for answers and even juggling which have become cornerstones of my life now. To see this house in the village filled me with a sense of joy and nostalgia, which really is the sense which fills the whole model village!
I know this has been a slightly different blog post – being about a place we have visited less than a hundred miles from our home instead of in another country on our adventures. So often we miss talking about, or even getting around to visiting those places which are closer to home because we are so busy writing about our adventures, so I decided it was time to put this right – do let us know in the comments if you’d like to hear more about some of the places I work at in the UK – and do let us know if you have a favourite model village to visit!
Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!
If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!
For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com
Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity
Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures
There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!
Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:
Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:
Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:
With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:
Free in the USA on Xumo at:
Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:
(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).
Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114
ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:
Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle
Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle
Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14
Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2
TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:
Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW
Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB
Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities
Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities
Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:
Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show
Free worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1
Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08
Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.
Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU
The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!
Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg