Friday 9 August 2019

A Day Out with Thomas at The Watercress Line

Visiting The Watercress Line has been something I've wanted to do for a long time. The first time we were invited I was heavily pregnant and Joshua was too young the second so third time lucky, we finally made it out to the historic railway line for their Day Out with Thomas event which takes place twice a year. 

Thomas the Tank Engine is such a classic, wholesome character that has been a hit with many for generations so I knew we'd have a wonderful time but the day totally surpassed my expectations. 

Day Out With Thomas is on until 11th August so you still have some time to take a visit yourself.

I was a huge Thomas fan when I was younger just as Joshua is now so it felt really special and quite nostalgic to be able to take my own son to see such a loved character. As we're based in Southampton, the nearest station to us was Alresford so that's where headed to park up for the day for just £1.50. There is free parking available at Ropley but we wanted to wander into Alresford after so it worked out perfectly for us especially as someone left as we arrived so we nabbed a spot straight away! There isn't tonnes of parking at Alresford so do keep that in mind but we found it pretty painless. 

As you arrive at Alresford, you are greeted by a vintage bus and a traction engine which was beautiful. In fact, the entire station was beautiful, filled with flowers, vintage signs and the most helpful of staff. As you walk in to get your tickets checked, children are handed their Passport to Adventure full of games and activities as well as a fact sheet with what's happening at each station, train times and amenities. Each child also gets a Junior Engineer Certificate which can be signed by The Fat Controller at Ropley Station. 

All of this is included in your ticket price for the day along with all the activities at each station and unlimited travel. The most common question I've been asked is if it's worth the money as a family ticket including two adults and two children retails at £60.00 and I 100% think it's worth the cost and would pay it in the future. I also think it's worth noting that The Watercress Line is a charity and run by volunteers. The cost definitely reflects what you get on the day and it completely exceeded expectations.

I can see this being somewhere we visit time and time again. 

We boarded the train at Arlesford through to Ropley, it was a short journey with beautiful views of the Hampshire countryside. Ropley Station is where the main bulk of the activities are as well as the star of the show, Thomas the Tank Engine. We were in no rush so had a little stroll around Ropley  Station and headed to The Cookie Bar for a coffee and vegan cake. The Cookie Bar is a converted 1963 Routemaster and you can even sit up on top deck to enjoy a slice of cake. It was such a great addition to the day, especially as we weren't that clued up on food and drink options before visiting. 

We decided to bring a picnic with us as we couldn't find much information on what was available other than the buffet restaurant at Arlesford but there was actually more options than we expected. As mentioned, Arlesford have a buffet restaurant serving up hot food and sandwiches plus picnic boxes for kids! At Ropley there's plenty of picnic space as well as a few food stalls. There was an American Barbecue pop up that smelt amazing and had we not brought a picnic with us, we would've headed straight there. I think we'd probably leave the picnic at home next time and eat at The Watercress Line as we were impressed with what was on offer especially as there was plenty of vegan, dairy and gluten free options. 

We took the stroller with us but Joshua walked most of the day so we used the buggy park at Ropley Station which was fab and full of space! They take your number, pop a tag on your pushchair and then you can leave it under cover for as long as you need. The tent is fully manned so I felt comfortable leaving non valuable items on the pushchair too. When you go and collect you just read your number back and that's it. Super safe and very handy! 

As mentioned, the majority of the activities take place at Ropley Station so this is where we spent most of our time. There's story time with Rusty & Dusty and The Fat Controller as well as a Rusty & Dusty entertainment and magic show. On platform one you can get the children's certificate signed by The Fat Controller and hop on the train for unlimited rides behind Thomas the Tank Engine. 

There's also plenty of Thomas themed activities, a miniature railway, story corner with dressing up and vintage fairground rides. Network Rail were also there giving away books on Rail Safety with Thomas which is a great way to teach them young. 

From Arlesford and Ropley you can catch the big trains that go through to Medstead and Four Marks where there's more Thomas themed activities and a Thomas Spotter Activity. We didn't go to this station as we ended up with showers for the rest of the afternoon but when we go again next year, which I really think we will, we'll probably start at Medstead and Four Marks then work our way back. 

After our picnic at Ropley and a little trip to the gift shop for something special for the little one, we caught the train back to Arlesford. There are gift shops at all of the stations and I'm kicking myself that I didn't buy a magnet! I was so focused on Thomas gifts for Joshua. 

Once back at Arlesford we hung around to see Diesel and Toad as you can get unlimited rides on the train and then had another nose around the station. I think Arlesford was my favourite as it was so beautiful and steeped in history. There are lots of fact boards around and a pretty tasty ice cream truck outside too. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at The Watercress Line, there wasn't ever a wait for activities or to get on the train and it wasn't crazy busy considering it's the summer holidays. We even found a free bench right on lunchtime. I was a little concerned before our day there that Joshua might be too young at 21 months but as soon as he saw Thomas, he shouted Thomas, smiled and waved. He really did have the best day and I know he'll only love it more in years to come. 

I don't think the Thomas love will be over for some time and I think it's all we'll be watching for weeks to come. 

Day Out with Thomas at The Watercress Line is running until August 11th, tickets are available online but there are also plenty available on the day.

Don't forget to share your images using #DayOutWithThomas and #WatercressLine

Press tickets were provided for the purpose of review - see disclaimer
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