I’ve mentioned before about our attachment to the Watercress Line in Hampshire. Daddy P used to take his Dad there for their War Days events. I grew up in Farnham, so this was our local heritage line. We’ve taken Monkey a few times now, and seeing Bittern there last year before it went into refurb was a highlight for all of us. Last Sunday we returned and spent a day enjoying the Wizard Express on The Watercress Line.
The Watercress Line runs between Alton and Alresford, in Hampshire and was originally built in the 1860’s. It gets its nickname from the Watercress that used to be transported to London, you can still see it growing in waterbeds along the line if you are eagle-eyed (Daddy P is our spotter). We headed down to Alresford to experience the hocus pocus of the weekend before Halloween. Monkey even wore his wizard hat for some of the day!
There are large pay and display car parks at both Alresford and Alton, and it’s actually free to park at the Alresford one on Sundays. Enjoying the Wizard Express on The Watercress Line meant that we could hop on and off along the line as often as we liked for the day, and enjoy free activities along the way. We’d stopped at Alton, Alresford and Ropley on previous visits, but had never alighted at Medstead and Four Marks before.
We always like to make the most of our trips, so ensured we arrived with plenty of time to catch the first train of the day. These events always get busier as the day progresses, so it’s nice to start the day with plenty of space to see the locos arrive. It takes us nearly an hour and half to reach the line, so a coffee stop in the West Country Buffet is always a good start to the day. Their drinks, snacks and meals are reasonably priced and Monkey couldn’t resist a Pumpkin cake to get him in the mood for the day’s adventures. Cake and Wizard Trail sheet in hand we boarded the Wizard Express.
Ropley is always a great station to explore on the Watercress Line. The station itself is set in the period of the late 1940’s and includes a Restoration trail, with engine sheds, the famous Handyside Bridge (Harry Potter fans take note) as well as a Miniature Railway. Where to start? Not only did we have all this to look at, but as part of the Wizard Weekend there were owls and birds of prey to admire and broomsticks to be purchased.
We had plenty to keep us entertained, Monkey spent some of his pocket money on a broomstick and decided it was a much better accessory for the day, than his hat. He also got to make a spider pencil sharpener for free. You could hold an owl for a small fee, but Monkey was happier standing on the sidelines. A ride on the miniature railway is always a must for my two. Again, it’s free and the kids were all given a treat, but we always put a little something in their donation box.
Enjoying the Wizard Express on The Watercress Line also included a trail along the stations. Monkey had to spot different things at each station along the way. There were also family tours arranged throughout the day, we’d have loved to join one of these but we just couldn’t fit it in with everything else we were enjoying. Another time. It’s also worth noting that there are plenty of picnic benches to be found at Ropley, along with a play area and food/drinks kiosk. There was even a magic show.
On we headed to Medstead and Four Marks in search of famous witches which were doted around on both sides of the station. Monkey loved this activity. It’s a very small station but Daddy P was impressed to learn that it’s the highest in Southern England (192 metres). They’ve also got some great topiary there to keep the kids amused.
We had a quick stop at Alton and watched the loco change from one end of the train to the other before headed back down the line to Alresford and an encounter with stick insects and a chameleon. Monkey was amazed to learn that Gramps used to breed them when I was his age (stick insects that is, we never got into reptiles!).
We’d had an action packed day enjoying the Wizard Express on The Watercress Line, but the real stars of the show were the two Wizard Express locos which worked hard all day to keep everyone happy. Beautiful machines. The stations along the way also make this a very special line. It’s a family favourite.
Pop over to the Watercress Line website for latest event news, opening times and prices. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. I know we’ll be back again soon. Have you been before? Perhaps you’d like to pin it for later if not?