It’s a small world...but the work behind the scenes is huge

Bondville Model Village owner Jan Whitehand with the team of volunteers working to get the attraction ready for its opening on April 1
Bondville Model Village owner Jan Whitehand with the team of volunteers working to get the attraction ready for its opening on April 1

Running a tourist attraction is anything but ‘seasonal work’. Bondville Model Village may only be open for six months of the year, but if you think staff spend the winter months with their feet up, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Instead, everything is given a coat of paint to make sure it looks its best ready for the grand opening on April 1.

Tim Whitehead with volunteer Caroline Mansell

Tim Whitehead with volunteer Caroline Mansell

There are around 250 buildings and each one takes at least half-an-hour to paint.

Owner Jan Whitehead said:“Every single figure and house needs painting every year. If the windows and doors are OK, we might leave them but we have done 200 so far.

“It’s hard graft, this isn’t a job for the feint-hearted.

“People might think we go away on holiday for six months during the winter, but really we are here six or seven days a week getting things ready.”

The new train and railway line

The new train and railway line

As well as the miniature buildings, the gardens, which stretch to around an acre, need to be planted and landscaped, to make sure they fit in with the surroundings.

Jan and her husband Tim took over the attraction back in 2012, but they weren’t exactly regulars at the village near Sewerby.

She said “We had only been here once before we came to look at it to buy it, and it was closed that day

“We bought it for the tea rooms, but we decided rent that out for the first time, halfway through last year, so we could spend more time on the village.

Bindville Model Village

Bindville Model Village

“We hand-picked Tracey, who we knew from tea shops in Burton Fleming and Hunmanby, to run it, and it gives us more time.

“Our son Oliver is also going to be running the gift shop for the first time.”

They had no background in tourism and Jan admits that considering all the litres of paint that is used sprucing up the buildings each winter, she is not an artist.

“I passed my art exams but they weren’t great grades, but I used to work as a children’s nanny so I did a lot of art with them.”

Volunteers hard at work

Volunteers hard at work

Visitor numbers have grown year on year and the family are expecting up to 20,000 people through the gates this year.

There are around 30 model villages around the UK, but few use the 1/12th scale that Bondville does.

It has appeared on BBC Breakfast and the family have even received a request from a couple who were interested in getting married at Bondville. It does have three churches after all.

Jan said: “It was worth saving. I don’t think we realised how much work was involved but the charm of the place means you can see what it used to be like.

“We have spent thousands of pounds on it and we try to bring in something different every year. This year, we have a new railway track, hand-made by Mel Philipson, which is going to be amazing.”

There will also be another important new building arriving later in the year. Students at Headlands are working on a miniature version of their school, which will be installed on a grass bank.

There are more than 200 buildings at the attraction

There are more than 200 buildings at the attraction

There is one attraction Jan would like to add, but it is well out of the price range.

“I would love a working fairground, but it wouldn;t be cost effective.

“At the minute, we only charge £10 and people can park here all day, go for a walk on the clifftops, spend as long as they want here and do the quiz.

“If we got a fairground, we would have to put the prices up.”

For now, it has a harbour, village green, hotels and a castle, and the owners believe the best time to see it in all its glory is July.

Bondville was opened in 1982 by Geoff and Carol Cooper. It took two years to build and they ran the attraction for seven years before selling it on.

However, the couple have helped the Whiteheads to renovate the village in recent years.

Jan added: “99% of people who come here say ‘wow, what an enchanting place’

“It is Bridlington;s hidden gem and we even get people wandering around in the rain.”

More and more volunteers have got on board in recent years and this week, the team from the George Guest House were there to paint a scale version of their own business.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers. We are so lucky to have them.

“They help us with all the events we try to put on.”

The first of those is an Easter Sunday fun day, when the mayor of Bridlington will visit to judge the best bonnets.

After last year’s Alice In Wonderland-themed event, there will be a Princess, Pirates and Fairies event on August 6.

Bondville reopens on April 1 and its season runs until September 30.

Bondville Model Village

Bondville Model Village

Oliver Whitehead gives a lick of paint to one of the buildings

Oliver Whitehead gives a lick of paint to one of the buildings