Life in Miniature

Stuart and Penny Dyer own and run Godshill Model Village — complete with an RHS — anointed garden and a tiny selfie-friendly model of TV legend John Craven

Who created the Model Village?

It was started in 1952, but fell into disrepair until Penny’s father, Robin Thwaites, bought it in 1969. He carried out an enormous amount of work on it and created something really special. We then bought it from him in 2004 and have been running it ever since. We have a fantastic team here who return each year and our visitor numbers continue to grow. What captures people’s imaginations is the mixture of nostalgia and whimsy — model villages don’t take themselves too seriously and visiting one should be a fun trip down memory lane.

You are the only RHS Partner Garden on the Island. How does that work
in miniature?

Being an RHS Partner Garden means that we have opened up the Model Village to a different demographic, which is brilliant. We have a huge collection of manicured conifers and shrubs that are the envy of many a green-fingered visitor. For example, packed into the two-acre site, you will find niwaki-style sculptured trees, our favourite element in the Model Village. They offer year-round interest and structure — we sculpt them individually to create the right atmosphere to offset the models.

You both grew up here, so what’s your favourite part of the Island?

The coastline — we always gravitate towards the sea. At any time of the year, it offers a welcome antidote to whatever craziness is going on. Our days off are spent on long walks with our dogs, often combined with a visit to the lovely End of The Line Café in Freshwater. Another favourite spot is the landslip and Devil’s Chimney at Bonchurch, a scenic rock cleft with steps descending steeply between Bonchurch and Luccombe. The Pepperpot on St Catherine’s down is another great spot and offers amazing views across the Island. We are also both keen cyclists, so the West Wight area offers huge variety both on and off road — we always try and combine a cycle ride with a well-deserved cake stop, such as at Chessell Pottery Café.

You were featured on BBC One’s Countryfile. How was that for you?

Fantastic! Meeting childhood legend John Craven was great fun and he was the consummate professional. He loved our model of him and now our little John Craven is constantly being used for selfies by our visitors.