Cambridgeshire

Wicken model village restored

Beverley Lorking (left) and Pat Bullman in front of the restored model village buildings
Image caption Beverley Lorking (left), Pat Bullman (right) and Tony Middleton have helped restore the Wicken village to its former glory

An unlikely tourist attraction that was crumbling away in an elderly widow's garden is brought back to life by big-hearted model citizens.

Pat Bullman and her husband Oliver created a model village in Wicken, Cambridgeshire, over a 50-year period.

But after Mr Bullman's death it began rotting away and Mrs Bullman, 80, put out a plea for people to help save it.

Two locals raced to the rescue and the village will reopen on what would have been Mr Bullman's birthday this month.

"It has been amazing. There's an awful lot of work that's gone into it," said Mrs Bullman, whose unnamed village in the front garden was once an unexpected hit with tourists visiting the county.

Image copyright PAT BULLMAN
Image caption Mr and Mrs Bullman's unnamed village was visited by passing tourists from all over the world
Image caption But years of decline led to Mrs Bullman being unable to save it on her own

"It's the building that's amazed me, how many they've done and how beautiful they look. I'm just waiting to get them outside now so everybody can see them."

Fish and chips

Mr and Mrs Bullman started the display with one windmill for their daughter.

Over the years they added a fire station, railway station, hotel, fish and chip shop and a church, among others.

Mr Bullman was still handcrafting new pieces in his workshop until his death in 2012.

Image caption Weeds began growing among the shabby buildings in the model village
Image caption The village church was almost beyond repair
Image caption The miniature flower shop even had tiny vases and pots in the window

After 50 years, a resigned Mrs Bullman feared the village had little future until her plight was highlighted by the BBC and then other media outlets.

Beverley Lorking, a 73-year-old retired engineer from Soham who answered Mrs Bullman's plea, said only half a dozen buildings had to be scrapped and built from scratch.

"We have put bases in the bottom, we've put primer on and also a top coat of paint, and we've put rubber feet on them so they sit off the ground to stop water coming in.

"We've put in an awful lot of hours but it's been a joy and a pleasure."

Image caption Mrs Bullman has painted many of the restored models
Image caption A new train signal box has been created with wooden coffee stirrers used to make the fence
Image caption The Post Office is now looking sturdy and bright
Image caption The houses have all been given felt roofs to save them from the rain

A joyful Mrs Bullman, who wants the new village to be a "memorial" to her husband, said: "I sort of decided I wasn't ever going to be able to do anything and the buildings would just get thrown away as they fell to pieces.

"I just couldn't believe it could turn out like this."

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