Days Out | The Watercress Line: Day Out With Thomas – Review

April 18, 2019

*Press trip: we were invited along to attend in exchange for a review.

Hampshire is always full of family friendly days out and events, especially during the school holidays! One event – Day Out With Thomas – takes place on the Watercress Line (also known as The Mid Hants Railway), which is Hampshire’s very own steam train line!

We loved seeing Thomas and his friends a few years ago and so we were really excited to see what was in store at this years event. We last visited Thomas and his friends in 2017 and I remember that Luke was a bit too young to fully appreciate some of the activities available. This meant that he had high hopes for his day out with Thomas this year and couldn’t wait to jump on the steam trains and explore. Plus, Luke now has a little brother to educate about Thomas the Tank Engine, so it was twice as exciting.

Thomas the Tank Engine at Ropley Station on the Watercress Line during their Day Out With Thomas Easter event. Read the full review at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

Day Out With Thomas Easter Event At The Watercress Line

Getting There

Normally we would have jumped on the train from Aldershot and headed to Alton, switching from our modern train to the steam train and taking that all the way to New Alresford. However, due to the station at Alton being closed, we decided to drive to Ropley and park in their free neighbouring field instead. If getting there by train is your only option, don’t panic, there is a replacement bus service in place, so no one has to miss out on their day out with Thomas! The parking at Ropley is free and is valid for the whole day, so if you live nearer to that side of the line, it may be worth travelling by car. You still get to ride the steam trains as many times as you like, so go crazy!

Ropley train station sign at the Watercress Line during their Day Out With Thomas Easter event. Read our full review of the event at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

Getting Your Tickets

One of the great things about the Day Out With Thomas event at The Watercress Line is that there is no need to book tickets in advance. You can turn up on the day, whatever time you wish between 10am and 5pm and purchase your tickets at the gate. However, you can also book in advance online if you prefer. There are loads of activities to do at the railway stations and all the activities are included in the price of your ticket. We were gifted a family ticket which is valid for two adults and two children, priced at £60. Admittedly it isn’t the cheapest family day out, but you do get unlimited rides on the steam trains, on Thomas, Diesel and Toad and on the miniature railway, as well as there being tonnes of activities for children of all ages.

Tulips at Ropley station on the Watercress Line during their Day Out With Thomas Easter event. Read our full review of the event at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk
Ropley train station sign at the Watercress Line during their Day Out With Thomas Easter event. Read our full review of the event at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

Most of the activities on offer take place at Ropley station.

Ropley is the biggest station and is extremely pretty with lots of spring tulips lining the grassy banks, colourful bunting and picnic tables aplenty. Getting around the station is really easy and accessible – great for families with pushchairs and those needing wheelchair access. The footbridge takes you from one platform to the other, with some stunning views of Hampshire’s countryside from the top. From the bridge you can also see the miniature railway disappearing behind the hedges to the right and straight ahead you can see the train tracks stretching on into the distance. If the bridge isn’t an option for you, a guard will come and open a walk way beneath the footbridge when the track is clear of trains. This is perfect for pushchair and wheelchair access.

Luke and I at Ropley station during the Watercress Line's Day Out With Thomas Easter event. Read full review at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk
Our Thomas and Friends tattoo from our Day Out With Thomas on the Watercress Line. Read our review at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

The first thing we did upon entry was get our special Thomas tattoos!

Last time we visited, Luke was too shy to get his temporary Thomas and Friends tattoo. This time however, with a bit of coaxing {mainly me rushing towards the stand telling him how excited I was to get mine} he warmed up to the idea and chose himself a classic Thomas the Tank Engine design. There are a collection of other Thomas characters to choose from – my sister chose Percy and I chose Emily.

Luke on the vintage fun fair rides at Day Out With Thomas on the Watercress Line. Read full review at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

We had lots of fun on the vintage fun fair rides!

Up on the grassy area near the picnic tables in Ropley, one of the first things you’ll see is the vintage swing ride. As mentioned earlier, everything inside the stations is free for children as it is included in the price of the ticket. That means that children have unlimited access to the rides! Parents are invited to lift their children into the seats and buckle them up safely. The ride then lasts about five minutes. Lots of children stayed seated for another ride or two, but there were plenty of seats and so lots of room for everyone. The rides weren’t particularly busy and we didn’t have to queue at all, which was great as Luke was thrilled the second he saw them.

Day Out With Thomas on the Watercress Line review. Read more at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk
The Rusty and Dusty show at Day Out With Thomas on the Watercress Line. Our family review. Read more at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

If you’re heading to Ropley, you can’t miss the Rusty and Dusty show!

