Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Christmas on the Lavender Line
After a bit of an argument with the Bluebell Railway in which a free family ticket was offered, but the word "sorry" was not, we've decided not to hurry back there. On the spur of the moment I decided we'd give the Lavender Line a try instead. We've visited there once before when Hayley was a newborn, but not since. Unlike the Bluebell Railway and others, it's very small, has no impressive steam trains, has only one small and partially open carriage, and runs straight up a mile long line and back again.
Ok, that didn't sell it to you at all did it? Perhaps the following will!
I rang them up while the kids were still at French to find out if I needed to pre-book Santa train tickets or if we could just turn up. Just turn up I was told. So when the kids got home we set off for Islfield.
When we arrived we were greeted by a very jolly station master, an oversized blow up Santa and snowman. The kids were captivated immediately. We went to have a look at the model railway before we bought out tickets (having realised that there was only 1 other family there and tickets were unlikely to be sold out any time soon!). The model railway is FAB! And it's free, so the kids got to watch it for as long as they wanted to.
After that we saw Santa and I tell you what, that visit alone was worth the price of the tickets. He spent ages chatting to them, "writing" down their answers in his little notebook, and generally paying lots of attention to them. Even Hayley was won over enough to utter the odd single word in response to him. The gifts the kids received were really appropriate for them and much nicer than we've received on other railways, if that doesn't make me sound too consumerist.
They'd also made an effort to make the station all Christmassy, which I appreciated. They played tasteful Christmas music, mostly hymns and had really pretty lights strung up.
After all that we went for a couple of rides on the train. Like I said, nothing special, but a mile long open carriage ride on a tiny steam railway has it's advantages!
Firstly, there was a lovely coal fire in the carriage to keep us warm.
Secondly, the kids got to wave the guard's flag for the driver.
Thirdly, a mile isn't enough time to get bored, because let's face it, once you're in the carriage on the more sophisticated steam trains, you're bascially on a train and there's not a lot to see or do.
Fourthly, the people are all so friendly and go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and to enjoy the experience as much as they can. The kids got to go onto the engine and learn how it all works, which they loved.
So all in all I can definitely say we'll be back. And we'll have to fit in a summertime trip or 2 inbetween this Christmas and next because the kids could easily spend a few hours there between the playground, model railway and train ride.