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Stewart's Blog

Stewart Watkiss website to the world ...

(Children, computing, first aid and other ramblings ...)

Day out at Bekonscot Model Village

April 14th, 2021

Bekonscot is in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. It is the oldest model village in the world being first created in 1929. It has however changed a lot since then having had periods where it was modernized, but then reverting back to being primarily based around 1930s England.

Bekonscot Model Village near Beaconsfield

It features one of the largest Gauge 1 outdoor railways in the UK. The buildings are made to a larger scale of 1:12. It’s clear that these are different scales, but it does work okay.

There is so much to see, some amazing buildings, nostalgia of an England in times gone by, and also some fun animations and visual effects. It’s a place we now visit fairly often with new features each time. In the last few years they’ve added a New Town area and a funicular hillside railway. This year it looks like there has been quite a few touch-ups with some of the artificial grass being replaced and what appears to be a significant number of model figures added making it look even better.

Here’s a short video which is a photo slideshow showing some of the features of the model village.

This review is from a visit on the first day that it was open during 2021 as we reached the next stage in lockdown restrictions being lifted during April 2021. During this time tickets need to be booked in advance.

The site is almost completely outdoor. Although social distancing is encouraged, it’s pretty much impossible for young children to completely adhere to it. It didn’t feel a problem though, you would just get someone passing occasionally and then usually managed to maintain a reasonable distance.

The model village is run as a charitable organisation. A great place to visit for a couple of hours during a day out to this lovely part of England.

For more details see Bekonscot Model Village website.

Earlswood Lakes Circular Walk in Worcestershire / West Midlands

April 12th, 2021

Earlswood Lakes are man-made reservoirs in Worcestershire which were made to supply water to the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal. The North of the lakes is bordering on West Midlands.

This is a nice gentle walk across flat terrain. Most of the paths are well maintained, but some places may get a little muddy at times.

I have walked around the reservoirs a few times. Recently the lakes have been partially trained for maintenance work, the photos below include when the reservoir is at it’s normal level as well as when under maintenance.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Earlswood Lakes Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Sunset on Earlswood Lakes

Walk in Worcestershire - Earlswood Lakes

Walk in Worcestershire - Earlswood Lakes, partially drained for maintenance work

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Barnt Green to Lickey Hills Circular Walk in Worcestershire / Birmingham

April 5th, 2021

This is a way marked route by Worcestershire County Council. Starting at Barnt Green (approx. postcode B45 8NW). It takes in some of the local countryside, skirting around the reservoirs to the top of Lickey Hills and back down to Barnt Green.

Alternative starting point is Lickey Hills Visitor Centre car park (check closing time for the car park to avoid getting locked in). For public transport the Barnt Green railway station is on the route.

Distance: 4 miles

Although the Lickey Hills are physically located within Worcestershire the country park is managed by Birmingham City Council. J R R Tolkien lived in nearby Rednell and was a regular visitor. The Lickeys and surrounding area are thought to have been his inspiration for The Shire as featured in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Map Barnt Green Lickey Hills Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Lickey Hills view of Lower Bittell Reservoir

The walk goes alongside Lower Bittell Reservoir.

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Lickey Hills Circular Walk - Uphill towards Lickey Hills

There is a steep walk up to the top of the Lickey Hills.

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Lickey Hills view from Lickey Hills Visitor Centre

The visitor centre is built in an area used for artillery armament testing during the First World War.

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Details of the route : Barnt Green Lickey Hills Circular Walk (Worcestershire County Council).

Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk

April 3rd, 2021

This is a way marked route by Worcestershire County Council. Starting at Barnt Green (approx. postcode B45 8NW). It takes in some of the local countryside, walk towards Alvechurch, along a canal and past Upper Bittell Reservoir.

For public transport the Barnt Green railway station is nearby.

Distance: 5 miles

Map Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk - View of canal

Walk in Worcestershire - Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk - view of upper Bittell Reservior

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Details of the route : Barnt Green Waterways Circular Walk (Worcestershire County Council).

Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

February 28th, 2021

This is route around Alvechurch and Rowney green. It uses a combination of bridleways and public footpaths.

Distance: 4 miles (a little more if you start in Alvechurch village centre)

Map Alvechurch and Rowney Green
Click the map for a larger version

View from walk - Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

View from walk - Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

View from walk - Alvechurch and Rowney Green Walk

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Tank Game for Pygame Zero and the Raspberry Pi Pico Display Pack

February 27th, 2021

This is an introduction to a tank game I created. It’s an artillary style pass and play game. It is created as a demonstration of creating vector graphics in Pygame Zero and of porting / creating a game on the Raspberry Pi Pico with the Pimoroni Display Pack.

Pygame Zero Game

The initial version was created in Python Pygame Zero as part of the book Beginning Game Programming with Pygame Zero.

