Day trip from London – Steam training in Jane Austen country

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Does it get more quintessentially English than steam training in the countryside and village pub lunches?

We took a trip on the Watercress Line from Alton to Alresford via Ropley in the postcard pretty  county of Hampshire, about an hour and half drive from central London.

You can also easily get there by modern train with departures from Waterloo to Alton taking just over an hour.

Steam train in Hampshire

Station Master's door - Steam train day out - Hampshire

The Watercress Line

We boarded the heritage steam train at Alton for the 10 mile journey to Alresford on the Watercress Line – named for its involvement in transporting watercress grown in Alresford to London.

This is the area where Jane Austen lived and the countryside there is exactly as you imagine it from reading her novels. Rolling green hills are dotted by quaint villages with stone houses, hedgerows and the odd Georgian mansion.

The only things missing were gentlemen on horseback and ladies in white muslin dresses.

Watercress Line steam train

The train carriages are from a bygone era and add to the atmosphere as the steam engine winds along the tracks. The kids loved sticking their heads out the carriage to see the steam floating overhead and the sound of the horn blowing.

The train stops at Ropley and Medstead & Four Marks on its 40 minute journey to Alresford. There is lots to see and do at these towns and their stations including country walks and viewing the rolling stock restoration efforts. The Watercress Line volunteers are on hand to answer any questions.

An English pub lunch

We didn’t have time to do much of that though as we had hungry toddlers to feed! I was glad I had done my research as we took a short walk away from Alresford towards the Cricketers Arms. Here you will find a wonderful children’s playground where the kids could let off steam (sorry!).

The pub serves a delicious traditional Sunday roast lunch with  plenty of options for the kids. The staff were extremely accommodating and we enjoyed a leisurely meal before heading back over the hill to catch the train back to Alton.

The Cricketers Arms - Alresford
The Cricketers Arms – Alresford

All in all it was a lovely day out in the countryside with the added interest of the steam train. There are plenty of fun activities to keep families of all ages occupied in this part of England.

If you are a Jane Austen obsessive you could even do a self guided walking tour from Alton to Chawton, the village Jane lived in, following the Jane Austen Trail.

Throughout the year there are many special events showcasing the railway including Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine and Santa/Christmas themed days. It’s worth checking their website for upcoming events.

More day trips from London

A day out on the trail of Jane Austen
Day trips from London – Hampton Court Palace
Family day trip from London – Whitstable

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Steam trains and pub lunches in Jane Austen country










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