By: Paul Le Conte - Jersey Evening Post on 28/06/2013

Take a brake

It is always interesting returning somewhere you visited as a child and seeing how the modern reality compares to your memories. As JEP Motoring Editor and a James Bond fan, Beaulieu ticks at least a couple of boxes and I was looking forward to making a first visit in many years. The catchline ‘Much more than a Motor Museum’ would also be tested by what was on offer for the female members of the family.


One of the UK’s leading tourist attractions in the heart of the New Forest, Beaulieu attracts 400,000 visitors each year.


The Bond In Motion exhibition was opened last year to mark the  50th anniversary of the film series and will continue throughout 2013.

The exhibition, the largest of its kind staged anywhere in the world, showcases 50 of the best loved and most iconic Bond vehicles, some never before seen in public, and has been brought right up to date with the addition of vehicles that appeared in the 23rd and latest Bond film, Skyfall.

And it’s not just cars, as Bond In Motion also features boats, motorbikes, sleds, jets and many
more.

The collection includes the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldeneye, the 1937 Phantom III Rolls-Royce fromGoldfinger, the ‘Little Nellie’ autogyro from You Only Live Twice, the Bede Acrostar jet famously flown in Octopussy, and the BMW 750iL from Tomorrow Never Dies. It even has the cello case sled from The Living Daylights. These are presented with accompanying vehicle action clips from the James Bond movies.

It really was great to get up close to some iconic vehicles. My personal favourite was the DB5,
while my son James was quite taken with the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish and the Jaguar XKR from Die Another Day. The choices were possibly as much about the in-built arsenals as much as the cars themselves.

We came away keen to watch all the films, whether or not we had seen them before.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, another of the current exhibitions is World of Top Gear, featuring vehicles created by presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May
for some of their most ambitious challenges on the TV show over the years including the latest arrival, the ‘budget Bond’ Lotus Excel submarine car created for 50 Yearsof Bond Cars: A Top Gear Special.

Famous

The On Screen Cars exhibition has a display of TV and film favourites including Del Boy’s Reliant Regal as featured in the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Mr Bean’s lime green Mini and the De Lorean in Back to the Future. Also on display are Chitty ChittyBang Bang and the flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The motor vehicle collection in the National Motor Museum remains one of Beaulieu’s most famous attractions with more than 250 on show from the earliest examples of motoring and family cars of the 30s and 40s through to classic cars of the 70s and 80s and rare motoring oddities such as the giant Outspan orange on wheels that I am sure I can remember from Battle of Flowers parades when I was young.

There are historic racing cars, F1 and rally cars from the earliest examples of road racers to the latest F1 machines and World Land Speed Record breakers including Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird’.
In the museum Jack Tucker’s Garage recreates the sights, sounds and smells of a typical country garage from the 1930s while ‘Wheels’ is a pod ride that takes you on a fascinating voyage through 100 years of motoring.

Budding drivers can get in the driving seat on Dipstick’s Driving Circuit in fun motorised mini vehicles. Younger visitors can get physical on the Mini Motor Play  Trail with its Veteran Bus climbing
frame, swings and Little Tykes rideon cars.

Away from the cars, as well as the magnicent gardens and 13th century Beaulieu Abbey film presentation and exhibition of the daily life of its Cistercian Monk founders, visitors can see the magnificent rooms and treasures of Palace House – Lord Montagu’s family home since 1538. Characters such as the Butler, Cook and Housemaids tell tales that give a
fascinating insight into the workings of a Victorian household, showing their life ‘Upstairs and
Downstairs’.

A new exhibition, opened after we visited, marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Royal Pageant explores the links between Beaulieu, its owners and royalty, going right back in time to before the foundation of Beaulieu Abbey in 1204.

The Secret Army exhibition tells the story of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which trained secret agents at the Beaulieu ‘Finishing School’ during World War II. The agents were trained at a number of large country houses scattered across the Beaulieu Estate before returning to occupied Europe to work with Resistance groups. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not return.

Secret

The exhibition introduces visitors to the training schools, instructors, secret agents and unsung heroes of the SOE, their training and secret missions. It is interesting to see two names with strong Jersey connections on the information boards. Violette Szabo, whose daughter Tania lives in the Island, was an SOE executive who won a posthumous George Cross. Her exploits were dramatised in the film Carve Her Name with Pride, starring Virginia McKenna.

Captain Ralph Vibert, who moved to England from Jersey in 1939, was a specialist instructor in codes, ciphers and secret inks. He also used his skills as a barrister during interrogation exercises and in the rehearsal of cover stories. He returned to the Island after the war to become Commissioner of the Royal Court.


A good way to see the grounds is either on the replica 1912 opentopped London bus, or from a bird’seye view on the mile-long monorail. The only one in England, it travels between its north and south terminals and even passes through the roof of the Motor Museum.

On the way back from Beaulieu we took a diversion via Stonehenge, which really is impressive. The presentation and information available via the audio guide are very interesting. My recollections
of visiting as a child did include walking among and being able to touch the stones, something that is no longer available. Our dolmens are spectacular in their own right, but Stonehenge just has to be seen to be believed. During the trip we also watched an Amlin Cup rugby match between Bath and Stade Français at the Recreation Ground in Bath. Unfortunately, Jersey’s Matt Banahan was injured (we did see him on crutches at the ground) and Bath lost, but it is a remarkable rugby stadium in a beautiful city and well worth a visit.

For the sports fan, Southampton also offers the opportunity to watch
Premiership football and first-class cricket at St Mary’s Stadium and The Aegeas Bowl respectively.

A glance at the leaflets on display in the Premier Inn reception showed the huge range of visitor attractions in the south of England, including the Tank Museum at Bovington, and historic dockyards at Portsmouth with the recently opened new £27 million Mary Rose Museum to name just two.

There is also the shopping experience. The West Quay shopping centre is impressive, while the Premier Inn at the same location is perfectly situated as a base for visiting the different nearby attractions or for a shopping break. The good value all-you-can-eat hot and cold breakfast buffet is also a great way to start a busy day. Priced at £8.50 for an adult, children eat free.

We travelled on the overnight boat with Condor and, having a cabin, we had sufficient sleep to arrive early enough for a full first day.

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