Despite living a metaphorical stone's throw away from Legoland Windsor (LLW) I'd never actually visited, which is a pretty sad state of affairs for an AFOL. I did admittedly make an abortive attempt to visit earlier this year but somehow managed to pitch up at the front gate on one of the days when the park was closed..... Anyway, I'm pleased to report that this shameful situation has now been remedied as the Brickish Association (BA), a UK-based AFOL group, held its annual Christmas party there last weekend and I was in attendance.
There were a number of things about my visit to LLW for the Christmas party that differentiated it from a visit on any other day. Firstly, it's currently off-season for LLW so it's closed to the public at the moment. It was pretty odd visiting a major UK tourist attraction and finding it to be pretty much deserted. Secondly, we've recently had some significant early snowfall in the UK, and while the area around LLW has been largely spared, we were nevertheless in the unusual position of being able to wander round Miniland (the area of Legoland featuring LEGO-built model scenes) while there was snow on the ground. You can see some pictures below (click to enlarge) - my first sight of a deserted Miniland shrouded in mist, and some of the actual models surrounded by snow.
|Walking in a Winter Wonderland.....|
|St. Paul's Cathedral|
|What's this white stuff on the ground.....?|
Dotted around the mansion were a multitude of LEGO scultures. No doubt the mansion's original architect would turn in his grave at the sight of all the brighly coloured ABS in the midst of such classic surroundings, but for a philistine like myself it was great ! You can see some of my favourites below (click to enlarge) :
To kick off the day we had an introductory talk from the former Chief Modelmaker at LLW who also helpfully happens to be an all-round good bloke. He initally gave us a run-down of events at the park over the past year, plus a sneak peek of some of the plans for the year ahead. This was followed by a guided tour, and one of my personal highlights of the day, a visit to the Model Shop where the professional LEGO builders do their magic. As well as seeing many exhibits under construction or being renovated, we were able to chat to some of the LEGO professionals and behold the tools of their trade - millions and millions of bricks of every available colour (and a few colours I'd never seen before) in huge storage units. I've posted a few pictures below (click to enlarge) to give you a flavour of the place, but really you'd have to see it to believe it - hundreds upon hundreds of models of all shapes and sizes surrounding the designers' workstations, and LEGO crammed into every nook and cranny. Amazing !
|Welcome to the Model Shop !|
|Spot the rare colours....|
|Maersk Blue brick, anybody ?|
|Replacing worn out models|
|Shouldn't he be in the closet ?|
|Just don't mention the England World Cup bid.... :-(|
I also paid a visit to the LLW Big Shop during the day - not quite a LEGO brand store as it lacked the LEGO exclusive sets, but still a fair bit to choose from including an interesting Pick-a-Brick section with a few compartments full of a mixture of pieces. I got the feeling that these 'lucky dip' compartments might have at least in part have contained surplus stuff from the model shop as I found a few pieces in unexpected colours; some 1x2 Bricks in Sand Blue, for instance, which has to my knowledge not been available for years, and which almost certainly has never graced the Pick-a-Brick wall in a LEGO brand store.
One of the things I loved about LLW was the enormous number of large LEGO-built sculptures placed in outside areas - next to paths, in communal areas etc.. The LEGO family in the pictures below were loitering outside the Big Shop, for instance, and were excellent. Just check out the dog raiding the coolbox !
|That coolbox is amazing !|
|Off-season visitors. No, wait.....|
|A bit cold for ice cream, don't you think ?|
All told, it was a fantastic day with the highlight being a peek at the inner sanctum - the model shop. I was also really impressed with the models in Miniland, and will definitely be going back next year when LLW reopens to the public and the weather improves....