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.
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!
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…
…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).
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.
I had no idea that tiddleywinks was such an old game!
Old trolleys, presumably those used to help passengers with their luggage.
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.
This was another part of this carriage, which had lots of old railway signs and posters on the walls.
We crossed the bridge to the other side of the platform just as the steam train had arrived.
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.
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!
I was really impressed to learn that everyone on the railway is a volunteer – the train drivers, cafe staff, guardsmen – everyone.
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.
Having finished our exploration of Toddington, it was time to board the train. I loved the old-fashioned tickets!
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.
The track takes you past some rather marvellous medieval ridge and furrow.
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.
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.
Yet more gorgeous Cotswolds views surround this small but perfectly formed station.
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.
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.
Our locomotive was attached backwards for the return journey!
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.