Sunday 14 August 2022

A Day out with Thomas at The Watercress Line

(Complimentary tickets for the purpose of review - see disclaimer)

We've been looking forward to A Day out with Thomas all year and couldn't wait to take the four-year-old back to The Watercress Line. We first visited in 2019 and it was that visit that really sparked his interest in trains - it has been wonderful watching his passion grow over the years, I just knew we would have the best day.

The Watercress Line holds a number of events throughout the year at their heritage railway line and A Day out with Thomas is one of their most popular. It runs twice yearly during the Easter and Summer holidays so if you miss one, you can always catch the other.

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 once again.

I was a huge Thomas fan when I was younger just as J 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, it's a pretty easy journey up to the line - we parked in Ropley this time as the bulk of the activities were all taking place there. Parking is free and just a five-minute walk up a country lane to the station. 

As you arrive at Ropley, you are greeted by a vintage traction engine which was beautiful. In fact, the entire station was beautiful, filled with flowers, vintage signs and the most helpful staff. As you walk in to get your tickets checked, children are handed their Passport to Adventure full of games and activities and a fact sheet with what's happening during the day. Each child also gets a fun pack with crayons to take away with them - it's all so well thought out. 

All of this is included in your ticket price for the day along with all the activities at each station and unlimited journeys on Thomas. The most common question I've been asked is if it's worth the money 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 run by volunteers and they do a wonderful job. The cost definitely reflects what you get on the day and it completely exceeded expectations.

It's going to be one of our yearly days out for as long as the children are interested in Thomas.

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 get coffee before deciding on what to do first. We brought a picnic with us but there were places to get food along with a vintage coffee and ice cream van selling real jersey cream ice cream - delicious! 

Last time we visited we took the stroller with us as J was only two so we knew it was super accessible with a buggy park and help across the tracks - perfect with E in the pushchair. The buggy park at Ropley Station is 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!

There was so much going on for all the family - you can take a train ride with Thomas, meet some of your children's favourite characters and join Sodor Station Sweepers Rusty & Dusty for a trainload of excitement! New for 2022 there was a guest appearance from Percy, Three Rusty & Dusty outdoor entertainment shows with Sir Topham Hatt, Percy, Diesel and Toad as well as face painting, a miniature train to ride and the Imagination Station play zones with Thomas & Friends activities at Ropley and Alton.

Sir Topham Hatt stood talking to J for the longest time, patiently answering each of his questions and was just such a joy to speak to - he made a little boy very happy. 

The play park was new to us and somewhere the four-year-old spent so much time, it was hard to get him off of the climbing frame as he made new friends and pretended to be different trains with them. He had the best time and it's such a great addition to the railway station - he's still asking about it now. 

No day out is complete without a trip to the gift shop and there was so much to choose from. J came away with a wooden Spencer while E picked out her very first Thomas the Tank Engine. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at The Watercress Line once again, there wasn't ever much of a wait for activities or to get on the train and it wasn't crazy busy considering it's the summer holidays - probably because it was super hot and people seemed to peel away quite early. 

We even found a free bench right at lunchtime in the shade. 

The Thomas love is still firmly intact and we've played various games with his track since our day out - I adore how much he loves Thomas and little E is starting to roll trains along too. 

While A Day Out with Thomas is over there are plenty of other events taking place throughout the Autumn at The Watercress Line - keep an eye out for the Autumn Steam Gala, Wizard Week and Steam Illuminations. 

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