Ian Waller and his family enjoy riding the rails with a half term visit to Avon Valley Railway
While a visit to Avon Valley Railway is nothing new for our family – we’re big fans of the place and the many events that they put on throughout the year – this half term trip was given an extra element by leaving the car at home and taking the bus instead, with the 37 from Bath pulling up just outside our destination. It’s funny how a little change like this to the usual routine gave a trip out an extra touch of excitement for my children, aged six, nine and 11, with all three enjoying the relative novelty of the journey in a way that we adults can find difficult to fathom.
Once at Avon Valley, we picked up our tickets for the train rides and, with a 20 minutes or so to wait, enjoyed a quick tour of the platform and souvenir shop. Then, bang on time – insert your own joke here – the heritage diesel pulled in to disgorge one set of passengers and pick up some new excited travellers.
Avon Valley Railway is one a very few volunteer run railways in the south west still giving rides to paying visitors, in wonderfully restored steam and diesel locomotives pulling aptly period carriages. This week it’s all diesels and in all honesty, the three miles of track is eaten up pretty quickly, but still with enough time for the children to ask about train travel of the past and to be entertained with stories of their granddad’s shenanigans when he used to ride the rails each day to school from Saltford to Bath.
There is something uniquely romantic and exciting about railway travel, even if it just a few miles close to home, and on the return trip to the station, tales of ghost trains and Sherlock Holmes were soon discussed in an excited way.
Back at the station, there was welcome return to the excellent cafe – of course housed in an old railway carriage – with a healthy lunch of everything and chips that comes as part of a half-term treat.
With lunch devoured and a second trip on the trains soon following, it was then time to hit the small play area next to the station to run off some energy with a game of dodgeball and tickle chase.
In all honesty, while the half term trains at Avon Valley is a great chance for a nostalgic journey back in time, this is one of the very few activities here that doesn’t offer a lot alongside the train ride to keep the children entertained. For that I recommend events such as the Family Fun with Paddington experience and the Easter Egg Trail, taking place in May and April respectively. But as part of a longer day out – perhaps a bike ride to Bristol, with the cycle track passing right through the station – it’s cracking way to spend a few hours.
Oh, and one top tip – if you take along the voucher on p45 of the Jan/Feb issue of The Bath & Wiltshire Parent, children ride for free!