If there’s a slump in the housing market there’s no sign of it at this village opposite the De Vere Village (Urban Resort Herons’ Reach as it now styles itself).
The pace of life is gentle, unhurried. A bit like Midsomer minus the Murders, although one old chap lies inert on a path, presumably the worse for wear from the nearby pub.
Even the pubs are thriving along with the local church and railway station.
The gypsies are allowed to camp nearby. No sign of police or council staff arriving to move them on. Just a few friendly giants smiling down.
The urban street artist who has painted a mural on the side of one property has been properly applauded for his efforts rather than reported.
In fact, the only trouble is from the outsiders to the village, who have vandalised property in the past. Or broken tiny figures, or made off with lead (and we’re not kidding) from roofs of various properties. Probably to sell on for pennies at whatever dodgy Dun Meltin’ scrapyard they favour.
Of course, the real cost, to the family who own and run the village, to the other families who visit there, to the kids who look out for favourites each year, is considerable. Shame there’s not a feature showing scaled down yobs being pelted with out of date donuts in the village stocks.
For otherwise this is precisely the sort of place where Katie Cottam, 13, would like to live, with little brother James, seven, and cousin Emma-Jane Shorrock, eight.
The three are over from Mere Brow, Tarleton, with grans Kathleen Hodgson, Pauline Cottam and Emma-Jane’s mum Jane Shorrock – who reckon it’s great value at £30 for all six on an all-day return ticket.
The Model Village is in their family favourite list with the nearby Zoo and Stanley Park, Blackpool Tower, Seeing is Believing (Ripley’s), Pleasure Beach and Sandcastle Waterpark. The Lights make it eight... the list grows the more they chat.
Not that they wouldn’t make changes to this enduring attraction. There’s a full scale BMX bike track now open on the doorstep of the model village. So a mini one would be good, says James.
He also wants more dinosaurs running amok because that’s what seven year olds “really” like, along with trying to clamber over fenced-off features given half a chance... and no big sister watching. “I’d like a mini Jurassic Park here too, and a fun fair and a robot!”
Sister Katie’s a big fan of the large castle at the Model Village but would love an equestrian centre as she’s only just turned 13, and is still mad about horses.
Emma-Jane wants more music, more church bells, and a mini ice-cream van with music and bells chimes.
They’re all fans of the resident ice-cream parlour, the real thing, scaled up to children’s expectations, rather offering than tiny Borrowers-style sundaes. The new feature has taken over from the former cafe and is supplied with Anita’s Own ices (courtesy of award winning Cockerham-based Wallings). Anita is Anita Brakewell who bought the Model Village after working there for a few seasons and falling for the place.
“It gets under your skin,” she admits. “It’s so enchanting. Even all these years on there’s nowhere I’d prefer to be. And on a sunny evening, when we’ve shut up for the night, it’s lovely to linger here, have a glass of wine and a barbecue – not that it’s happened this summer because the weather has been so dreadful.” With that in mind, the Model Village is extending opening hours this year to winter weekends too.
It already opens to sell Christmas trees, real ones, and does a roaring trade with regulars, but the extended opening will keep the main part of the centre open too. “We often get good weather over winter so it’s worth trying.”
It means more pressure on the maintenance team, though.
Anita’s son Ryan Damsell works at the Model Village – and organises regular bike meetings on site. A keen biker he admits: “The 20pmh limits are putting paid to biker meets elsewhere. The nearest good place is the Barn at Rivington. But now we have bikers heading here on Thursday nights – we keep the tea and coffee on and have a good chat.
“Up to 65 bikes on a good night. It’s a bit surreal.”
Anita’s husband Michael mucks in with gardening, maintenance, repairs, replacements and the ice-cream.
“I’ve become a man for all seasons,” admits Michael, who was behind the Model Village’s success as the Best Attraction at the recent Blackpool in Bloom awards.
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