Toddington to Winchcombe on the GWR

That’s the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, in case you were wondering – not the Great Western Railway, though this 12-mile stretch of restored track between Toddington and Cheltenham certainly makes you feel as though you’re back in the heyday of the former GWR. It proved the perfect Cotswolds destination for meeting up with my dad for a sedate afternoon out, and our afternoon began with lunch at the Gardeners Arms, a quaint thatched pub in nearby Alderton.

IMG_0385

We both had lasagne and red wine – always a winning combination – and we went for the small portion, which was actually just the right size!

IMG_0384

From there we made our way to Toddington, which is the headquarters for the GWR. There’s lots to see here, so we had plenty to occupy us with an hour or so to wait for the next steam train. You don’t pay to get into all the museum bits; you only pay to ride on the train (though you can leave donations in the museum parts). The first thing we did was to check out the locomotive viewing area before the rain moved in. This is one of the beautifully restored ones…

IMG_0386

…while others were still in an unrestored state, a condition I would describe as ‘tantalisingly decaying’. I find the unrestored ones almost more interesting and intriguing than the ones that have been restored to their former glory – I love the thought that they’ve just been left like that since the last time they were used, as it feels like more of a tangible link to the past (incidentally, I feel the same way about old houses, vehicles, furniture – everything old really).

IMG_0387

So, bearing in mind my love for unrestored artifacts, you can imagine how I felt about this fantastic old railway building and its treasure trove of old objects such as tins, games and signs. You could spend ages in that room looking at the wonderful collection of things inside.

IMG_0388

I had no idea that tiddleywinks was such an old game!

IMG_0389

Old trolleys, presumably those used to help passengers with their luggage.

IMG_0390

In an old railway carriage, we found a small shop/museum which worked by honesty box (I love that there are still places where that’s how things are done). We enjoyed looking through these old Ordnance Survey maps, and Pa bought a couple – Birmingham area for me, and a Frome area one for him and Ma.

IMG_0391

This was another part of this carriage, which had lots of old railway signs and posters on the walls.

IMG_0392

We crossed the bridge to the other side of the platform just as the steam train had arrived.

IMG_0393

This is the view in the other direction – lovely views of the Cotswolds all around. The line was once part of the same stretch of track that the Stratford Greenway is now made from.

IMG_0394

IMG_0395

We stopped to watch the train being filled with water with this original water crane, which came to Toddington from Aberystwyth when Toddington was being restored. As well as the amazing sound, the smell of the steam train was wonderful – something I’d not noticed before!

IMG_0396

I was really impressed to learn that everyone on the railway is a volunteer – the train drivers, cafe staff, guardsmen – everyone.

IMG_0397

In another building on Platform 2 was another treasure trove of historic artifacts. I absolutely love old tins and packaging, and lament most bitterly how ugly everything has become these days compared with how nicely designed things were a hundred years ago.

IMG_0398

IMG_0399

Having finished our exploration of Toddington, it was time to board the train. I loved the old-fashioned tickets!

IMG_0400

It cost £10 each for a return to Winchcombe – a ten-minute journey – but you can go all the way to Cheltenham Racecourse for £16 return.

IMG_0401

The track takes you past some rather marvellous medieval ridge and furrow.

IMG_0402

And this is Winchcombe, where we had a very civilised afternoon tea/ice cream sitting on the platform, which we had pretty much to ourselves – and the sun had finally come out.

IMG_0403

Amazingly, there was virtually nothing left of Winchcombe station when it was rebuilt. The main station building, though very similar to what was there before, came from somewhere else entirely (Monmouth, I seem to recall), and it was rebuilt brick by brick here.

IMG_0404

Yet more gorgeous Cotswolds views surround this small but perfectly formed station.

IMG_0405

Looking at a scene like this, one is reminded of the fact that train travel these days just doesn’t have the romance it once did.

IMG_0406

We had time for a brief walk out of the station before our return train, and you can just glimpse the tracks disappearing into a railway tunnel in this picture.

IMG_0407

Our locomotive was attached backwards for the return journey!

IMG_0408

There are plans afoot to extend this stretch of track up to Broadway, and possibly even further, in the future. Next time I’d like to go the full length between Toddington and Cheltenham, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to go all the way from Stratford on this scenic route! If you’re interested in visiting, you can find more information on the GWR website.

2 Comments on Toddington to Winchcombe on the GWR

  1. MonaM
    July 12, 2015 at 9:53 pm (4 years ago)

    This is definitely the stuff of story books! Your photos are so clear and beautiful and certainly prove otherwise though. My four must see places in your neighborhood are The Cotswolds, Stonehenge, The Isle of Anglesey (due to the old name!! and the connection to the druids is certainly a romantic one :) )and of course The Orkneys, where a good part of my genes come from.

    • Rachel McCombie
      July 13, 2015 at 10:01 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you for your kind words about my photographs! The Cotswolds are, in my opinion, England at its best. Stonehenge is very near where I grew up, and definitely worth seeing once. Never been to Anglesey or the Orkneys, but they’re on my list of places to visit too!