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If you live anywhere near Winchester, then you’re sure to have heard about the Watercress Line, and their Thomas the Tank Engine days out.
We’d never been before, so in proper Light style, we planned to turn up at 10 am, have a steam train ride to Alton, then back for lunch to then enjoy some Thomas and friend’s shenanigans. Due to errr….unforeseen family stuff (the kids running up and down our road with no shoes on pretending to be trains then arguing with us that trains don’t need to sit in car seats) we managed to get there for midday.
The Price is Right
Okay, so confession time from me. We got complimentary tickets due to my other blog, and while my first thoughts were that I’d never pay for a family ticket myself (it will set you back around £54) I soon changed my mind.
Now, I’m a right tight ass as most of you know, but it soon became clear that if we got there a darn sight earlier, this would of in fact been a whole day out.
As soon as the girls saw the steam engine that was going to take them to Thomas, they went crazy. They loved getting on the old train, waving as it passed others, and filling out their little red books they were given at the start.
I can’t directly blame parking on our lateness but it didn’t help.
If you get there early then the best place to park is at Alresford station. The parking is just £1.50 for over 4 hours.
We ended up parking at Perins School level one, which again only cost as £1.50 for the day, which to me is a bargain!
Get There Early
I was the fool who said that it wouldn’t be an all day thing. It really is!
By the time we got there, it was lunch time, so we rode the train to Ropley and sat at the top of a stunning hill eat our picnic and watched Thomas and Diesel steamed past.
The kids were enthralled!
We ended up watching them for half an hour until they couldn’t contain their excitement anymore and we went down to ride them.
As it was later in the day, we didn’t have to queue and jumped straight on both. They only travel up and down Ropley station, but to be honest, that’s enough time to blow a toddler’s mind.
Plan to Stay the Whole Day
Once you’ve bought your tickets, you can ride the trains all day at will. To go from Alresford to Alton takes about 45 minutes, which we wanted to do, but the kids were already getting restless.
We went as far as Medstead, then hopped on the returning train.
The good thing is, that, you’re never waiting at one station too long for a train. While the kids visited the facilities (again, I sent Matt this time) I sat on a bench chatting to one of the guards.
Everyone who works there is so dedicated and very knowledgeable. Nothing was a stupid question and to him, all he wanted was for people to enjoy the trains. That’s it.
What we loved the most was that once you’ve paid, everything else is free.
There was a very funny kids entertainer who happily stopped throughout the day to say hi and take pictures.
The Fat Controller paraded Ropley Station and was a real pleasure to chat too.
There’s a fab miniature railway that the kids can ride on, plus a bouncy castle slide and unlimited goes on the Tea Cup ride, which impressed the Eldest.
We didn’t get time to visit the Imagination Stations but were told that they host DVD shows, and Thomas play sets for the kids if everything gets a bit much.
Bulgy the Bus, Trevor the Traction Engine and Rocky the Breakdown Crane were all there, and were a great fun addition.
Due to our bad time keeping, we only got to travel on Thomas and Diesel once, but your ticket gets you unlimited rides on all the trains.
Check Out the Map
This is something we did do. Plan your day wisely, or like us, it will just go! We ended up spending five hours there and still didn’t get to do everything.
Ok, some of that included a picnic and a cheeky ice cream, but hey, a family’s got to eat right?
Talking about food, there are loads of places to eat that are reasonable. We just had a picnic because my kids are fussy, but there was a great smelling burger stand and café, and that was what I spotted without even really looking.
Toilets are a plenty. Mine even managed to squeeze a wee out on Thomas, which they thought was funny. (Something about weeing on Thomas?!)
Every station had a loo, which is good when you’re only on day 7 of potty training (very stupid) and accessibility for wheelchairs and buggies.
We didn’t bother taking the buggy, but many were left safely on the platforms, in a kind of buggy area.
Well, we had a fab day.
Would I have paid £54 myself to go?
Yes, as a treat.
We all loved it and seeing the kids faces light up when they saw Thomas and then got to ride on him was priceless.