Easily my favourite part of our day out was spent watching Rusty and Dusty’s show in the big marquee. There is lots of seating available for adults and children alike, but there’s also a big seating area at the front of the tent on the floor for the older/braver children. We all absolutely loved the show for a number of reasons but mainly because it was so funny. I loved the audience participation, it was like watching a pantomime! While Dusty was getting ready to throw {empty} cups of water over some unsuspecting grown ups in the audience, all the children screamed and called out for him to stop. Rusty and Dusty also had a new friend – a squid in a bottle of water. They told the children that the squid was very shy and they all needed to ask him very politely if he’d move for them. Of course the squid didn’t do anything…at least not until Rusty and Dusty were looking the other way. Luke found this sketch absolutely hilarious and I could hear him shouting and laughing hysterically at their act. Rusty and Dusty must have noted his enthusiasm as they asked for his name and had a little chat with him about their new squid friend, which was loads of fun for Luke and he was very chatty and engaged with the characters. The show also features sing-alongs that got the whole audience involved, even the adults.

The tent also forms a nice place to sit out of the breeze, which was perfect for getting Oscar out of his baby carrier and giving him some food to munch on. Other people had bought fresh pizzas from the stall next to the tent and were making good use of the seating available.

Day Out With Thomas at the Watercress Line review. Read more at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

There are plenty of food stalls dotted around selling all manners of treats – from sweets to pizzas.

I must say the pizzas looked really tempting, but we had bought along a picnic which we decided to tuck into outside the coolest café ever – The Cookie Bar. You might have seen me mention them on Instagram and I also raved about them when we visited The Watercress Line for their Wizard Weekend. The Cookie Bar does really good work in the community but also happens to be a renovated Routemaster bus with upstairs seating and an outside seating area. We found a nearby picnic table and settled down with our picnic and some hot drinks (and a milkshake) from The Cookie Bar.

Although there are lots of food stalls dotted around, I do think they’re quite pricey. But then food stalls always are at family events, so it is to be expected. We decided to save ourselves some money by taking a packed lunch with us and I saw that most other families had done this too. It was nice to still take advantage of the hot drinks available though as it was a little breezy outside.

There’s something magical about riding on the steam trains.

We visited a Day Out With Thomas on the third day of it running – we had wanted to go on the second but unfortunately life got in the way. It was a little less busy by Monday so I think that must have been our silver lining. I have visited at the very beginning of one of the Watercress Line events before and found the platforms do get very busy. That was a bit of a nightmare with a pushchair, but the Watercress Line do host some really great events so it is to be expected! The steam train does have a ramp to help pushchairs and wheelchairs get onto and off the train and the inside is very spacious. I’ve never been on one of the Watercress Line’s trains and not found a seat for me and my entire family before, the steam trains are definitely bigger than our modern day trains.

When you purchase your tickets, your children are given a passport each and a certificate which keeps them entertained when travelling on the trains. You can even get your certificate signed by The Fat Controller himself!

Day Out With Thomas on the Watercress Line review. Read more at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

We had a really fun day out on The Watercress Line for their Easter Day Out With Thomas event.

It was easy to get around with Oscar in a baby carrier, but it would have been easy if he were in a pushchair too. The trains are accessible, so getting from station to station with a pushchair or wheelchair is easy enough. There was a bit of a queue for the train carriage with the ramp – as far as I could see there was only one that was specifically there with a ramp for easier accessibility, but I may be mistaken as I wasn’t specifically looking out for them.

Luke loved that there was so much to do and the novelty of the unlimited access to the fairground rides definitely didn’t wear off for quite some time. Although we’ve visited the Watercress Line a few times, Luke’s never had a chance to ride on the actual, real life Thomas before, so he’s happy that he can now tell all his friends that he has! The Rusty and Dusty show was incredible and it was the real highlight of his day – he even had a moment of bravery and asked them both for a photo after their show. They were both so enthusiastic and stayed in character the whole time, making jokes and chatting to him about the show. They were really brilliant and engaging which was so lovely to see and made the whole experience even more magical for Luke.

As usual, the stations were impeccable with not a speck of litter in sight and the toilets were clean and well stocked. There are a loads of toilets dotted around and baby changing rooms. The baby change room at Ropley station in particular is very big and spacious. I’ve always found the staff at the Watercress Line’s events to be amazing; so friendly, helpful and most importantly, caring towards me and my family. I love that everyone at the Watercress Line endeavours to keep the magic of Thomas the Tank Engine alive and it really makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Thomas books and toys in the shop at the Watercress Line during their Day Out With Thomas Easter event. Read more at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

We had a great day out and can’t wait to go again when Oscar is a little older. Thank you Watercress Line for an amazing day out and some fantastic memories. Until next time…!

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Family event - Day Out With Thomas on the Watercress Line (Mid Hants Railway) review at https://lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

1 Comments

  • John Marshall

    April 25, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    I used to be Dusty’s bestist friend until that squid turned up and took the honour away from me, but I still want to say thank you for such a glowing review of Rusty & Dusty’s work, next time I am on Sodor I will ensure that they see it. I know that they put a lot of time and effort into creating a show that would be right for the event, so they will be very pleased to know that you think they achieved their aim. Thank you.

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