Trains and toddlers. The stuff of nightmares normally. For example, I’m writing this on the 4.30 home from Paddington right now, which is packed, full of raging people throwing passive aggressive chat at each other for taking their not actually reserved reserved seats. I need the loo possibly more than I ever have before. But I’ll press on. Toddlers LOVE trains.
A couple of weeks ago we decided to take proper family day out and visit the East Somerset Steam Railway. We set off early, full of enthusiasm, as let’s face it, by 9am you are RABID to leave the house if you’ve got little kids. We drove out on the A37 over past Shepton, and stopped for breakfast at a proper gem, The Den, which is the cafe on site at the John Thorner’s farm shop in Pylle. If you like a good, massive, probably won’t have to eat again till teatime fry-up, this is the place for you.
The Den is awesome because:
- It has a small, but very clean and safe and well stocked FENCED IN kids area. This means you can eat your fry up and not have to worry whilst the kids play. However, we actually shared our breakfasts with the kids, who loved the beans, hash browns and thickly cut bacon. And toast with real butter. Mmm.
- It opens at 9am on a Sunday (farmers, like parents, always love an early breakfast)
- It provides you with easy access to the John Thorner shop, where you can buy your picnic for the rest of your day.
We finished up and drove on to the railway, which is in Cranmore, about 10 minutes away from The Den. The trains run every 1.5 hours, and, once you’ve bought your ticket, you can ride it as many times as you want in one day. A family ticket is 25 quid for two adults and two kids, so, it’s not the cheapest day out. One adult and one child in advance is 16 quid.
The East Somerset Railway is awesome because:
- Journey time is about 40 minutes there and back, so it’s perfect with little kids with short attention spans and maybe short bladder spans too
- The train itself can be viewed at close proximity, the coal is stoked, the steam is chuffed and the whistle is blown for everybody to experience. You also get to see the train changing ends of the carriages, so de-coupling and re-coupling with some impressive speed
- The carriages themselves have both normal seating and the compartment style which we chose, which still smelled as wonderful as old carriages should and the seats were so comfortable. You can open the window and watch the steam streaming away behind you
- The train stops at some small, restored stations, and the stationmaster/conductor gets out and uses the flag and whistle, which kids LOVE
- There’s loads of room for buggies
- Dogs are welcome on the trains. Ours pretty much took it in his hairy stride, only looking marginally confused
- If you are looking to extend your train set from Bigjigs or your model railway game, the onsite shop is ridiculously well stocked
- There’s a picnic area to enjoy before you leave, with a couple of swings and a place to run about
If you fancy making this a really fulsome day out, I have a couple of other suggestions.
Kilver Court is on the way out to the railway. If you don’t know Kilver, is a big rural concessions set of stores which not only looks fancy, is also quite fancy – think Jack Wills, LK Bennett, Mulberry and Toast. You could easily spend a day or a morning there. By this I mean YOU could get dropped off there whilst the others go to the railway. Uh huh.
And then, if you feel really guilty about doing that, and want to redeem your parenting points on the way home, stop at Farrington’s Farm. You should probably put Farringtons on your list of ‘soft plays that aren’t horrendous’ if you haven’t already. It’s about 30 mins out of Bristol on the A37 and is a working dairy farm with a really great outdoor play part, as well as a giant soft play, farm shop and other retail. They do really good one off events, like tulip picking, farm open days and great seasonal fun. The food is pretty good, the coffee is drinkable, and if you are doing the railway on a rainy day, it’s a great place on the way home to burn off some energy.
It’s taken me an hour to write this. I’m still trapped on the same train and haven’t been to the loo. And they say my pelvic floor isn’t what it used to be. Ha.