A Day Out in Beaulieu - community trip to the motor museum

A summer’s day in August in Britain, a lovely coach trip to the great outdoors to visit Beaulieu, take in the motor museum, abbey and extensive grounds to wander around in – time for the sunscreen, sandals and picnic spread, right? Wrong! Waterproofs, wellies and brollies, more like. 

It was wet, windy and unseasonably cold all day, but our enthusiastic group of families from Swaythling didn’t let that dampen their spirits as we set off down the motorway towards the New Forest. Once at our destination and through the packed-out entrance hall, our group split up as everyone headed for their favourite part to start with – whether it was the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear tent or Simulator, Palace House or Abbey, or just made a beeline for a warming cuppa. 

There is so much to see and do at Beaulieu – the motor museum is a feast for the eyes of any automobile enthusiast with plenty of informative and hands-on interactives, and the zipping round in pods to see the Wheels Experience. From early historic cars and bikes, to superfast record breakers and quirky fantasy vehicles, it's a jam -packed experience.  

The Wheels Experience took us on fast-paced trip through time - from the earliest invention of motorised transport, through the years of  motoring as a leisure activity to the present-day technological developments. The history of Ford in Britain takes in the introduction of Transit van production at the site in Swaythling. Plenty for us to take in and research as our project continues.

Having had our fill of the cars, caravans and bikes, some of us clambered into the monorail to view the site from above and get to the other attractions on site. Spread out over the vast grounds are the Abbey, Palace House, the Secret Army Exhibition, and gardens and walks.

The ruins of the 800 year old Beaulieu Abbey and tranquil parish Church were a calming and restorative experience after the crowds in the motor museum. The fascinating exhibition in the Domus building gives a glimpse of medieval monastic life at the Abbey when monks and lay brothers lived, prayed and worked on the site. A unique 13th century book of accounts shed light on the activities at the tannery, bakery, stables, mills and the infirmary. 

Some of the finest wool made at the time was produced at the Abbey. It was taken to Southampton to be stored at the Wool House before being shipped off for sale. A collection of newly commissioned tapestries in the upstairs hall of the Domus building depict a timeline of the medieval abbey until the Dissolution of the monasteries. 

A dash through the torrential rain brought us to Palace House – once the gateway to the Abbey and since 1538 the family home to the Montague family – where costumed interpreters offered information and tours through the many rooms that give a glimpse into the history of the house and its owners.

A mad and exhilarating ‘ride’ at breakneck speed in the Top Gear simulator, a quick cup of tea and it was time to clamber back onto the coach for the return journey home. 

Over 50 local people of all ages joined the project team on this first of three trips organised by the project. A big thank you is due to the two Barbaras for their brilliant organisation and networking that made this a very popular outing, made everything go smoothly and ensure that all had a great time.

Next trips planned: to the Watercress Line and Milestones Museum Basingstoke.

Written by: Padmini Broomfield


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