Dear Mummy, we were invited down to the Watercress Line in Hampshire to spend a day with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. Nothings better than working on the railway, we had a spring in our step while whistling a happy tune!
I think my folks were more excited than I was! You see my folks grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine so the idea of seeing him and the Fat Controller in a real setting was a massive draw. The event was on for 10 days during the Easter holidays and part of several special events that happen across the year on the Watercress Line. The Halloween events (Harry Potter themed) and meeting Father Christmas on the railway are also very popular.
The Watercress Line is the marketing name of the Mid Hants Railway, a heritage railway in Hampshire, running 10 miles from Alresford (near Winchester) to Alton where it connects to the National Rail network. The line gained its popular name in the days that it was used to transport locally grown watercress to markets in London. The railway currently operates regular scheduled services, along with dining trains, real ale trains and numerous special events throughout the year.
The highlight of the Watercress Line were the steam locomotives. But the setting is also very beautiful. Old fashioned platforms like something out of Harry Potter or Downton Abbey really transported us back to the golden age of steam. Staff were doned in traditional uniforms and we even saw a bobby on the beat in dress uniform.
As well as the two main stations, Alton and Alresford, the railway also has two other stations in between, one at Ropley, where the main locomotive shed and workshops are located, and the other jointly serving the villages of Medstead & Four Marks. The section of line between these two intermediate stations is known as the ‘Alps’, due its steep gradients.
We set off from Ropley as that’s where the free car park is located in a large field next to the station. It’s a perfect base for families as there are lots of facilities there. We were greeted by friendly staff waving flags and ticket masters who gave us our stickers and timetables.
Entrance to the Watercress Line was £18 for an adult, £12 for a child (age 2 – 16 yrs), £54 for a family (2A+2C) and children under 2 yrs were free. There was a wealth of things to do once we got there.
There were so many highlights of our day on the Watercress Line. We had the opportunity to meet the real Thomas the Tank Engine as he chugged down the tracks. See our video
I had my passport stamped by The Fat Controller and took part in free Thomas The Tank Engine themed activities in the Imagination Station. I enjoyed colouring in and listening to stories. I even earned myself a A Day Out With Thomas certificate to take home and cherish. There was a children’s entertainer who was very funny and played magic tricks on people and had us all rolling with laughter.
At Ropely Station my eyes popped out of my head when I saw all the free rides like the Bouncy Slide and the Tea Cup ride and I also enjoyed riding on the Miniature railway. There was a fab cafe and a burger van where we could get hot tea and ice creams.
But the best bit was the unlimited rides behind Thomas the Tank Engine and Toad the Brake Van. Thomas gave short rides at Ropley Station chugging back and forth up and down the platform. When I wasn’t riding the trains I loved watching them race up and down the platform. Every 45 minutes the steam trains would also stop at Ropley station. Nearly every train had a large moon face from the Thomas the Tank Engine show.
We had the opportunity to ride on the BIG steam locomotives for free which spanned the whole line and took a trip from Ropley to Alresford and back to Ropley onto to Alton. It was really strange seeing old trains pass new ones at Alton where we met the National Rail Lines! I enjoyed my picnic lunch on board, while my folks had a drink from the onboard bar. The trains ran approximately every 45 minutes from 9:45am to 4:45pm and we could have spent all day just sitting on the trains it was so relaxing.
We watched all the beautiful scenery whizz past, stunning yellow rapeseed fields and rolling green hills with little houses dotted on them. The seats were old-fashioned and very springy and the carriages were immaculate and clean. Brass sparkled on window latches and clean air and bright sunshine filtered through our carriage windows. We sung and played games on our journey up and down the track and never once did I appear bored. My daddy even managed a snooze as the carriage gently rocked him to sleep.
Even though I’ve never shown interest in visiting a railway before I certainly will want to again in the future. We all had a fab time and two weeks later I am still talking about it. We made some wonderful memories together as a family.
Love Bella x
Disclaimer: We were gifted our tickets for the purpose of this review, however all words are our own.