Posted by: marymarthatours | July 8, 2014

An M&M English Village Surprise

Martha and I like to include a few surprises on each of our tours.  Sometimes we don’t give any hints to the tour members until the very last moment, as when in 2013, we stopped in Bampton Village, the filming site for the village scenes in the ‘Downton Abbey’ series.  But for our recent Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon tour we gave a huge clue to a surprise right in the tour brochure.  The daily entry for Sunday, May 4th said, “After lunch at Coleton Fishacre, we will head to a small Devonshire village with buildings of a variety of styles all set in lovely gardens”.


It was all true – we did plan to visit a small village – we just didn’t mention HOW small.  Our afternoon stop that day was at the Babbacombe Model Village in Torquay.


Covering over 4 acres of territory, the Model Village includes over 400 structures in 1/12 scale (1”=1’) and over 13,000 miniature people.  The models cover a wide time-span, from prehistoric Stonehenge to a fire-breathing dragon on a medieval castle to the 21st century London Shard.

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The Village is like a 3-dimensional Mad Magazine – everywhere you look, you see some detail that is familiar or just fun.  This is a place that you need to go around a second time in order to see what you missed on the first pass.  “Did you see the nude beach?” one of our group asked me.  I had missed it totally.  But I did see Prince William and Kate leaving the hospital with baby George and the Beatles crossing Abbey Lane.


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It also pays to read the names on the shops and vehicles, because many are wonderful (or awful) puns or plays on words.

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Most amazing of all for many of us on our gardens-focused tour was the landscaping.  I was blown away by the imaginative and creative use of miniature conifers, shrubs, and trees throughout the Village.  In fact, many of the plants destined for use in the Village start as seedlings in the nursery fields of the E. Philpots Garden Centre.  We were a bit early in the year for bedding plants and flowers, but the range of colors in leaves and needles alone was wonderful.




Babbacombe Model Village was a fun surprise for everyone, but for one person on our tour it was extraordinarily special.  When we announced the stop on the coach, she was astonished and thrilled.  It seems that as a child, she had missed a chance to go there and her brother got to go instead.  She had always felt cheated, but was now able to lay aside all her old regrets with her very own visit to this magical “small village in Devon”.

(by Mary)

photo credits:  All photos copyright Mary Wallace and Martha Liska, May 2014.






  1. Was this the model village that was used in the film “the Borrowers?”

    • Haven’t seen that movie, Ginny, so I don’t know if Babbacombe was used. I haven’t seen any mention of it in any of the Babbacombe literature that I’ve seen. Mary

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