Tank game created in Pygame Zero on a Raspberry Pi

More details of the original game are in the book Beginning Game Programming with Pygame Zero

Installing / Running the Pygame Zero game

The Pygame zero version is in the folder pygamezero. All the files need to be in a single folder and the game launched from that folder.

You need either the Mu Editor installed or Python with Pygame Zero installed. This is included as standard on the Raspberry Pi.

If you have the Mu editor installed then you can load the file tankgame.py into the Mu editor, ensure you are in Pygame Zero mode and then choose run.

To run using the command line and pygame zero change to the game’s pygame zero directory and then run

pgzrun tankgame.py

Playing the Pygame Zero Version

Play starts with player 1. The angle of the current tank is adjusted using the up and down arrow. The power is adjusted using the left and right buttons and then press the space bar to fire a shell towards the enemy.

If you score a hit then you win, otherwise the game passes to the next player.

Raspberry Pi Pico with Pimoroni Display Pack

This is designed to play on a Raspberry Pi Pico with the Pimoroni Display Pack.

Tank Game on Raspberry Pi Pico with Pimoroni Display Pack

Installing / Running the Pico Display version

Before you can run the game you need the Pimoroni version of MicroPython. For details on how to install see the Pimoroni getting started with Pico guide.

The Raspberry Pi Pico program is in the directory picodisplay. You need to copy all of the files onto the Pico. The easiest way to do this is using the Thonny editor. Copy and paste each file into a new page in the editor and save that as the same file on the Pico.

Playing the Raspberry Pi Pico version

The game is a pass and play game starting with player 1. Press the B button to select between Angle and Power adjustment. The appropriate mode will be displayed on the screen. Press the X and Y buttons to adjust the angle or power as appropriate. Press the A button to fire a shell.

If you score a hit then you win, otherwise the game passes to the next player.

More Details

For more details about the game see Guide to porting the tank game from Python Pygame Zero to the Raspberry Pi Pico with Display Pack.

Hanbury Circular Walk

February 13th, 2021

This is a way marked route by Worcestershire County Council. Starting at Gateway Park near Droitwich Spa Marina (approx. postcode WR9 7DU). it goes along the Worcestershire and Birmingham Canal, and then across fields passing Hanbury Hall (National Trust).

Distance: 7 miles (including walk around the outside of Hanbury Church).

Map Hanbury Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Worcestershire and Birmingham Canal at Hanbury Gateway Park

Hanbury Hall, National Trust house in Worcestershire

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Details of the route : Hanbury Circular Walk (Worcestershire County Council).

Redditch Dinosaur Walk

February 6th, 2021

This is a walk starting at Morton Stanley Park walking around local roads in the Redditch area. If you map your route using a GPS then it will be trace the image of a dinosaur.

Distance: 6.2 miles

Map of Redditch dinosaur walk - click for larger version
Click map for larger version

Redditch Dinosaur Walk

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

This route is based on an existing route, unfortunately I don’t know the original creator to give appropriate credit.

Morton Stanley Park to Elcock’s Brook and Ham Green, Walk in Redditch

January 23rd, 2021

A walk through local paths including parts of the Monarch’s way. This walk has some challenges in terms of difficult stiles and can get very muddy. In some places I had to take an alternative route due to flooding of the path.

Distance: 5.2 miles
Terrain: Footpaths. Includes difficult terrain, stiles and may be very muddy.

Map of the Morton Stanley Park to Elcock’s Brook and Ham Green, Walk in Redditch
Click map for a larger version

Photo on Morton Stanley Park to Elcock’s Brook and Ham Green, Walk in Redditch

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Raspberry Pi Pico on YouTube #Shorts

January 23rd, 2021

I’ve now created my first YouTube #Shorts.

It’s a quick demonstration of the Raspberry Pi Pico switching a large load through a darlington Transistor.

I’ve also created a standard video on the Raspberry Pi Pico and how to get started using MicroPython here:

This video is based around the Transistor switch and darlington driver video but I had already published that video before the Raspberry Pi Pico came out.

What are YouTube #Shorts

YouTube shorts are very short videos, created in portrait mode designed to be very short. Does that sound familiar? It’s essentially YouTube’s version of TikTok.
These are often raw footage videos. Some people may just want to create shorts, but in my case I think they may be useful to show simple clips of my projects to be followed up by full Videos or write-ups on my website.

It will be interesting to see how YouTube develops these further.

More YouTube Shorts

I’ve created a second short as a preview of my Raspberry Pi Pico Voltmeter project:

Twitter Status - follow stewartwatkiss


UK days out, children and holiday information is also available on the Days Out Diary web site
Linux, LPI and the Quiz / Test Program posts are also available on the Penguin Tutor website
First Aid Information, first aid games and first aid practice test / quiz entries are also available on the First Aid Quiz Web site