Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

I hadn't been on a proper coach trip for a while so when Chrissie suggested Bletchley Park - Home of the code-breakers - by Brighton and Hove Coaches, with departure at a reasonable 8.49am I went for it. The coach was about half an hour late arriving at Preston Circus, and we trundled up the M23, M25 and M40 before a stop at Beaconsfield services, which I must say was a very superior service station, with noodle and curry bars, a Patisserie Valerie (where we purchased huge croissants for £1.15 each - would have been better warm) and even a Wetherspoon's! (a bit too early for me)

Enigma machine

At Bletchley Park, we were dropped off just inside the main gate and received our season tickets, valid for a year, then it was into the Visitor Centre and our first Enigma machine. After some films and more exhibits, we grabbed our audio guide and emerged into the sunlight, heading towards the lake. There were lots of huts to explore, but first we ate our sandwiches to accordion music coming from one of many hidden speakers around the place. Every so often we'd hear a train toot from the direction of the mansion… we were near the main line, but a steam train? We found out later it was part of the soundscape installation.

  Back of the bombe

First building to explore was Block B where a replica bombe was being demonstrated… I understood the limitations of the Enigma, such as if you pressed L it would never light up an L, but the rest went over my head!

  Turing's teddy Porgy

The museum houses many more Enigmas, lots of Alan Turing stuff, including his teddy Porgy and rowing trophies, and the formidable Lorenz machine.

 The formidable Lorenz

We visited several other huts, the most notable of which had Alan Turing's office in it and then it was into the magnificent mansion with its ornate carvings and stained glass windows.

Alan Turing's office

What a lovely place to work! It was a hot day and it was nice just to sit on benches, watch the ducks and listen to the sound installations all around.

 The lake, Bletchley Park

The mansion housed The Imitation Game exhibition, including the fake bombe used in the film. We learnt that Colossus, well a replica, was in the National Museum of Computing just a few yards away as the stone is thrown, but separated from us by a fence. To visit it we'd have to go back to the visitor centre and round the periphery road. Ah well, another time. We also discovered that the Post Office exhibit was being chucked out of the compound, and that the only 'outside' volunteer exhibit remaining would be the carrier pigeon hut.

Bletchley Park Post Office

If you like motorbikes and old cars there are plenty dotted around, there are also huts featuring radio communications. The place was full of school kids learning about codes and ciphers - and there's enough to see for two days at least, far more than I was expecting! At 5pm we wandered back to the coach and it was down the M1 home, with a stop at Cobham services, where I bought some mini-spring rolls and spotted a truckers' open-air laundrette. I was knackered! The deal cost £36, including admission, which would have been £14.75 for concessions.

The superior British Typex machine

And if you were wondering what the British used for coding secret messages, the answer is the Typex, which the Germans never cracked.

More photos on Flickr.

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