Every so often the road takes you on an unexpected adventure. This summer, we missed our flight. With the help of coffee and internet, we managed to turn what was an extremely stressful situation, into a quick, relaxing day out.
Only 6 minutes away by train from Stansted Airport is the village of Stansted Mountfitchet. The village on its own can be called a typical small English village; one or two pubs, a co-op and some Tudor houses with widely known facades.
However, this village hides another tiny village. On a green hill, next to the train tracks, there is a Norman village with the Castle Mountfitchet in its centre. Their website boasts this is the only medieval castle and Norman village reconstructed on its original site to exist in the world. We’ll take their word for it.
The price of £13.50 per adult seems a bit steep for an open-air history museum basically in the middle of nowhere, even if it does include the admission to the House on the Hill Museum. Once you get there and see all the village has to offer, the price is justified.
As soon as you step through the doors to the village grounds, you will be besieged by goats, goats that eat everything! Our brochure was taken by a goat who then disgustedly spat it out realising it is not edible.
If you have kids, for an extra pound you can buy a bag of animal food along with the tickets. Just make sure the goats don’t steal your child when they nab the bag from their hands. We have no kids, but we still bought a bag of food. Don’t judge us!
We had a blast shaking the bag and seeing the chickens run towards us, eyes wide with delight. Goats do the same, only they have a scarier look in their eyes O.O
All animals on the grounds are rescued and from a shelter, including the fallow deer that graze serenely. Until you show them the food bag that is…
Animals aside, once you enter the village, the sounds of the every day life slowly die away leave you with the sounds of a historical village. They have recordings of hammers hitting anvils, pigs in their pens, dogs barking and prisoners screaming in torture. Your eyes will fall on little houses with thatched roofs, foxgloves growing in the garden, a ducking stool for the neighbourhood witches, a blacksmith’s workshop…
And best of all, real fire lit in every single fireplace in the village. When we say a real fire, we mean real fire, smoke, heat, and all. It was a warm summer’s day and we really didn’t need the extra heat but the smell of smoke added to the whole experience. As did the manhole where they left prisoners to die of starvation and thirst. Norman times were hard.
The village offers several different activities like archery or catapult target practice, climbing the ramparts, trying on real knight’s helmets, taking a shot at running the big stone mill, running away from hungry goats… There is loads fun to be had at Mountfitchet! Don’t worry, it’s all child friendly and really safe, there is no way of hurting yourself by catapulting little balls and trying to hit targets.
Alternatively, you can always hide in the small garden close to the village hall and enjoy the quiet isolation until one of the hidden mannequins scares the bejesus out of you when it suddenly starts talking.
There were quite a few people visiting on the day but it didn’t feel crowded. The village on it’s own has no food or drink stalls but you can buy those at the shop and small cafe at the entrance.
House on the Hill
Even though the name doesn’t really make it clear, this is a toy museum! According to the website, it contains the largest toy collection in the world with over 80,000 toys from the Victorian era right up to the 1990’s. I did some googling and there are definitely museums with much larger collections. However, I think this museum has the largest history span.
Getting through the museum you have to pass a dinosaur infested forest and then hope the Doctor will be there to save you from Cybermen and Daleks 😀 You can always listen how this time next year they’ll be millionaires from the Trotter brothers in their Reliant Regal or try your luck with some morbid games from old times like The Executioner. Oh and don’t get scared of the almost life size terminator!
There are so many interesting toys and even some music paraphernalia! Since I grew up in a different country, most of the toys meant nothing to me. Sure, I love Star Wars but I never had any of the toys or knew anyone who did. The husband, however, loved it and had flashbacks every few steps. I swear we started hearing the famous harp sound by the end of it. And no, it wasn’t a part of the musical exhibition!
One of the rooms was reserved for reminders of the WWII (of course it was, you can’t make more than a few steps in this country without being reminded about WWII) There were bits of fallen planes and many other items but the most grim one was a pair of German soldier boots made for the Russian front. They were insulated using human hair. The hair was taken of the victims in the concentration camps.
Talk about a slap back to reality from childhood memories and dreams. This room is secluded on the first floor so can be skipped if it’s not your cup of tea.
Considering how our day started, we had a super relaxing start to our holiday. If it weren’t for the morning’s mishaps we probably would’ve never visited Mountfitchet. What’s that saying about clouds and silver linings? 😀
When was the last time you turned a headache of a situation into a pleasant experience? Let us know in the comments below.