We are car-free for now so travelling for us is all about places to go on the train, but as my toddler is a train fanatic, the journey is also part of the fun. We watch out the window for diesels down sidings, old British Rail carriages and perhaps a rare steamy too. These days, I have an extensive train vocabulary, courtesy of the wee one and that unmentionable heavily marketed blue engine of course. You want to talk about buffers? Hey, I can do that. A spot of conversation about the merits of diesel versus steam? I’m good to go. So in the quest for greater knowledge and more extensive transport experience for all, we headed to Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre, for a family day out.
This former chalk-pit makes for a huge area to explore, with plenty of green space to roam free. On arrival we spied functioning water pumps which little and big kids alike were taking great delight in swinging off. There are also plenty of original buildings one housing a functioning blacksmith, one a selling handmade cards and many many exhibition spaces on themes such as telephones, trains, the fire service, radio and television and oh so much more.
We enjoyed a trip to a traditional printing press. Here we bought tiny cards beautifully printed up with images of a train, boats and animals for a mere 25p, hooray to anything other than penny sweets being fully purchasable for this price, let alone something hand-made and lovely. Then our 3 year old got to turn her own hand at printing, with a kind volunteer from the workshop helping her to print out her name in glorious red ink alongside an otter.
We also rode (obviously) the narrow gauge train round the site. Alas people, the steamy wasn’t in operation on the day we went, but the electric still did the job and allowed us to view the entrance to the old pits, which was also (and here’s some fun trivia for you) used in the 1985 James Bond film, A View to a Kill, or as our driver grunted out ‘The Film’. Hoorah then for boyfriend’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Bond to correctly identify the film, actor and approximate year of said film, without even a need to dive towards the iphone.
Elsewhere we enjoyed the history of the telephone, in particular standing two feet apart and calling each other on those old dial the number all the way round phones I used as a child. I should add you can watch the phone lines connecting on the operator board in front of you, although mostly I think the fun is really in the dialling. Maybe Apple have missed a trick on this one?
We saw some grand old buses and a fire station stuffed with old fashioned fire engines and kit. And if you like you can also ride an old bus (sorry, less knowledge on the particulars of this method of transport) round the site, but we didn’t have a go, as boyfriend and I both felt we’d been on a bus of remarkable similarity on a recent rail replacement route from Three Bridges.
Oh and there more, which alas I cannot in time do justice to, including a playground. My only word of warning is to take a picnic as whilst there is an ample sized café the food all looked a bit sad, small bits of cake wrapped up in individual cling-filmed portions and a coffee from a machine where you press the ‘cappuccino’ button is never going to impress a Brightonian unfortunately. So this was the time to head back, back from the countryside, from West Sussex, and our industrial past and back home to wedges of organic vegetable based cakes with barista coffee, phew, it’s good to be in Brighton.