Hampshire's heritage railway line

Posted on August 18, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

No, I am not a trainspotter! Sadly, I don't have the knowledgeable nor am I geeky enough to be one. However, I have always loved trains, especially the heritage ones and whenever possible, I would choose trains over planes as a mode of transport. I think it is a shame that many people nowadays would seek the quickest and cheapest options to travel, yet these journeys can be so stressful that you would probably another holiday to recuperate! The longest train journey I took was from Los Angeles to Portland via Amtrak's Coast Starlight which lasted 29 hours in total, a daunting thought to many but it was the most memorable ride that I have ever taken.

In UK, train travel is overpriced and often not very pleasant. Michael Portillo's BBC documentary series Great British railway journeys are delightful but in reality, commuters would often have to experience delays, chaos, overcrowded coaches, disgusting or blocked toilets... not to mention the high prices. It is no wonder that many Brits would rather get cheap flights to Europe than to take the trains and travel within the UK. Former Guardian journalist Matthew Engel's light-hearted book, "Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain" somehow reveals a more realistic account of the British railways.

 

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New Alresford station 

 

Heritage railway though, is a different matter. I have never taken a heritage train in the UK before, so I was quite thrilled when my friend who lives in Hampshire suggested a visit to the railway stations that serve Hampshire's heritage railway line, Watercress line.

We first visited the New Alresford station, which opened in 1865 for the new Alton, Alresford and Winchester Railway and later became the Mid-Hants Railway. Since watercress has always grown wild in the chalk streams and ditches in and around Alresford, the opening of the station meant that watercress could be transported to London and the Midlands within a day. And even today, Hampshire is still the main producing area in the country and for the last ten years, an annual Watercress festival would take place in Alresford, attracting many locals and visitors from far .

The nostalgic-looking station has been wonderfully restored, and being there made me feel as if I have been transported back in time. Just as I was getting excited, my friend assured me that the best was yet to come...

 

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Ropley station where you will find Thomas the tank engine and the famous King's Cross footbridge, Handyside Bridge

 

We left Alresford and headed towards the nearby Ropley station, which also opened in 1865. The main locomotive shed and workshops for the Mid Hants Railway are located here and so you can get up close to the locomotives (including Thomas!) and see preservation in action. Another attraction here is the famous iron wrought Handyside bridge at King's Cross station, that featured in the Harry Potter films. Due to the redevelopment of the station, the the Grade 1 listed structure was donated to Ropley station in 2011. The bridge fits in well at its new home, and it provides a premium vantage point of the beautiful South downs.

 

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New Alresford - Main: The 13th century riverside Fulling Mill Cottage; Bottom left: The Grade II listed Old fire station; Bottom right: Another historical timber and brick house

 

Sadly, my short trip in Hampshire had to come to an end but I am sure I will be back again very soon.

 

 


This post was posted in Architecture, Travel, Britain, Architectural conservation, Transport, British heritage and was tagged with British design, heritage, Architectural conservation, Hampshire, trains

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