You may recall my recent preview post explaining what we’d be doing on Father’s Day this year. After the getting drenched on Saturday, we were keeping everything crossed that the weather would be better on Sunday so we could fully enjoy a day exploring War on the Line at the Watercress Line. The Hampshire heritage railway line is somewhere we all enjoy visiting, and I thought my nine-year-old son was just the right age to appreciate the WWII theme of this particular event. So we set off bright and early on Sunday and headed down the A34 to Alresford station to begin our adventure.
We’d been given complimentary tickets to this particular event, which runs over a weekend, but I knew that visiting of Father’s Day would mean that much more to Daddy P. It’s an event he used to take his own father to, and as a WWII veteran it was an event he always enjoyed. With the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings having recently taken place, it seemed like the perfect timing to spend time exploring War on the Line at the Watercress Line.
There was free parking available at Ropley station but we knew if we arrived early enough we would be able to get a space at Alresford station and that parking was free there on Sundays.
I’d never been to this type of event on a heritage railway before so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We arrived at Alresford station just as the ticket office was opening and could see a number of reenactors already in place. We were transported back to the 1940s and a day of fun awaited.
We were given a timetable which also gave us a clear indication of the events taking place at each station, an activity sheet for my son to complete and we each had our own identity card which we’d need during the day.
We had decided to take the first train of the day leaving Alresford at 10.30am and then get off at Ropley, explore everything there, before catching a train onto Medstead. We would then take the train back to Alresford to have a look around the various attractions there too. That would also give us time to catch at least one other train covering the entire line both ways during the day.
Although the line between Medstead and Alton is closed until the end of July, it really didn’t affect our enjoyment of the day at all. The shortened line journey was still a 35 minute journey time each way, and with all the entertainment going on at each station we had a very full day out.
My son was thrilled to be the first person sitting in our carriage on the first train of the day, but it wasn’t long before the train was packed. There was a lovely mix of ages as well as those dressed up for the day. The atmosphere was there right from the start and we knew instantly that we were going to have a memorable day out.
My son loved spotting all of the reenactors throughout the day and working out which country they were from.
At Ropley station we got to see a radio communications display and learn about unexploded bombs. I love the music of Glenn Miller so really enjoyed listening to the Wield Glenn Miller Tribute Band and watching the dancing. We got our Identification Cards stamped and my son learned all about rationing during the war. Everyone was so enthusiastic about telling their part of the story of WWII and we were all impressed with our time exploring War on the Line at the Watercress Line.
Having visited the Watercress a number of times with my son over the years, he knew that there was a miniature railway at Ropley station so there was no way he was going to miss out on a road on that as well. He was offered the chance to stand in the engine compartment, but as is so often the case with him, he wouldn’t take them up on the offer. The line has been extended since our last visit so he was even happier.
You can also visit the Make do and Mend activity area in the education room which also has a viewing area over the engine yard.
Medstead and Four Marks station is one we’ve not stopped off at before, so we were eager to explore this time around. It’s a much smaller station set up than the others on the Watercress Line, but we got to enjoy learning about the D-Day landings and listen to the vintage singers as we sat on a station bench. We got to see Ruth the Washer Woman in action, saw a stone crusher working and visited the ARP wardens.
We’d heard rumours that Winston Churchill was visiting War on the Line but we kept missing him. But we did get to hear the end of his rousing speech back at Alresford Station which was great timing. There was more singing and dancing to watch, we learned about radar, saw numerous weapons and got to meet the Russians!
Exploring War on the Line at the Watercress Line gave my son a chance to learn more about WWII and what life would have been like then. But the stars of the show for us were still the locomotives. My son was soon to be seen notebook in hand making a note of train numbers, names and classes. His camera was soon shooting videos and we just enjoyed looking at these marvellous machines in action.
There are picnic tables at all of the stations along the line as well as cafes at the stations themselves and a buffet car on the trains. The weather was kind enough for us to eat our picnic which we watched the trains steaming past. We also made use of a cream tea offer in the afternoon.
The theme of the event worked really well, the trains were busy because the event was well supported but we didn’t fail to get a seat on any of the trains we wanted to take. It’s no secret that we love our steam locomotives and the added history element worked perfectly for us. Everyone had made so much effort with their costumes and dress and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
For more information about the Watercress Line and events throughout the year pop over to their website.
disclosure: we were given complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest review