For my Dad’s birthday I had booked for us both to go over and visit the Brooklands Museum. In my mind I associated it with cars and the banked track that played host to so many early motorsport races. In my Dad’s mind he associated it with planes and when he worked on the site for Vickers in 1964. Turns out we were both right!
What I hadn’t realised was just how much there was there – not just motorsport related but also loads of planes (including a Concorde), road cars and bikes too. Initially I thought that we were going to have the place to ourselves it was so quiet and I wondered whether maybe people had been put off by the cold and breezy weather. That turned out not to be the case as you will see.
We wandered through the first couple of buildings, which housed cars both motorsport and road going. Many of these buildings have been painted to look as they might have during key periods in their working life. For example, from when Donald Campbell was resident there, which was a nice touch.
Next up was Concorde. On site is one of the original seven British Airways Concordes lovingly restored to its former glory. This is the only thing (other than the cafe) for which you have to pay an additional entry fee but it was well worth it. This is also the only part of the museum where it is not self guided.
You start by being given a short talk by a guide who, in our case, had previously worked for BA in New York. Next you go to under the wings for some further nuggets of information (where I learnt about a little drop-down propeller used to restart engines in flight – I hope I’m never on a plane when one has to be used!) before being allowed inside. At the rear of the plane is a small museum-within-a-museum on the history of Concorde before you are taken to the front section for a short video. Before you leave the plane you get a peak in the cockpit. To be honest I can’t find all the controls on my car so how anyone knows what all those knobs and dials do I’ll never know. Finally you are taken to another building where there is a complete Concorde flight simulator. All in all it is very impressive.
By the time this was over, to my mind, it was lunchtime but even though Dad is normally an early luncher he wanted to carry on. Anyway, when we did finally get to lunch (only 15 mins later) we found out where all the people were – they were in the cafe, which was packed!
Tucked away in another corner of the site is a bus museum which was our next stop. On entering our path was blocked by two volunteers who were keen to ensure that we followed the path marked on the floor like an IKEA. Compliance ensured we made our way around the designated path. Again there were some beautifully preserved machines with amazing back stories. Some people have such dedication to rescue these old cars, planes and buses from fields in remote places. In one case flying two buses back in an RAF Hercules from Cyprus.
Our penultimate stop was two hangers housing various planes including a Wellington bomber rescued from Loch Ness and a couple of Harrier jump jets. I remember begin fascinated by these in my youth and at one point wanted to be a Harrier jump jet pilot – until I realised I didn’t like heights!
Lastly we went outside and to the famed banked circuit. Regrettably the track is incomplete with a chunk having been removed forever when the aircraft factory was expanded. Nevertheless there is still more than enough to give a sense of what it must have been like in its heyday. I was surprised at just how steep it was and it made me want to go to the Indy 500 to compare. Given the care and attention that has been given to the cars and buildings on the rest of the site the track itself felt a little unloved.
All in all an excellent day out and somewhere I would definitely recommend.