Visiting the Mid-Hants Railway – Watercress Line

Watercress Line

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that Sebastian is train mad, particularly “steamies” as he loves Thomas the Tank Engine. For his godfather’s birthday I intended to take him and Sebby to “A day out with Thomas” on the Watercress Line, but sadly he was unwell at the time and this was the first opportunity when we could all get together.

We headed to Winchester to the picturesque town of Alresford in time to see the first train of the day at 11am. I thought that we would catch the steam train to Alton and come back again but didn’t realise that there was so much to do along the track.

The Mid Hants Railway is affectionately known as the ‘Watercress Line’ due to their connection with transporting watercress from the beds in Alresford all the way in to London and this heritage railway was saved from total extinction by a band of enthusiastic volunteers in 1973.  The railway currently runs the full 10 miles between the market towns of Alresford and Alton, preserving an important piece of the UK’s 1940’s – 70’s railway heritage for this generation and many more to follow.

We purchased a standard fayre which cost £40 for two adults and two children and gives you all day travel so you can make the most of your day riding the trains, exploring our stations and visiting the towns!

Watercress Line

The first part of our morning involved exploring the station and climbing on the bridge to watch the steam trains coming in. Sebastian was fascinated by the to-ing and fro-ing, although wasn’ t too sure at first at being covered in steam when the train went underneath.

Watercress Line

The staff are wonderful and are all kitted out in traditional uniforms. They are obviously very proud and knowledgable about both the line and the trains and were more than happy to share their knowledge with the kids both on and off the train. Sebby was so excited when we finally climbed aboard and waved to everyone and everything he saw.

The Watercress line operates a fleet of steam locomotives, most of them of the larger classes, as they are required to work hard to haul trains up and over the steeply graded line which runs through the stunning Hampshire countryside. On the day we visited they were running two trains and the first one we boarded was the SR West Country Class Wadebridge.

Watercress Line

Each station along the route is styled from the 40’s era and look stunning with beautiful flower beds and manicured hedges. There are four stations; Alresford, Ropley, Medstead & Four Marks and Alton. We decided to travel all the way to Alton on the way out and then got on and off the trains to explore each station on the way back.

Watercress Line

The station at Alton has small gift shop which has a working miniature railway that Sebastian didn’t want to leave, but we persuaded him back out with the promise of another ride on the real steam train, only this time we found the first class carriages and felt like students on the way to our first day at Hogwarts.

Watercress Line

Medstead & Four Marks station is the highest in Southern England.  It is a very small, pretty and peaceful station. The gardens are worth a visit and there is an interesting display of photos in the downside platform waiting room.  Medstead is the base for their Permanent Way and Signal & Telegraph Departments who tend to the track and signaling equipment, making sure the railway runs smoothly! It was between here and Ropley where the conductor told the kids a story all about a dog that belonged to one of the workers on the railway who was buried at the side of the track.

Ropley Station was our favourite though as it had the most to do for the kids with a large picnic area set in an orchard with lots of picnic tables and a climbing frame. I thoroughly enjoyed following in some famous footsteps by crossing the newly opened Kings Cross footbridge that featured in the Harry Potter films.

Ropley Station

Over the other side of the Handyside Bridge were and we could get up close to their current restoration projects. Sebastian was in his element at being so close to all these trains and Isaac asked lots of questions as some of the engines had been stripped right back to their shell.

Ropley Station

Also at Ropley station is a viewing platform over the engine workshop which also had a large photo display and lots of activities for the children, including colouring and dressing up. Back downstairs there was also a mock up of the Station Masters office to see too.

Ropley Station

There was so much to see and do we spent a good two hours at Ropley and over 5 hours on the Watercress Line as a whole and that was without exploring the local towns as we stopped.

Watercress Line

The second train we travelled on was the SR Lord Nelson Class, Lord Nelson, which looked more like the traditional steam engine I imagined.

Watercress Line

We enjoyed it so much we are planning visiting again either at Halloween for their Wizard Weekend or at Christmas for their Santa Special.

If you want to show your kids a piece of history that is fun at the same time, this is for you “Choo Choo!!”

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

17 thoughts on “Visiting the Mid-Hants Railway – Watercress Line

  1. Emma says:

    We did the Santa Special and one of the Thomas days on the Watercress line. It’s so lovely. xx
    Emma recently posted…What will you do with the extra hour?My Profile

  2. Jaime Oliver says:

    oh this looks like fun! Joshua is loving trains at the minute so this sounds like a super trip for us
    Jaime Oliver recently posted…Pregnancy Update – SeptemberMy Profile

  3. I love steam trains and it really looks like you all had a fabulous day out. I’ve never been to this particular line
    Abi – Angel Eden Blog recently posted…Make your own word game with Bostik!My Profile

  4. Gemma says:

    Riley loves trains so would love it here! We have a place similar local to us and they do special Santa days and Thomas the tank engine visits and it always goes down well with all the kids
    Gemma recently posted…Treasure BasketsMy Profile

  5. This looks like such a fabulous place and a great day out. I love the happy looks on the kids faces. I’d love to be able to squeeze in an visit while we are still around.
    Monika @mumonthebrink recently posted…Capturing memories in times of changeMy Profile

  6. Lauren says:

    What a great variety of things to see and do! We have a local railway that we’ve been to but I don’t think it offers nearly as much as this one does. Looks like Sebby really enjoyed himself 🙂
    Lauren recently posted…Living Arrows 39/52My Profile

  7. Jen says:

    It looks like you had a beautiful day for it. Steam trains are amazing, We have one near us that the boys love too
    Jen recently posted…Spider Web Cupcakes – cooking with kidsMy Profile

  8. I grew up not far from Alton so this was the steam train line of my childhood. We love it there and are back next month to wave goodbye to Bittern before it goes into overhaul as we love the A4 class (like Mallard). It’s going to be a surprise for Monkey as he is obsessed with them after our recent trip to York. Glad you had a good time. Their WW2 events are meant to be excellent too.
    Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One recently posted…Dinosaur hunting in Cambridge #CountryKidsMy Profile

  9. Erica Price says:

    I love steam railways too and I’m always keen to hear about a line we haven’t tried.
    Erica Price recently posted…Riverford Recipe BoxesMy Profile

  10. Sarah Bailey says:

    What an amazing sounding place, there is something wonderful about these stations that seem stuck in time. x
    Sarah Bailey recently posted…What does your desk say about you?My Profile

  11. Anne says:

    Oh I do love steam trains, this is definitely going on my bucket list. I have to do this trip.
    Anne recently posted…Miffy’s Adventures- Win a Sensory MiffyMy Profile

  12. Sonia says:

    This looks like such a fab day out, I have such find memories of doing things like this when I was little as my Dad is a massive train fanatic! I really need to find somewhere like this to take my little ones, they’d love it x
    Sonia recently posted…Instagram Weekly 21st-27th SeptemberMy Profile

  13. Coombe Mill says:

    Oh wow what an original birthday treat. Gorgeous photos and the kids all look captivated at every stage along the way. It looks like the olde style stations in the sunshine gave you plenty to look at and even a chance to hop off and explore the trains up close. I am already planning Halloween and Christmas on the train here, I can only imagine how much more fun it will be on a big steam train.
    Coombe Mill recently posted…Win My Little Pony Spooktacular Pony Tales DVDMy Profile

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